Passover, Part 1

Begins at sunset on April 18, 2011

Tonight Jews around the world celebrate Passover. The origin and the name of Passover goes back to the Egyptian days, when the Jews were slaves in Egypt.

According to the second book of the Torah, Exodus, God unleashed ten plagues upon Pharaoh and his people in an attempt to convince Pharaoh to emancipate the Hebrews. Or as the late great Charlton Heston said, to “let my people go.”

The last and deadliest of the ten plagues was the killing of the first-born male in every household. In the book of Exodus, God commands Moses to tell Jewish families to put the blood of a sheep over their doors, so that God would know to “pass over” the house, hence the name Passover.

The first nine plagues were:

1. Turning of the River Nile to blood:

“…and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water.”

Amazing as that sounds, Pharaoh was not impressed. His sorcerers/magicians could also duplicate the feat of turning water into blood. Apparently this was the three-card shuffle of ancient Egypt.

Scientists have put forth numerous theories to explain the seemingly supernatural forces of the plagues. One theory is that a then-active Ethiopian volcano poured sulfurous lava into the Nile, upstream from Egypt.

Another theory is that of the ‘Red Tide. Red tide is a common occurrence brought on by algae in salt water or in stagnant water, but rarely in free-flowing fresh rivers like the Nile.

Both theories would explain how toxic elements in the Nile altered the color of the water and killed the fish. The extermination of millions of fish that piled up on the banks of the river would have created the awful stench from the water and would have set off a domino effect that could account for several of the following plagues:

2. Frogs

God, a devout fan of P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, smited Egypt with the plague of frogs:

“…and the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed…”

Amphibians would have left the toxic polluted waters in vast numbers to take shelter on land, where they would die of dehydration.

3. An infestation of “Kinim”

Kinim is translated as Gnats, Lice, Fleas, or Mosquitos.

The dead fish and amphibians would have caused Insect populations to explode, accounting for how the “dust throughout the land of Egypt became “kimin.”

4. Swarms of Flies

The Hebrew word arov literally means “swarms,” though it doesn’t say swarms of what. It’s generally believed to be flies or mosquitos, though also translated as wild animals, rodents, or vermin. Any of these would have been present following the fish and frog catastrophe set off by a toxic Nile.

5. Disease upon the livestock and other animals.

Swarms of vermin, rodents, and mosquitos would increase the pestilence level, diseases which may have struck the livestock first. The King James Bible mentions horses, donkeys, camels, oxen, sheep and cattle.

6. Skin disease among people, commonly thought to be boils.

And then pestilence would have infected the people, taking the physical manifestations of painful boils.

Rabbinical scholars often looked at the first nine plagues as a trilogy of trilogies, much like George Lucas’s original plan for the 9-part Star Wars…

Continued in Passover, Part 2

Tu B’Shevat – New Year for Trees

February 7-8, 2012
January 25-26, 2013
15th day of the month Shevat

The evolution of this holiday is a bit unusual. In ancient times Tu B’Shevat wasn’t really a “holy day” at all, but more of a tax day. Fruit-bearing trees were taxed differently depending on their age. And fruit could not be taken until after the tree’s third year. The fifteenth day of the month of Shevat was chosen as the “birthday” for all trees in the land of Israel, regardless of when they were planted.

Lone Pine, Monterey
Lone Pine, Monterey, California

Today it is celebrated as more of an Arbor Day for the Jewish people.

The is no one way to celebrate Tu B’Shevat.

In Italy Rabbi Barbara Aiello and her congregation bring green plants to the residents of a local retirement home, to bright up the rooms.
In Modiin, Israel a kindergarten class plants trees.

Many Jewish families around globe have a special “sedar” or meal on Tu B’Shevat. Four types–or colors really–of wine are consumed during the sedar, as well as different types of fruit.

In the Kabbalah tradition the fruits symbolize different levels of the world:

  • 1. assiyah, the level of “action,” is symbolized by fruits with an inedible shell, such as nuts. The inside represents holiness, protected by the outer shell.
  • 2. yezirah, the level of “formation.” This level is represented by fruits with edible outsides and pits on the inside.
  • 3. beriah, the level of “creation,” is symbolized totally edible fruits, such as apples, grapes, figs, and raspberries.
  • 4. atzilut, the purest level is known as “emanation,” and is not symbolized by fruit or anything for that matter, as it cannot be represented by anything concrete.

