Monday, December 8, 2014

Yes, It's True!

By now, I think most (or all) of you have heard the very exciting news. But I can't let this go unpublished so I am finally sitting down to write the long awaited Mazel Tov post.

Yes, it's true! My older sister, Chaya Sara, is engaged!!

We davened, did every segulah in the book (literally!) and the time finally came.

So many thoughts come to my mind as I write this. I want to share some of them with you.

The simcha that this simcha has generated throughout our family and friends is unbelievable. The sheer joy, the excitement, the tears...the reaction of every person who found out...it was surreal. I personally have never cried tears of happiness before in my life, but when I picked up my phone to answer that "Is it really true?" question from someone who is very close to Chaya Sara, I was brought to tears. To tears of joy. The person on the other side said, "Ohmygosh, Chaya Sara bas Charna Raizel, I just took challah and said her name last night!" It touched me so deeply. So many people have been davening and doing things as a zechus for her, so many people never gave up on my sister. So many people knew that this day would come. They didn't stop davening. They didn't stop hoping. And now we can all share in this wondrous simcha together. Yes, it is true!

I got that question more than once the day she got engaged. "Is it true? Is Chaya Sara really engaged?!" My phone didn't stop ringing, beeping and buzzing. I almost felt like the kallah myself! It was incredible to feel the joy that everyone else felt, to share the excitement everyone had for my sister.

This simcha teaches us on the most personal level how every single tefillah a person davens is stored by Hashem. No tefillah ever goes to waste. If Hashem doesn't answer a prayer now, He may save that prayer for later. But every single tear a person sheds, every request he makes, every single cry he utters...every prayer that escapes his lips...is saved by Hashem.

And the Torah proves this to us.

In Parshas Vayeira, before Hashem destroyed Sedom, the passuk says, "hamechaseh ani me'Avraham asher ani oseh? V'Avraham hayo yihiyeh legoy gadol"-Hashem asked, "Can I hide from Avraham the fact that I will destroy Sedom?" And Avraham will surely be a great nation.

What is the connection between these two pesukim?

The Dubno Maggid explains this with a mashal.

An old man walked into a suit store and before he purchased a suit, he had the salesman measure him to make sure the suit would fit him perfectly. Another young man walked into the same store and without trying on anything, selected a few suits that he was going to buy. The old man walked over to the young man and asked, "I don't understand. How could you buy so many suits without trying them on to make sure they would fit? Isn't this an incredible waste of money?"
The young man answered, "I am still young. I am still growing. Whatever doesn't fit me now will fit me later. And if it will not fit me later, in the future, it will be good for my children. So no, my money is not going to waste. All these suits will be put to good use."

Now, I don't suggest that todays teenagers go shopping like this young man. Perhaps he wasn't concerned about the changing styles and the suits he was purchasing. But the nimshal of this story is clear.

Hashem knew before He told Avraham that He was going to destroy Sedom that Avraham's first reaction would be---Tefillah, he would daven. Hashem also knew that the tefillos Avraham would daven would not be answered for Sedom would be destroyed. So did these tefillos go to waste? What happened to all the bakashos Avraham made? And if Hashem didn't answer him, what was the point in telling him that He was about to destroy Sedom?

We see from here that every single tefillah a person davens is treasured and saved by Hashem. No tefillah goes to waste. Ever. Avraham davened for Sedom to be saved and Hashem took those special tefillos and saved them for his children...for the times when WE would need them.

This is the connection between the two pesukim. Hashem said, I cannot hide from Avraham that I am about to destroy Sedom. Avraham will surely be a great nation and the tefillos he davened for Sedom will be saved for his children. Just like the young man in the mashal who bought a lot of suits knew his money would be put to good use...because although some of the clothing he bought might not fit him, they would be saved for his children, Hashem knew that the tefillos Avraham davened would be put to good use, they would be saved for his children...for us.

And in my family, we lived to see this come true. All the tefillos, all the tears, all the bakashos, all the zechusim, davening at kevorim, at the candles on Friday night, from a siddur or from our hearts...every single tefillah we davened for Chaya Sara to find her zivug was treasured and saved by Hashem...and our tefillah was finally answered.

