Va-yetzei: The Notepad

By Ilana Grinblat

Published November 10, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last Sunday, my husband went to a franchise expo and returned with various nick-nacks for the kids. He gave my six-year-old son a pad and pen that he’d picked up. Jeremy was delighted and immediately started writing a story about our recent trip to Israel on the pad. At first he asked me how to spell each word. Slowly, Jeremy came to realize that he was able to write the words by himself. Over the course of the evening, he filled up almost half of the pad, describing our trip. He was exuberant to discover that he could write. A world was opening up to him for the first time.

I spend much of my time writing nowadays. I often think about the content of what I’m writing and whether it’s any good. But I take for granted the fact that I am able to write in the first place. By watching Jeremy discover the power of writing, I was filled me with a sense of gratitude for the ability to read and write.

In this week’s Torah portion, Leah and her sister Rachel are enmeshed in rivalry. They are both married to the same man, Jacob. Rachel has Jacob’s love but is infertile. Leah gives Jacob many children but doesn’t manage to attain his love. Leah names her first three sons names reflecting her desire for her husband’s love. For example, she named her first son Reuven (which means see-son) saying “Surely God has looked upon my affliction and now my husband will love me.” Likewise, she names her third-born son Levi (which means to join), saying “now, this time, my husband will be joined to me because I’ve given him three sons.”

However, having her fourth son prompted a change within Leah. She named him “Yehudah” which means “thank God.” Leah stopped searching for what she lacked; instead she became grateful for what she had. (Like Leah, my son’s Jeremy’s middle name is Yehudah, who is named after his great-grandfather and as an expression of our gratitude.)

Like Leah, I find that my children prompt me repeatedly to shift from dwelling on what I lack to focusing on what I have. They remind me of abilities that I take completely for granted. For example, Jeremy is dying to drive. When I pull in the driveway, he begs to take the wheel, even for just a second. Although I take driving for granted, I remember how devastating it was for my grandmother when she was no longer able to drive and how important it was to her sense of independence. As my children reach new milestones and dream of future ones, they remind me to be grateful for the ability to walk, talk, read, write and drive. They fill me with gratitude for the simplest, yet most fundamental aspects of life.

Sunday night, as Jeremy lay down to sleep, he asked my husband Tal: “If I run out of this pad, can I have a new one.”

“Yes,” he replied, “You sure can.”

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat teaches biblical interpretation at the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.