In modern times Tu B’Shevat has been adopted by the environmental movement, and a sort of Earth Day culture has developed around it. The modern tradition of planting trees goes back to 1884 when settlers in Galilee planted 1500 trees. Today it is common for schoolchildren in Israel to do the same.
Another reason Judaica may have latched onto the holiday tighter in diaspora than originally in Israel, was the representation of the tree and tree’s roots as symbols for the roots of the Jewish people back in the Holy Land, and fruit symbolic of the Jewish family and future yet to be realized. The theme of genealogy and family grew to be of fundamental importance during the eras of exile. Tu B’Shevat’s imagery of trees and land tapped into the scattered people’s longing for a faraway homeland.

The blessing for the fruit is:

Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohaynu Melech Haolam, borei pri ha’eitz.

“Blessed are You Adonai, our God, ruler of the universe, who brings forth the fruit of the tree.”

Tu B’Shevat begins, as all Jewish holidays, at sun-down and continues the next day.

Could it Happen Again?: Holocaust Remembrance

January 27

Today the UK and Germany remember the Holocaust of World War II when 6 million Jews were killed in concentration camps across Europe, along with untold numbers of Roma, communists, homosexuals, the mentally and physically handicapped, and political prisoners.

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. It is estimated that as many Jews were slaughtered at this one camp than remain on the entire European Continent today.

To this day the Jewish population has never reached its pre-1939 numbers.

Berlin Holocaust Museum Memorial
Berlin Holocaust Museum

It’s easy to be tolerant in times of prosperity.

In better times Hitler may not have appealed to the Germans. But in times of scarce resources the search for a scapegoat as a possible way out was too appealing. The illusion Hitler sold was that Jews were responsible for the recession. The reality was that the seizure of Jewish assets and property meant “free money” for the rest of the nation. It was an offer too good for the Germans to pass up, even if it meant the “dehumanizing” of a minority.

Could it happen in America?

It would take a major catastrophe.

In the days after 9/11, though not widely reported in American media, hate crimes were committed against Muslims for no reason other than their religion. A Sikh man in Arizona was killed simply because he looked Muslim.

The nation waited for the speech in which the President made it clear to the public that Muslims in America are Americans, entitled to the same rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that violence against anyone based on their religion is contrary to the American way of life.

The speech never came. In the crusade against evil, preventing hate crime was not on the top of the agenda.

The weapons of hate aimed at one minority today can and will be used more effectively against others tomorrow, whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Hispanic, Mormon, Catholic, Socialist, or Scientologist…<

As a pastor in Germany once wrote:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

[Note: in the Washington DC inscription at the Holocaust Museum, the “Communist” line is not included.]

Former Indonesian President Suharto, the genocidal architect responsible for the killing of 183,000 East Timorese, a quarter of East Timor’s population, died earlier today [2008].

His obituary reads: Suharto Leaves Legacy of Stability in Region. In some places ethnic cleansing still falls under stability.
And “Never Again” is an ongoing struggle.

What is Holocaust Memorial Day?


In Pictures: Holocaust Memorial Day

[published January 28, 2008]

10th of Tevet – the Siege of Jerusalem

January 5, 2012

December 17, 2010

Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, early 20th century

The Big Guy of the three consecutive Jewish holy days is the last, the Tenth of Tevet. It is a day of fasting.

The Tenth of Tevet marks the first day of the siege of Jerusalem in 589 BC by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (630-562 BC). The city would fall thirty months later in 587. It was actually the third time in as many decades that Jerusalem had faced the Babylonians.

The first was in 606 BC by King Nabopolassar; the second around 597 BC by his son, the new king, Nebuchadnezzar, and finally eight years later by Nebuchadnezzar again. This time Nebuchadnezzar was feeling less charitable toward the city’s residents. After the city’s walls were breached, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was razed to the ground, and its remaining inhabitants were exiled.

This date is among the most tragic in all of Jewish history and yet, as Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair points out, “on the tenth of Tevet itself, ostensibly, nothing really tragic happened. No wall was breached. No one died. Not a shot was fired. Only the siege was begun.” However the day marked the beginning of the end. The diaspora that would define the shape of Judaism for millennia.

The 10th of Tevet has also been chosen by some as a symbolic anniversary date of the millions who died in the Holocaust, whose dates of death may not be known.