Hashem, thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts for letting all of us see and experience this awesome day. May the tefillos we davened for Chaya Sara and her chosson continue to enable them to live a beautiful and happy life, filled with peace, love, connection and may they build a warm and loving family together.

Yes, it is true!

Mazel Tov!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Construction Site

A friend of mine sent this to me yesterday and I feel compelled to share the inspiration with you.

I was in the car and got some inspiration and decided to write.

"The inconvenience is temporary yet the results are permanent."

I passed by a construction site with these words plastered on the fence. It made me think.

Yes, the pain and discomfort and anguish are only temporary.

The discomfort of working through my middos and idiosyncrasies are only temporary.

Yet the results are permanent. 

The messy construction site will be fashioned into a magnificent structure in all its splendor.

As for the pain, it will achieve its purpose. It will make me stronger and enable me to be a more committed eved Hashem and will help me reach shleimus. 

The tiny steps in working on myself will turn me into the person I aspire to be.

The discomfort is only a passing thing yet the results are permanent. This has become a motto of sorts for me.

As I go about daily life and obstacles crop up, I remember this. At first, I naturally cringe...but when I visualize the barren construction site, I smile. Because though it is hard and it hurts, the discomfort is fleeting and the results are everlasting.

(My comment :)/bracha) May we be able to internalize this message. May we be able to remember as we go through the daily obstacles of life, the small challenges and the big ones, that the results of the work we put in now will be permanent and the inconveniences, the pain, the discomfort we feel during those difficult times will pass. May we be able to build beautiful edifices of strength, connection and  perfection of our flaws and may we be able to become better people through the construction site of life we experience.

Monday, October 6, 2014

After Yom Kippur

When looking through the machzor on Yom Kippur night, there is one part of the chazzaras hashatz that really spoke to me.

We say mi she'ana l....hu ya'aneinu-He who answered....May He answer us. And there is a different phrase inserted each time. A time Hashem answered someone and we ask Him to please answer our prayers too. 

Avraham Avinu b'har hamoriah...Yosef b'veis ha'asurim...avoseinu b'yam suf...Yehoshuah Bagilgal...Eliyahu b'har hacarmel...Yonah bm'eih hadaga...Chananya, Mishael, V'azaryah b'soch kivshan ha'eish...

Each of these people called out to Hashem at a time of extreme desperation. And Hashem answered them. And the list is quite long.

And I thought to myself...If Hashem saved Yonah from the innards of the fish and Chananya, Mishael and Azarya from inside a burning furnace, can't he help little me? Can't I rely on Him to hear my little prayers? 

I looked at this tefillah and concentrated on the words. I thought about each of the stories. I thought back to the time that these people turned to Hashem because they knew He was the only One who could help them. I thought about what it took for Hashem to save each of them. Hashem made miracles! For Yehoshua, He made the sun stand still in the sky. And for me...I don't need big miracles. I just need Him to help me with my little life. And nothing is too big for Hashem. If He could save three people from inside a burning fire, He surely can save me from the difficulties I am experiencing.

This tefillah gave me a powerful feeling of emunah and trust in Hashem. It helped open my eyes to the awesome power He has. So when I feel hopeless, when I feel lost, when I feel alone, I know that I can turn to Hashem and He can do anything to help things get better. He has such incredible capabilities...and I can ask Him for anything and everything I need and want. Hashem is unlimited...and I need to take advantage of that when I daven to Him...for myself and for those close to me.

Yom Kippur is a day when I try to look back at the previous year and think about the changes...think about where I was a year ago...what was going on in my life...and realize how much was decided just one year before. It's a powerful day...and it scares me. It scares me to think about how much will be sealed on this day for the coming year. Every day, every stress, every change. I davened and continue to hope there will be many good changes this year.

I want to hold on to these feelings. Of relying on Hashem completely and recognizing that it is He who decides what changes will happen in the coming year. It was He who mapped out my life and my challenges. It is He who created me with my specific strengths and weaknesses. He gave me the exact tools I need to overcome the tests of life and become the person I am meant to become. It will take strength, it will take work, but I know that He is the One planning this all. And there is comfort in that knowledge.

