Wakefulness, Kindness, and Mishkan T’filah Large Print Edition

Once, when I was a teenager, my father slept-walked right out of our apartment. As soon as the door closed and locked behind him he woke up. I didn’t hear the doorbell. Thank God for dignified PJ’s, a doorman with keys and a dad with a healthy sense of humor.

I’ve been sleep-walking since I hit my head in December of 2009, whenever that was. I don’t mean leaving the house in the middle of the night in my PJ’s. I mean living a life, looking awake but feeling asleep. The waking up feeling began the last time there was snow on the ground. Snow ends around April, whenever that was. I don’t feel awake all the time but I am more conscious that I am unconscious. Being awake requires so much concentration it has left me with little energy for reflection on the sensation of wakefulness.

There is some improvement in realms like short-term memory. Reading too has improved. I’ve been revisiting the classics whose characters are old friends.  Kindle has been kind enough to provide extremely large print.

mt-large-print-cover-4Speaking of kindness and large print, I received a gift of the new large-print edition of the Reform Movement’s inspiring prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah. I have missed this beautiful book and am grateful to have it back in my life. If you would like to give a copy to someone who has difficulty reading you can order the book on the website of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Finding out who in your community might need such a book and sending them a copy could be a great project for Jewish Disability Awareness Month which is February, whenever that is.

Some parts of the brainstorm are in process. Numbers are not one of them. Numbers are dead, not injured. The distance between one and two is unfathomable. Thursday, today, next week — these are words in a foreign tongue.  I can’t keep score — not in tennis nor in life. The tennis part is embarrassing. The life part is a bonus. Love and friendship are that much richer when one is neither keeping score nor watching the clock.

There is a former professional tennis player, Diane Van Deren, who became an ultra-marathoner after having a piece of her brain removed to treat a life-threatening seizure disorder. After the brain surgery she ceased to feel time or distance so she just kept on running. She won a 300 mile race across the Yukon. Van Deren was a formidable athlete before brain surgery. Now she is literally unstoppable because she has no idea that it is time to stop.

Which brings me back again to waking up. The friend who told me about Van Deren did so because he wanted me to know he gets it. That he understands my daily slog across the incomprehensible and vast tundra of time, date, measurement, money, math homework and distance. There is no greater peace than feeling understood. It really is the greatest gift we can give any human person — to let them know we understand the source of their frustration or pain; that they are not alone; that others suffer as they suffer however odd or statistically improbable the source of that frustration.

Unless he meant I should put on my running shoes and head north.

Rabbi Alice Goldfinger lives in Maine. This post originally appeared on her Blog, Brainstorm


5 replies on “Wakefulness, Kindness, and Mishkan T’filah Large Print Edition”

How beautiful! You know how well I get it How well I understand you. Alice you write so well. Please become an ultra marathon writer.

SoOnpowerful and compelling..I ran in the NYC Marathon in 1978 and with my diagnosis of leukemia in 1982 I have been running a marathon to stay alive. Am now facing my 3rd battle with an aggressive lymphoma..Yes I have slowed down but in thanks to Hashem I have reached out to the sick through my writings and my prayers for those who face adversity. May you go “On the Wings of Eagles” …Bivracha Neemana..Hirshel Jaffe

Dear Hirshel:
Where can I find your writings? You are brave and generous. It is a cruel reality that while my heart wants to pray for your recovery, my brain cannot retain the awareness that you are sick. I’ll pray in this moment for your recovery of body. It sounds like you have refuat hanefesh covered.

Thank you for your inspiration. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Kol Tuv — wishing you every good thing,

Kevod Harav…Hello Alice …Thanks for your uplifting words of encouragement …I am the Co-author of Why Me/ Why Anyone? and the co-editor of Gates of Healing as well as the Care Note;Hanging on to Hope Through a Serious Illness which is one of my posts at I once read a sermon by Rabbi Steven Arnold about Yizkor and memory in which he said that Hashem also gives us the potential of forgetting all the Tzuris in life…So, even though you say you can only pray for me in the moment that means a great deal to me and if you forget it’s perfectly OK…Shalom Uveracha V’Kol Tuv …Hirshel.

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