In March of 2003, as the U.S. prepared for war, stories circulated about Saddam Hussein comparing himself to the ancient biblical king Nebuchadnezzar. And an evangelical minister stated in his sermon that Nebuchadnezzar was one of “the world’s greatest terrorists, maybe even higher than Bin Laden or Hitler…” Yet in Iraq he is considered a national hero. How is this dichotomy possible?

Nebuchadnezzar’s reign lasted 45 years, during which time Babylonia was at the peak of its power. He wrested his father’s territory from the Assyrians, halted Egyptian dominance, and defended the empire from Persian invaders. Under his rule Babylon grew to be the largest and most glorified city in the world with a defensive wall that stretched 56 miles. The metropolis boasted hundreds of towers, including the massive ziggurat we know as the “Tower of Babel” and the Great Temple of Marduk which held a 25 ton golden statue of Baal. His most innovative creation may have been the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Gardens were irrigated by a series of hydraulic pumps. According to legend the Gardens were built to cheer up Amytis, Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, who was homesick for her native land of Midea.

It would be like a single President ruling America from FDR through the Reagan years, taking the country from depression to superpower and defeating both Germany and the USSR in the process–not to mention overthrowing a few Central American republics along the way. So it is not difficult to see how he could be regarded as a national hero to one people, even though he brought about the near annihilation of his enemies.

The strange truth is, though Baghdad sits near what was once Babylon, the ancient civilization bears little resemblance to Iraq. To the Judeans Babylonia symbolized the boundless superpower. An ostentatious empire governed by decadence, arrogance and amorality.

Its leader was the son of the former leader Nabopolassar. Both father and son waged large military campaigns in the Middle East. And during their reign Babylonia won out over its enemies as the world’s single superpower.

So how can two societies with such conflicting memories of the same events ever find a common ground?

The answer may come in the shape of a figure who arrived on the scene an estimated 1500 years before Nebuchadnezzar: Abraham. Abraham (Ibrahim in Islam) is the father from which all three religions derive. He is the first monotheist. But his story is for another day…

Mother of All Sermons

Tenth of Tevet


December 20, 2011
December 8, 2012
November 27, 2013

Hanukkah, or “Chanukkah” as those in the know call it, is one of the most misunderstood Jewish holidays. In fact, we don’t even know what “Hanukkah” means. Many believe it means “dedication”; others say it’s an acronym for “They rested on the 25th”. (Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev.)

Hanukkah is a minor holiday in Judaism–in theory if not in practice–and isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Bible.

That’s not to say Talmudic scholars haven’t argued about Hanukkah’s customs for ages (Whether, for example, celebrants should light one extra candle per night, or light eight on the first night and take one away each night). But the absence of holiday regulations in the Jewish Scriptures may have contributed to Hanukkah’s ability to adapt to various cultures of the Jewish diaspora.

Hanukkah History

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the land around Jerusalem came under the power of the Seleucid Empire.

By the 2nd century BC, the Jews of and around Jerusalem were in the midst an identity crisis: whether to maintain their own religious traditions or to assimilate into Hellenistic culture. Many Jews in the cities were willing to adopt Greek ways. According to 1 Maccabees:

In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us…Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant…

Now back then the gym wasn’t Bally’s. It was the center of Greek social life, where men discussed topics of the day in the nude, a practice which went against Jewish law, and a place where Jewish men could not easily hide the 8th-day snip.

The Seleucid Emperor Antiochus set forth increasingly harsher restrictions on Jewish rituals, including the killing of newly-circumsized babies. He replaced the Jewish High Priest with his own puppet priest, turned Jewish temples into pagan ones, and eventually forbade the practice of Judaism altogether.

One religious leader known as Mattathias refused to make a sacrifice to a pagan god in the temple. When a Hellenized Jew attempted to make the sacrifice in his name, Mattathias killed the Jew as well as one of the king’s messengers. Mattathias then fled to the countryside with his 5 sons, and recruited traditionalist Jews to join his cause.

After Mattathias’ death, his son Judas “the Hammer” Maccabee (Maccabee means hammer) led a revolt against the Greek establishment. According to 1 Maccabees, despite being greatly outnumbered, Maccabee’s rag-tag crew defeated the opposing forces and re-consecrated the temple.

What’s up with the candles?

The miracle of the “Festival of Lights” was that the Jews only had enough oil to keep the temple’s sacred flame alight for one night. However, the flame stayed alight for eight days. For this reason, Jews continue to light an eight-candle “menorah” every year. The great Jewish philosopher Hillel won out on the menorah debate: Jews light one candle on the first night, and one more candle every night thereafter.