This is what succos is about. It's about leaving our large, comfortable homes and going into a small, cozy little house-to be with Hashem. To be in His shadow. To be in His embrace. R' Shimshon Pincus zt"l says that the walls of the sukkah are like a hug from Hashem. After all the inspiration gained from Rosh Hashana, the aseres yimei teshuva and Yom Kippur, Hashem is not ready to let the closeness end. He wants us to come spend even more time with Him. So we enter the walls of the sukkah and it is as if Hashem is giving us a hug. The walls are His arms embracing us. I found that thought so heartwarming. 

Succos is a time to increase our emunah in Hashem. It is a time when we can realize and internalize on a deeper level just how much we depend on Him for everything. We leave our homes to show just that. When we are outside, we can let go of all the outer trappings of our homes-the chandeliers, the bookcases, the drapes on the windows...and focus on what really is important to us. Our spirituality, our relationship with Hashem, living a Torah life and doing the mitzvos. And we remind ourselves how much we rely on Hashem for all the good we have. It is not our hard work that brings the results, it is He who decides exactly how much we should have and how much we should spend, what our expenses will be and how much we will save.

How lucky we are to have these yomim tovim! We have a chance to reflect on our past year and on ourselves as people and think about the changes we want to make. We have an opportunity to renew our commitment when we felt ourselves slipping back. And we are able to strengthen our emunah and trust in Hashem so we can rely on Him with more passion and feeling over the coming year...knowing it is He who we can turn to whenever we need. Because Hashem can do anything. Just like He saved Yosef from the prison in Mitzrayim and Daniel from the lions' den, just like He heard their tefillos, He will hear ours too. And we hope He will answer them and we will have a positive outcome. 

Wishing you all a wonderful and inspiring succos.

Monday, September 22, 2014

History

Rosh Hashana is almost here. I wanted to post something I wrote before since the message applies to this time...

My son is making a puppet show with some stuffed animals. He picks up the Pooh bear. 

"What does Winnie the Pooh like to eat?" I ask. I'm sure he doesn't know. I never told him.

"Honey!" He smiles. 

When I ask him how he knew that, he tells me that two years ago, his morah read him a book and showed his class a video about Winnie the Pooh.

Two years ago? And this kid remembers?

I know my son. And I know he has a good memory. He is extremely observant and doesn't forget little details. But still, for him to remember that Pooh loves to eat honey...it gets me thinking.

The things we look at, the books we read, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, the music we listen to,  the billboards we look at, all these things make an impression on us. They stay with us forever. 

 *   *   *

Have you ever checked your browsing history on your computer? Press Ctrl and H on your keyboard at the same time and you will see a comprehensive list of all the websites you've visited along with the dates and times you clicked on the pages.

Employers can use this-and other more sophisticated means-to check up on their employees to see what they are up to during down time at work.

Parents can check up on their children to see what they are doing while they are online.

There is a record of everything you do, every link you click on, every page you access.

Sure, you can go incognito.

Yes, you can try to hide your tracks, visiting webpages using anonymous browsers.


And you can delete your browsing history when you are done your session.

But...Hashem has a record.

Hashem sees every single thing you do. 

Every single page you visit. 

Every single click of your mouse.

Glance of your eyes.

Hashem keeps track of every action you take-online, at home, at school, at work and in the privacy of your home.

Wherever you are, Hashem is watching.

Da ma l'ma'alah mimcha-ayin ro'ah v'ozen shoma'as v'chol ma'asecha beseifer nichtavim. Know what is above you-an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your actions are written in a book-a book that records everything, that doesn't miss out on a single thing.

It's a pretty scary thought.

Hashem watches everything. 

Hashem remembers everything.

There is no deleting what you saw, listened to, heard or watched. 

My son...he has a pretty good memory. I am sometimes shocked by the things he can recall, the little details he reminds me of that I don't remember.

The computer...it keep track of everything. Every click, every page, every visit.

But...Hashem...He is way beyond all that. 

He sees all and He doesn't forget.

Ever.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Fox and The Vineyard

I posted this before and want to share the message with you once again.

