Sunday, March 29, 2009

What I Can't Do: An Illustration of What I Can

Since my bas mitzvah, I have not kept shabbos properly even once.
Can you imagine? I spent 11 years of my life preparing to take the yoke of mitzvos on my shoulders. Of course, as a good Bais Yaakov girl, one of the most important things I learned during that time is the importance of keeping shabbos properly. I learned the lamed tes melachos really well- I even knew them by heart! I even had the prettiest hilchos shabbos notebook in my class!
All year, while I was 11, we received speeches about what was going to happen, how we were soon going to be responsible for our actions. Though some girls only fast the three fasts preceding their bas mitzvah, I was all enthusiastic and fasted all of them for an entire year.
And then, just a few days before my bas mitzvah, I was rushed to the hospital with a blood sugar level too high to be measured.
I left a few days later, not realizing that I'd already kept the last shabbos of my life.
It was ironic, how after a year of fasting on all fasts, even the really minor ones, I was suddenly left unable to fast, except on Yom Kippur. And years of learning hilchos shabbos culminated in a crash course on poking my finger and squeezing out blood-on shabbos.
I didn't want to do it:

Dr #1: (that's the doctor who diagnosed me. I'm on to number 6 now and seriously considering number 7.) you will need to check you blood sugar daily-on shabbos too.
SD: but you aren't allowed to do this stuff on shabbos! It's my bas mitzvah in a few days!
Dr: listen, I've had orthodox patients who had to take pork insulin in the days before they had synthetic insulin. And they had to, because it is life and death. And so is this. A patient on insulin can not go an entire shabbos without checking their blood sugar. It would be dangerous!

And so, I went home. I got into the routine of diabetes. Checking, injecting, screaming, (well, ok, that wasn't supposed to be part of my routine. But it was for the first few months.)
Then shabbos came. My father came home from shul, and I knew I needed to check my blood sugar so that my father could give me my insulin shot, (no he doesn't still give them to me!) but I couldn't. I just could not bring myself to turn on an electric machine on shabbos. Not just any shabbos. The first shabbos after my 12th birthday. But I did. I turned it on. I poked my finger. I squeezed out some blood. And then I started to cry.
It was so anticlimactic, so hard. I knew you shouldn't cry on shabbos, but I couldn't help it. I wanted so badly to keep shabbos.
The next time I checked, the same thing happened. I couldn't stop myself from crying.
The following week was pretty much the same. I was checking an crying and mourning my inability to keep shabbos properly.
That went on a few more weeks, but after a while, as the whole diabetes thing became so much more normal for me, so did checking on shabbos.
Sadly to say, it's been almost nine years, and I never think about it anymore. Sure I check with a shinuy, and I don't use the back light on my insulin pump, even if it means getting out of bed to go someplace with light, but I don't feel tza'ar over the chillul shabbos anymore. I just do it. And while, yes, I know it is the right thing to do, in fact, it is my mitzvah, I still don't think this complacency is a good thing.
And that got me thinking. How many mitzvos am I able to do that I don't think about? Yes, every time it's a fast day and I groan as my siblings complain that they are hungry, I tell them to appreciate the ability to fast. But when my mother asks me to come do the dishes, even though I'm tired and I am not in the mood, do I stop and think about how lucky I am to have two legs and two arms, all of them working, that I can do it with? Do I think about the girl I know in a wheel chair, and how much she would love the opportunity to do the dishes for her mother?
How many times have I grumbled that I need to wake up early to daven, but not thanked Hashem that I have eyes to see the letters in the siddur, unlike a girl I know who is blind and can't daven from a siddur?
Maybe giving Ma'aser is a drag, but do I stop to think how lucky I am to have a job? To be able to earn money, about all those people out there who have lost their jobs and can't provide for their families?
Sometimes in life, I need to turn around and stop thinking of why things are hard for me, but rather what the alternative is. Because most of the time these relative hardships are really just a demonstration of the good in my life. And if I can remember that, I will be a much happier person.


G6 said...