[One Jewish-Persian custom is to light eight candles the first night of Hanukah and eight more candles each additional night for a total of 64 on the eighth night, although we suspect this tradition was started by the Jewish-Persian candle-makers union.]

Hanukkah Ironica

Hanukkah originally represented a victory of Jewish culture over assimilation into Greek culture. However, much of the importance that Hanukkah has today is the direct result of assimilation.

The observance of Chanukkah grew in importance during the 19th and 20th centuries in predominantly Christian nations such as the United States, as Jewish culture sought to adapt to the growing influence of of Christmas. Modern Hanukkah traditions such as gift-giving are borrowed straight from Christmas, which is of course celebrated around the same time of year, and which owes many of its own traditions to solstice festivals of the Greco-Romans. So in a sense, over 2000 years later, Greek influence is still going strong.

Ilse, the spiritually-confused Maltese

Hanukkah is a modern example of how holidays continuously change by synthesizing attributes of merging cultures. It’s the type of transition that took place countless times in ancient and medieval history, though detailed records of such transitions have all too often been lost to time or intentionally obscured.

Simchat Torah

October 20-21, 2011

September 29 – October 1, 2010

October 10-11, 2009

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah.”

The Torah is comprised of the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch. Portions are read in the synagogue throughout the year, from the first chapter of Genesis (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”) to the last chapter of Deuteronomy (“The Death of Moses”).


In Hebrew it’s called Bereshit, or “In the Beginning.”

Genesis is the “fun” book. Nearly all the Sunday school stories of the Torah hail from Genesis. This includes Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham (the patriarch of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) and Abe’s male line: his son Isaac, grandson Jacob, and great-grandson Joseph (the one with the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, if you’re into that kind of thing.)


In Hebrew it’s Shemot, or “Names.” But the Greeks added some pizzaz. The Exodus tells the story of Charlton Heston, or “Moses”, in Egypt. It includes the Ten Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Ten Commandments, which God gave Moses to civilize the ancient Hebrews when they were cow-worshippers in the desert. (And which Cecil B. DeMille reintroduced to Americans when they were flappers in ’20s.)

DeMilles Ten Commandments, 1923 version
DeMille's "Ten Commandments", 1923 version


The Levites were one of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from Jacob. In Hebrew the book is Viyakra, “He Called”.

If you’ve ever read the Bible cover to cover (you have way too much free time on your hands, and) you know that Leviticus is where it starts to get wild, if not repetitive. Here, God gives one of his many gentle yet firm encouragements to follow his commands:

27 ” ‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32 I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.

Leviticus 26

Leviticus also the book that gives us the legal precedent behind California Propositions:

Thou shall not lie with a man as thou lies with a woman.

Leviticus 18:22


In the Hebrew: Bamidbar, “In the Wilderness…”

Don’t let the Hebrew fool you. The name “Numbers” is more representative of how exciting it is. Numbers contains detailed census information about the twelve tribes during the forty years in the desert. But Numbers is also the source of alien-conspiracy theories since time immemorial:

15 On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire… 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped… 21 Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out.

Numbers 9:15


Finally we get to Deuteronomy, or “Second Law.” A look back on the Laws of Moses before his death. In Hebrew it’s Devarim: “Things.”

Although t-shirts today proudly proclaim the wisdom of Leviticus 18:22, fewer espouse the need to follow to the letter of the law Deuteronomy 22:

13 If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the girl’s father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate… Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver…

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death…

Although that would make a catchy t-shirt!


All told, the Hebrew Bible contains not ten but 613 Commandments. That’s right, Christians have it easy. Try remembering all these puppies.

Deuteronomy and the Torah end with the death of Moses, Judaism’s greatest prophet.

No one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Deuteronomy 34:12


15th of Tishri (October 12-19, 2011)

In the month of Tishri, Jewish holidays go from one extreme to the other. The month begins with the spirited Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the most solemn fasting day in the Hebrew calendar. But on the 15th of the Tishri, celebrants are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry for Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Sukkah means ‘booth’ or ‘hut’. It refers to a temporary shelter like the kind the ancient Hebrews built during their 40 years wandering the desert. The festival of Sukkot lasts for seven days.

“Beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days…On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God…This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come…Live in booths for seven days…so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.”