We are now in the month of 
Elul. This is a very important time in the hebrew calendar, a time of closeness and connection to Hashem. Think about how lucky you are to have an opportunity to come back to your Loving Father! He gives you so many chances to come close to Him and show Him that you really want to do the right thing-by thinking about what you have done and how you want to become better.

There's an amazing mashal I want to share with you.

A fox passed a vineyard full of delicious grapes and wanted to eat some of them. However, there was a fence enclosing the vineyard that blocked him from going in. He did notice that there was a small hole in the fence and if he would fast for three days, he would be able to squeeze in and eat the grapes. So that is what he did.

After three days, the fox was skinny enough to make his way through the hole. He feasted and enjoyed all the grapes in the vineyard and when he was ready to leave he realized that he would not be able to get out because he ate too much and gained too much weight! So once again, he fasted for three days and only then was he able to get out of the vineyard.

The fox then realized that he did not gain anything from the vineyard because he left the same way he had gone in. We have to ask ourselves the same question-will we leave the world the same way we went in or will we have things that have true value to take along with us. Elul is a time to ask ourselves these questions - what are we taking with us into the new year? What mitzvos and good deeds do we have to show for ourselves?

Each one of us is put into this world and there are so many temptations and things that look exciting - but we have to remember that we are in this world for a purpose, not just for the materialism and we need to focus on the things that last.

This past shabbos, I heard a continuation of this mashal.
There was a smart fox who watched what the first fox had done and said to himself, "I will not be a fool like this one." And here is what he did. After fasting three days so he could get through the hole in the fence, he ate and enjoyed the grapes. In the meantime, he threw a whole bunch of grapes over the fence so that when he gets out of the vineyard, he will have more grapes to eat. So even though he had to fast to get out, he thought ahead and saved for the future.

The woman who I heard this mashal from gave an interesting twist on the nimshal.
Elul is coming. It's a hard month but it is a very rich month. There is so much to gain from what comes after it-the yomim nora'imRosh HashanaYom Kippur and Succos. Some people are like the first fox and they leave the yomim tovim the same way they came in. The day after yom tov you wouldn't even know that they experienced such awesome days. However, if you want to be like the smart fox, you need to throw the grapes over the fence, you need to prepare properly and think ahead so that you will come out of these days enriched and a better person.

Elul is a very big month. There is so much to gain and so much to achieve. Now that we are entering such a crucial time in our calendar, it is up to us to use our time well and take advantage of the closeness we have with Hashem.

Let's think ahead so that we use each day to the fullest so that when we come out of Elul, we can say that we didn't just eat the grapes but we saved some for later - so that we can take the inspiration we get from Elul and the yomim tovim that come after it and come out a truly changed and better person!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Baby Talk

I wrote this last year and wanted to share the message with you again.

"Aah-pi-dee coo-key"

I'm walking back from the bus stop with my baby and my neighbor. 

"He wants me to open his bag of cookies...isn't that cute?"

"I would have no clue what he was talking about!" she says.

And I'm reminded about something I heard a while back about tefillah and the way we daven

When a little baby or toddler who is just learning how to talk starts to communicate in his own language, only his own parents can truly understand the things he is saying. He is not using real words yet, just a combination of sounds...but every sound has real meaning...to him. And his mother and father know exactly what he means to say with each sound that comes out of his mouth. 

But a stranger wouldn't understand at all. 

When we daven, there are times when we mumble the words, don't pronounce them correctly...and just rush through our tefillos. We can't always say the words the way they were meant to be said, with the proper pronunciation and concentration. 

After all, we are human beings.

But Hashem is our Father. And He understands the thoughts and feelings behind the words we say. He understand what we really mean to say, even if sometimes we're talking in baby talk.

He knows we really want to praise Him. He knows that we really mean to ask him for health, parnassahrefuos and yeshuos. He knows that when we go through shemona esrei and we don't really think about the meaning of every single word, we really do want to. We want to do it right. 

But sometimes we stumble. 

Sometimes we mumble.

Sometimes we don't think into the meaning of the things we are saying and asking for.

And He understands our baby talk.

But...does that mean we should stay that way? Just because He understands, should we talk like little kids? 

Of course not. 

