Chronicles from Home         

Part  9

My Yetzer Hara

December 18, 2003


Winter is here and Yerushalayim is bundling up.

We had to take scarves, umbrellas and boots out of the closet.  What a nice feeling.  Our Californian children are very excited by the sound of thunder and the feeling of wet feet.

But we all know that life is a big glass of water: half empty… or half full.

We knew that this new excitement called "weather" would bring some friends along, such as Mr. Running-Nose, Mrs. Coughing, and even Uncle Antibiotic.  For example, I felt more tired, fighting the flu and watching over the children at night. 

It also became obvious that I would have to be very careful from now on in a different way.  I am not talking about taking vitamin C; I am talking about fighting the biggest virus of all, the meanest bacteria ever, my Yetzer Hara!

Despite my vigilance, my Yetzer Hara attacks me, sometimes without any warning.

For instance, just the other day I was seating in clinic, waiting for my turn.  I needed to have some paperwork signed for our health insurance plan.  I had walked there under a heavy rain and I was soaked.  I found myself waiting in a long corridor, surrounded by people who needed far more than few signatures on one form.  Nonetheless, I regretted not to have brought some antibacterial spray with me.

As I waited, I had no idea what to do, despite the lengthy explanations of the secretary.  My Hebrew is far from being fluent!  So I just decided to be patient.  I asked a woman next to me:

"How do they know who is next in line?"

"They know."

"Are you waiting to get in room 15 also?"


"Which room do you need to go to?"


"How do they know which room we all need to go?"

"They know."

I wished that I had her faith, especially when I counted approximately 35 people ahead of me on the benches.  I kept keeping my mind busy watching the nice puddles my raincoat was making on the floor.

And then I was attacked!  A little, soft and sweet voice came straight to my brain: "Why did you leave Los Angeles?  Your friend Dr. Michel would have taking care of you.  The pharmacy would have been open 24 hours when your kids need it.  It took you 5 years to understand what people were saying and finally you got it.   What to start all over?  Everything was so easy there!"  "Yes, why?" I wondered back. 

Just when I felt like crying, my eyes caught something unusual on the table in front of me.  I knew right then that I just won this battle.  I leaned forward to grab the Parsha Hashavua commentaries and started to read, a smile on my face.  That's one of the reasons I came here: to read Torah while waiting somewhere, instead of "Anashim Magazine"!

I had won the battle in the clinic, but not the war, as would have said an ex-compatriot of mine.  That explained what happened few days later. 

We have been taking cabs in the morning lately, instead of walking to schools and Ulpan.  Batya is recovering from Strep and I prefer not to have her walking 20 minutes in the cold weather.  We did buy a car (was it 10 years ago?) but it is somewhere in Shvita (strike) Land.  Rich sometimes works very late, so I let him emerge slowly.

Meanwhile, I call a taxi company from home and as soon as it arrives, I throw (literally) the children in the backseat, collapse next to them and struggle to inform our driver in Hebrew of the wonderful trip we are going to take all together and the numerous stops he will have to make between home and Ulpan. We drop Yehuda first, but I am a little nervous to leave Batya alone in the cab.  So we all rush inside the school, (we need a code to enter and I can't just leave him on the sidewalk) and rush back in the cab.  I drop Batya and I continue to my Ulpan where Rich joins me later.

This is, most certainly, a high risk for a Yetzer Hara attack with a lot of weapons available, like strikes, rain, cabs and lack of sleep.  Generally I am ready to fight and so far, I managed to scare him away... except the other day.

I was at Ulpan when Batya's school called to tell me to pick her up.  Of course I worried.  She had been sick already the week before.  After two seconds of consultation when Rich decided that he needs the Ulpan more than I do (I had to agree with him), I rushed to the door.

I ran in the street, nice cold raindrops keeping me company.  The fleeting vision of my beloved minivan parked on Rexford Drive brought back painful pangs of nostalgia inside of me.  My "friend" was at work again!