Leviticus 23

There are all sorts of rules describing how to make one. For instance, you need to be able to see the stars from inside. We tried finding a Sukkah on Shopzilla, but all we got was this.

One of the main traditions of Sukkot is the waving of the ‘Four Species’; two branches (myrtle and willow), a palm frond, and an etrog (a type of lemon). The four elements of nature are bundled together and waved as shown here.

According to Judaism 101:

Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. This may not be entirely coincidental…The pilgrims were deeply religious people. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and found Sukkot.

Yom Kippur

October 8, 2011
September 26, 2012
September 14, 2013

The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and fast, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement…I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day.”

Leviticus 23:26-30

And, as if all the above hadn’t sunk into Moses’ brain, the Lord restated his point. On the holiest of the year:

“You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”

No work, got it.

That I’m at work as I write this doesn’t bode well for my future as a Jew.

So…does this mean don’t go to work? Or merely don’t do any work while I’m there. Because I’m good–I mean good–at not doing work. I have ways to procrastinate even my procrastination.

Like right now, for instance, I’m at work writing about procrastination.

In all honesty though, it’s not Yom Kippur yet as I write this. But, regardless, I know I will be at work for Yom Kippur.

I’m a cultural Jew, the type of Jew who, according to my friends, makes Reform Jews feel Hassidic. Hot bacon salad dressing was served at my Bar Mitzvah. (Rabbi Brown was not happy.) And, as it fell on Halloween, we filled the reception area with inflatable skeletons, gave out devil’s tails and horns as gifts, and hired a DJ dressed like Dracula who popped out of a coffin. (Again, Rabbi Brown…not happy)

But writing about the holidays of so many cultures this past year has allowed me some insight, not only to the various religions of the world but to the purpose of my own, and the meaning of holidays like Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is actually the last of ten days of exploration of one’s relationship with God, beginning with the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah. Muslims observe a similar custom during Ramadan, the last ten days of which are most sacred. For Shia Muslims the ten days between the Islamic New Year, Muharram, and Ashura are also particularly holy.

In Buddhist cultures, debts should be paid off by Chinese New Year. In Japan, houses must be cleaned. In old England, leases had to be paid by autumn equinox, Michaelmas, and by March 25, the old New Year. In America, New Year’s resolutions—promises to oneself—are written to begin on January 1.

Yom Kippur bears some resemblance to New Year’s resolutions (not in that we forget after two weeks, but) in that they are not about our contracts with other people. Rather, they are internal promises…to oneself and/or to God.

Many individuals do this in their own lives, religious or not. It’s called a birthday. We naturally reflect on our life the previous year, and wonder what the next will have in store. It’s like our own personal new year. Our own holiday.

But birthdays were not celebrated so much five millennia ago. Instead, our ancient ancestors found that–just as the world shed its dead and snowy hide each year and was born anew each spring–so humans must designate a sacred time to come to terms with the weight of the previous year, in order to start afresh, and meet the year to be with a clean slate.

Many cultures observe this rite in the spring, with the rebirth of flora and fauna, or after the winter solstice, as the days begin to grow longer. That Judaism’s big day occurs in autumn, at the harvest, speaks volumes about the culture. It’s like Judaism was born old; like God was saying Yom Kippur, the harvest of the soul, is not preparation for life, but preparation for death.

That Yom Kippur just happens to fall on my birthday in 2008 makes it a particularly auspicious time for me to reflect upon the year.

In Spanish they don’t say, “How old are you?” They say, “How many years do you have?” Before you have many, it’s the longest period of time you can imagine. After too many, it’s the blink of an eye.

More years have now passed between today and my birth than between my birth and World War II. This is a pivotal milestone. You see, when I was a child and saw old news reels of the Holocaust, it seemed like ancient history. As was anything that happened before I was born, from the Roman Empire to JFK.

The older I get, the closer it seems. Time moves fast. It might as well have been yesterday.

* * *

This year, I’m not celebrating my birthday. I’m celebrating the day after.

Friday I’ll be flying up to visit my sister and her family, and handing off the birthday baton to my little niece, who will turn one year old the day after my birthday. Her name’s Aurora—Dawn. A beautiful, if not audacious name to give a child born at harvest time.

I haven’t seen her since she was 3 months old, though I’ve seen her grow through pictures. Everything she knows about the world happened in the past 365 days. It’s something beyond the scope of my imagination.

To her, we are the ancients.

To us, she’s the blink of an eye.

[published October 9, 2008]