Let's try. 

Let's grow up.

Let's work on our concentration.

On our pronunciation.

On saying our brachos and tefillos the way they were meant to be said.

Because even though Hashem understands that we mean a lot more than "baruchata...borei minaymezonos..." or "selachlanu...mechalanu", we might as well put in the effort and talk big...like adults...like a professional businessman. Like someone who knows his stuff. 

Hashem is always listening. He understands our innermost thoughts and feelings...even when we can't express them in words.

But when it's time to daven, when it's time to say our brachos, when it's time to bench, to ask Hashem for things we need and thank Him for the things He gives us, let's try to do it right.

Enough with the baby talk. It's cute...but at some point we need to grow up.

I open the bag of cookies for my baby and he spills most of it on the floor. But I understand. He's just a baby. He asks for things and he can't even enjoy all of it. But I'm his mother...and so I give.

Hashem knows us so much better. He knows what is good for us, what we need...and what we want...and when the time is right for us to get it. He is our Father...and He gives us...so much good.

May you be able to express yourself properly with the words of your tefillos and brachos...and mature in your tefillos from baby talk to big-girl talk!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Special Connection

It was over seven years since I had seen her last. But as soon as we met up and hugged, it was as if we just spoke yesterday. Well, almost. We had a lot to catch up on...my seminary roommate and I. But we connected instantly. The closeness we shared was right back there; the moment we began talking we felt it.

There's something unique about someone you room with for close to a year when you're away from home, independent...and...vulnerable. Your roommate gets to see the parts of you that no one else in your seminary does. What you're like when you wake up in the morning, how you react to stresses, what you do when your shabbos plans fall through on Friday morning and how you deal with the disappointments you don't necessarily carry with you outside your dorm room. She also gets to see you when you're tired and hyper and silly and giddy and sad and tired and emotional and...did I mention tired? :) She honestly gets to see every part of you. Every emotion, every mood, everything.

It's kind of like a sibling. 

The connection formed with my seminary roommates was unique. I got to Eretz Yisroel two and a half weeks after my younger brother, Shalom a"h was niftar. It was also a couple of days after my older brother got engaged. I was flying high, excited to be in the holy land, just as happy as everyone else...and showing off family pictures from my brother's vort to all who came to see. But inside, my heart was crying. I was holding a secret, a big, difficult secret in there.

I remember the shailos I had to ask during those first few weeks. I was in middle of my brother's shloshim. Was I allowed to watch a slideshow together with the rest of the seminary if there was music playing in the background? (I had to wear earplugs. And sit in the back-a little to the side-because an avel is not allowed to be part of a large group that is gathering together.)What should I do if I was studying with friends and they put music on? (That was okay because they didn't put it on for me. But it hurt because I knew I wasn't allowed to listen and the music was on and I loved it but I didn't want to hear it. And because I was carrying this heavy secret and I was sure that if these girls knew they'd never turn the music on when I was around.)

Then came the shloshim. With incredible bravery, I got up to speak in front of the entire seminary. I got sick that day and took off from class because I was so nervous, but I did it. I had to tell my roommates the night before-one who knew about it and one who was in total shock. We talked for a long time and comforted each other. 

Throughout the year, my one close friend who was in my seminary was there for me when I needed. While the rest of the girls were complaining about how they missed their families, I was on a whole different plane. I missed my brother! I knew I wasn't seeing him again. My family? Of course, one never knows what will be, but I knew that when I get home at the end of the year, I'll get to see my family, alive and well. I didn't miss them with the same intensity as I missed my brother-who was in the olam ha'emes, who was in my thoughts and my heart...but nowhere else. Who I only remembered as someone who was. Who I could only talk about in the past tense...

When I saw my roommate for the first time in over seven years, when I gave her a hug and we connected so instantly, I was hit with a powerful feeling. It didn't shake me until later that night, but I realized how a person-to-person friendship is so much more meaningful. And so much more real. It's nice to talk on the phone and it's nice to text and chat and email...and even to think about someone in your thoughts...but when you see someone, when you can give them a hug, look into their eyes, hold their hand and squeeze it tight, you have something deeper. You have a real relationship.