You need to stop referring to checking your insulin levels as Chillul Shabbos because IT IS NOT. You ARE keeping Shabbos properly!
You have a heter, which means you are NOT mechallel Shabbos.

anon#1 said...

This is a heavy post!

When I worked in CSS this summer, Shabbos was a big issue for counselors who had campers on machinery. As you said, the first time it's hard, but after a little while, it becomes routine.

Is there anyone out there that can truthfully say that they appreciate all the gifts they've been given? Unfortunately, human nature is such that we don't notice what we have until it's no longer there.

nmf #7 said...

Um- echoing G6- it's not Chilul Shabbos- it's actually a mitzva! The famous story about a doctor who told a rav that he had to eat on Yom Kippur- the rav got up and said, "Thank You Hashem. For 80 years I served You by fasting- now I will serve You by eating!"

Shorty said...

I agree with G6 - you ARE keeping Shabbat properly.

Remember one does not have to "keep" Shabbos if there are health reasons...Hashem did not mean for us to suffer and feel guilty about Mitzvot. You aren't checking insulin with an electric device to defy Hashem, you are doing it so that you are able to do other Mitzvot!

I pray that one day you no longer have to worry about checking insulin levels and a cure is found for well!

Something Different said...

G6- I *know* I am keeping shabbos properly. Like I said in my post- this is my mitzvah. But I can't help but think wistfully of the 11 years I spent keeping shabbos the way it *should* be.

Anon- I doubt anyone ever appreciates all of their gifts. You really can't...I am trying *really* hard though, but I know that I am only appreciating the basics.

NMF- Like I said, I *know* that. The point of this post was not to say that I am a mechalel shabbos. The point was that there are so many mitzvos I *can* do properly.

Shorty- You're right. That's a nice way to look at it. But once again, I *don't* think of it as chilul shabbos. And thanks.... in truth I don't think diabetes is a very big deal anymore. I mean, it's like second nature to me. But I wouldn't say no to a cure.... :-)

Child Ish Behavior said...

Wow, that was a very powerful message, especially the end. and It's not often something gets me inspired.

Something Different said...

CIB- Wow! I am so honored to have been the source of inspiration for you! I am glad you understood the message.... :-)

corner point said...

*Amazing* post...

Something Different said...

CP- [blushing] :-p

Mikeinmidwood said...

Most people here are right its not being mechalel shabbos, its allowed.

All fast before the age of twelve, not something I was able to do.

Inspired said...

Very inspirational:)

I'm repeating, you shouldn't refer to it as Chillul Shabbos, you're keeping shabbos the way YOU *should* be... I know what you mean though, I sometimes feel like a shabbos goy;)

miss international said...

I am epileptic and when my blood sugar drops I simpley seize I cant stay up late to study my friends come to school the day of the test and say I'm sssooo tired and satyed up all night all I Say is your lucky you can I ALSO HAD BRAIN SURGEY WITH A 85% CHANCE OF DEATH AND GUESS WHAT all I GOT WAS A MOVEMENT DISORDER so now I have epilepsy asthma and movement disorder as well as my divorced kid problems , school next year( I'm a senior), and my miss international, ( I help others with medical problems e-mail me at to find out more)the point is it is bad but the fact you have it means your special means the one above knows you can handle it so try and try again you will find it one day

Something Different said...

MIM- it's not only allowed- it's required. But it still feels funny...

Insp- what goes through your mind when you are checking on shabbos?

MI- wow, your story sounds tough. G'luck with everything!

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

wow your such a good girl, wanting to do the right thing. But you have to understand that if your an ones, forced to do something, it's not your fault and your not held accountable for it, and it's as though your keeping Shabbos.

This really worries me, cause I know I do things on Purpose which are not allowed on shabbos! Like brushing my hair, and ripping off chapped skin or nails.

Good ending, I must work on all those stuff, I know I should appreciate I have the capability to do these mitzvos. Thanx for the inspiration. I will have to try.

Jessica said...

Great post.

Something Different said...

JSB- my pleasure! Glad you liked!

Jessica- :-) thanks.