I managed to get a cab.  I forgot to tell you that cabs here, are inexpensive, B'H'' and since we started speaking Hebrew to the drivers, the problem of the fare has disappeared completely (see Rich's chronicle on the topic).  I just had time to catch my breath and say shalom to the driver when he asked me if I wanted to go to my son's school and gave me the address!  I was surprised.  We were far from home and there are far more cabs here as falafels stands. I didn't occur to me than we already met. 

My eyes looked instinctively to the left corner of the car where names of drivers are written.  Will he be a Moshe or a Mohamed?  Who is this guy, telling me now that he knows my address?  I felt relieved; his name was Chaim.  I could see his eyes smiling at me.  I then recognized him from another frantic morning.  He told me how the drivers are monitoring my progress in Hebrew when they hear me on the taxis' open line asking for a cab.  He inquired of the welfare of my American husband, my French spoken children, my Tunisian born parents!  I must have been very talkative on that previous ride unless he works at night for the Mossad.  He told me how amazed they all are when seeing new immigrants, especially now and especially from Magic Hollywood Land.  How encouraging it was for them.  I pushed firmly my Yetzer Hara away.  Needless to say, we had a very nice ride the 3 of us: him, my Yetzer Tov and I!

This victory made me feel overconfident in myself.  I even had the arrogant feeling that, one day, I would be writing my chronicles in Hebrew and understanding the local jokes.  I discontinued the building of my inner fence, no more infiltrations would dare to come in.  Of course, it is just what the dark side in me was waiting for.

He challenged me again on the first visit to a doctor.  The familiar and reassuring faces of all our doctors in LA kept flashing through my mind while I was waiting for my turn.  Luckily, I met their Israeli colleague before he had a chance to implant negative thoughts in my brain.  The doctor's name is Michel, he is French and very nice.  Does it sound familiar?  Batya almost called him "tonton" (uncle) the way she used to call our friend Michel Mazouz.

Finally, on Fridays my Yetzer Hara tries shyly to interfere with Shabbat's preparations.  He is aware that an open confrontation would result in failure.  I would never allow Shabbat to become a "risk factor" in my personal conflict.  Well, I try….

So on Fridays, I need to clean, cook, do the laundry and tons of things I don't have a chance to do during the week.  It is so tempting to recall affectionately my wonderful cleaning lady, Maria.  Friday is also the only "day off" that we have here and it could be all the more frustrating to spend it this way.  The week starts again Sunday morning for the whole family.  And of course Shabbat is Shabbat.  There is no real word in English (or French) to describe what Shabbat is.  There is nevertheless one word that doesn't describe it for me: "rest".  

Some of the enemy's most common tactics are popping things into my head like: "You are too tired and it is going to rain, why bother to clean the windows?" Or " Who said that dust is a problem. Why can't it be a layer of protection for our seferim?"  (I love this thought, could it be?)  But I valiantly continue rushing in the house at the rhythm of two magic words, Lichvod Shabbat.  I have my answer ready for him: just before Shabbat, the horn will blow all over Ha-Ir Ha-Kodesh (the Holy City) and the sound of it is my weekly reward for my hard work. 

Just to hear those sounds waves covering the City, as if they were dressing Her up in honor of the Shabbat Queen's imminent arrival, is worth every chore of my day.

My faithful Yetzer Hara that is always with me in adversity, you were right: I did give up a lot by coming here.  But I gained so much more.  If it was to be done again, I will do it without hesitation.  And I will make sure to bring you along, too, because each time I have to fight you off, you make me more aware of the reasons we moved here. 

You have to do the job you have been created for, putting doubts in my mind and bring complaints to my lips.  But be aware that I will do my job as well: I will live in the Country that HaShem gave us and I will do it, if this is His Will, happily. 

May we raise, with His Help, our children to love everything about this country, even the strikes! 

You see, my old companion, I always try to see the glass half full and I have no intention to change now.  Let us be friends instead, and maybe we will manage to fill up the glass to the top together.

Sara Brownstein


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