And although I had not seen her in so many years, the moment we saw each other, we connected. The bond was still there. The soul connection was there. Her warmth and sweetness was there. She was still the same...inside.

And I know that when techiyas hameisim will happen (although I do not know when that will be...), when I see my brother once again, I will feel that same strong bond. The connection of siblings that is so strong. We won't have to talk that much. We'll just look at each other and I'll see his smiling face. I will feel his warmth. I will look into his eyes and we will connect. 

It's a connection that never goes away. And although I can't text or chat, email or call him, he is in my heart and in my thoughts. We are still so very close...even though he seems so far away.

It's the day of his yartzeit that reminds me how much I miss him. It's this day that serves as a reminder to how temporary life is. How we must take advantage of our time here and appreciate those closest to us while they are still alive. Our children, our parents, our grandparents, our spouses, our friends. No one wants to look back one day and say how I wish I would have...Now's the time! You still can...connect, reach out, make up, open up, share, inspire, live and love.

And while I daven for the day when we will be reunited, I take the time to reflect on the messages of the day. On how this day inspires me to look at myself in a clearer mirror so I can work on myself to become better and stronger. 

May the neshama of Shalom a"h ben Chaim Nosson whose 9th yartzeit is tomorrow, Wednesday, yud zayin av, have an aliya.

Shalom, I know you are looking from your special place on high and are so proud of your nephews who carry on your name. I know how much you would have loved to spend time with all of them and I daven that my Shalom Baruch, who never got to meet you, carry on your legacy and be as special as you. He is already hearing stories about you...and I hope and pray that one day it wont be just stories...that we will all be reunited together...and he will say...this is the Shalom you always tell me about!

To read about Shalom a"h and the story, click here, here and here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Comfort

I posted this last year and wanted to share the message with you once again.

There are some contradictions in the halachos of Tisha B'av that make one wonder about the nature of the day. On one hand, we act like mourners, sit on low chairs, do not wear leather shoes and do not greet one another with a friendly "hello". On the other hand, Tisha B'av is called a Mo'ed, a yom tov-not only because it will be a yom tov when moshiach comes, but because now it can be viewed as a festival. This is why men do not say tachanun-a tefillah that is not recited on yomim tovim and other days of celebration.

How can Tisha B'av be viewed as a festival? Where is the joy in this sad day? And what can we take from the intense mourning of this day...that will bring us some measure of comfort?

The Chasam Sofer explains something interesting about the fact that we still mourn for the Beis Hamikdosh so many years after it was destroyed. There have been many nations in the history of the world who have gone through loss and destruction, yet none of them mourn; they have all been forgotten with the passage of time. Egypt, Spain, Rome-each nation had their high point and then fell. But we, the Jewish People, not only are we still around, but we still cry over our loss, so many years later. 

Why?

Our chachamim tell us that there is a gezeirah, a decree from Hashem, that the memory of one who died will fade as time goes on. It is possible for someone who experienced the loss of the death of a loved one to be consoled, to move on and even...even to forget. But because of this same gezeira, if someone mourns someone who they think is dead but really is alive, they will never be able to be consoled. No words, no stories, no inspiration...even the passage of time will ever comfort them. They will not be able to overcome this grief.

In the same way, other nations who have lost their power and greatness, who lost their country, who are no longer a People, can be consoled; they can overcome their loss...because their loss is final, it is complete. There is no hope for them. They will never be able to go back to their previous glory. The status they once held is considered "dead" and they become forgotten as time goes on.

However, the Jewish People can never be consoled over the loss of the Beis Hamikdosh. 

As it says in Megillas Eichahein la menachem-they have no one to comfort them. I always saw this as something so sad...for a different reason. When my family sat shiva for my brother, the stream of people coming to comfort us didn't stop. So many people came to try to offer words of consolation and to be there for us, with us in our pain. But when the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed, there was no one to comfort the Jews-for they were all in the same boat. They were all hurting. They were all experiencing famine, death and loss. Who could offer words of comfort in such a setting? No one. They were all in it together.

But that's not what the Chasam Sofer is saying. He takes a whole different spin on that phrase. Why can we not be comforted over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh? 

Why?

Because it is not a permanent destruction. It is not a permanent loss. No matter how much time passes, our hearts still ache, our souls still yearn to return...because we will return. We cannot forget the pain...because it is not a permanent "death", it is but a temporary loss.

As it says in the first passuk in Eichahha'ir rabasi am, haysah k'almanah-the city that was great with people has become like a widow. And Rashi says, she is like a widow...but she is not really a widow. She is like a woman whose husband went to a foreign city with the intention of returning to her.

The very fact that we are still crying on Tisha B'av, that we still mourn the loss of the Beis Hamikdosh, that we still long for and hope to return to Yerushalayim, is in itself the greatest source of consolation. The greatest nechama.

This is the reason why Tisha B'av is referred to as a mo'ed, a yom tov, and why those tefillos that are not recited on festivals are omitted on this day. We can feel comforted and yes, even rejoice inside while we mourn...for we know that it is specifically because we are still mourning that we know we will once again return...return to our Father, return to our Land and return to the former glory we as a nation once had.

This shabbos, Shabbos Nachamu, is a time when we can find comfort in the fact that we are still here. We spent Tisha B'av in a mode of longing and yearning, as we (hopefully) cried, wished and hoped for the geula. Although we are still waiting for that day to come, we can be comforted by the fact that it will come...that we have never forgotten...and that our Nation is still alive.

May we be zoche to experience the true nechama and live to see the day come when Kol Hamisabel Al Yerushalayim...all those who mourn over the rebuilding of Yerushalayim...will actually see and experience the joy when the Beis Hamikdosh will finally be rebuilt!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Cry


I look up at 
The deep blue sky
And slowly
Teardrops
Form in my eyes
And I 
Begin to cry

Why?

Why do I cry?

I cry because

When I am in pain
When I am hurting
I know how to cry
It's almost...easy
The tears just come

When I am overwhelmed

By...my life
By...my struggles
By...my challenges
By...my difficulties
I know how to cry
Those tears
Spring forth from my eyes

So why?

Is it so hard to cry?
When the month of Av
Comes around
And I should be thinking
Feeling
Hashem's pain
Hashem's loss
Our pain
Our loss
A house that once was
A nation that once was
The glory that once was
A relationship that once was

Why?

Why can't I cry?
Why don't I feel the pain
Why is it
So hard to feel
To make it real
To me?

When I'm having it hard

When someone hurts me
Those tears flow
So freely

When I'm simply taken over

Overwhelmed
By so many little things
And sometimes
Sometimes bigger things

I can cry
Easily

But...Hashem's pain?!

The thought of the kosel
The thought of the shechina in galus
The thought of all that we are missing?
Why doesn't that make me cry?
As simply
As effortlessly
As easily
As my own pain?
As my own life?

Hashem...?

I lift my eyes
Up to Your skies
I think about
Things
Close to me
That hurt me
That touch me
That inspire me
To cry

And I realize...

They are all connected.

It may be easier

For me
To shed tears
Over personal losses
Over personal hurts
Over personal frustrations
Over...my personal life

And I see

I understand
That it all comes from
The same place

A place of emotion

A place of longing
Of yearning
And of hoping

So...although I may not

Be able to cry
Shed real tears
Over bigger losses
Bigger pain
Deeper losses
Deeper pain
I know...
That inside
My heart is crying

And Hashem

Who is bochain libos u'chelayos
Who knows
Who sees
And Who understands
The inner workings
The inner chambers
Of my heart

He knows

He sees
And He understands

The inner sigh

The inner cry

Even

Without
Real tears.

I lift up my eyes

Look up at the shimmering blue sky
Searching
Yearning
Hoping
And...yes.
Crying
Without real tears
But I cry inside 
And Hashem
Understands
Why
I cry.

May we reach the day of u'macha Hashem dim'ah mei'al kol panim. Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Triggers

With the weeks and then days leading up to my brother's 9th yartzeit, there are times I am easily triggered. 

It doesn't take that much. It can be a thought, a conversation, a memory...and I am brought back. I think about my brother and I miss him. 

I know this was meant to be and I accepted this as Hashem's will, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt sometimes.

I think about what it would be like if he would be alive today. Would he be married? Would he have kids? Would we still be as close as we were when he was alive? What kind of things would I share with him? Would our relationship be more superficial? Would we chat about our daily schedule? The kids? Or would we talk about real things?

And I can only imagine...

I think back to the last time I saw Shalom and I can't help but cry. I remember saying goodbye to him on Visiting Day, not knowing that this would be the last time I would see him. The last time in my life. How I wish I could just have another few minutes with him, say a real, proper goodbye, a goodbye I would have said with an all encompassing embrace...had I known.

But I didn't know. 

I wasn't meant to know.

I snap back to reality. 

Life goes on. 

I'm in an elevator. I hear two young mothers talking about what it's like to have their kids in camp. 

"My sister says having her sons in camp is like a full-time job. All day she's busy sending packages with this one and finding rides with that one... And when the girls are in another camp on the other side of the mountains, oh boy does it get tough!"

And I want to scream. 

But of course, I don't say a word.

I walk out of the elevator and my heart is screaming.

Do you realize how lucky you are to have kids in camp?? Do you realize how lucky you are to be able to send packages to them and yes, to be busy with that? 

And I think back to the last summer of my brother's life. When for the first time since any of us kids went to camp, my mother sent packages to Shalom. In the beginning of each week, she would go to the grocery and buy nosh and treats. I always told her to buy the Softbite cookies because I knew those were his favorite. (We could eat them together so quickly-we'd finish half the package on erev shabbos after we had pizza for lunch and the rest would be gone by shabbos afternoon!) When the box was full, my mother would take it next door to my grandmother's office and she'd ship it to him in camp.

And when he got his package, he didn't keep it all to himself. He generously shared it with his friends. And when Shalom picked up on the cues from a friend that he needed certain staples for a staple gun so he could fix something, he asked me to send it in his next package. No details as to why...but I sent it to him...and he gave it to the surprised boy-who never asked for them in the first place! He had just mentioned in passing that he needed those staples and next thing he knew, he had them in his hands a couple of days later!

I think back to those packages...and I am comforted. I remember spending so much time making a collage of the pictures of my nieces and nephews, fitting them all in onto just two pages, printing them out on colored paper and sending them to Shalom. I know that I did mine. I know how happy he was to see those pictures...because he loved each niece and nephew with all his heart. He loved to play with them when they came over. He loved little babies. He loved kids. And he loved having those pictures...the last he got to see of them. It feels good to know that I was the one who sent him those pictures...in one of those weekly packages my mother sent him during his last summer in camp.

It's those little things that can trigger so much inside of me. 

Snippets of a conversation between two mothers and look...look what it brought back for me.

I think about our Beis Hamikdosh...I think about my own personal loss...and I am sad. 

Where are our triggers?

We have no triggers.

We have no memories.

Just stories.

We are so far away.

So, so far away.

We have to force ourselves to feel. To make the churban seem real to us.

It has been so many years.

Too many years.

There is nothing that can bring on memories of that awesome time. We didn't live to see the avodah in the Bais Hamikdosh, the Levi'im singing shira, the smoke of the Korban Tamid. We never experienced a Yom Kippur, watching the red string turn white, coming out of that incredible day with the knowledge that our sins were forgiven.

We didn't experience life with the glory of Hashem's presence felt in Yerushalayim.

We didn't live to feel the churban.

The devastation. 

The deaths and the losses.

We are so far away from it all.

But we have our own losses. 

Our own personal challenges that help us feel that we are in galus.

So although we can't be triggered and we aren't close enough to the time of the Beis Hamikdosh to feel real pain over what happened so many years ago, we still have this one day a year where we can try. 

We can try to go back...try to dig deep inside ourselves and see...what touches us. 

What makes us cry. 

What are we sad about?

What do we want to change?

And remember that we are in galus.

We need to daven to Hashem...for change.

For redemption. 

For the ultimate Yeshuah.

May the day come when we have no memories of galus...when galus is such a foreign concept that nothing can trigger a thought about what the time away from the Shechina, away from the Kedusha was all about!

Have an easy and meaningful Tisha B'av.