Monday, August 22, 2016

Shalom and Shalom Baruch

It's that time of year again. Shalom's yartzheit.

I see his face wherever I go, wherever I am. Everything is a trigger. Anything I see makes me think of him.

I remember his favorite cookies (Kitov softbites), his favorite chocolate (mekupelet) and our favorite treat (cheese snack-we shared it when we were kids and best friends).

I walk outside and notice a discarded matchbook. (No, not a Macbook :). No one throws out something like that.) You know, the little cardboard folder that has a strip to strike the match on one side...

And that made me remember that whenever Shalom a"h would find one of those while he was out, he wouldn't just throw it out. He would strike and destroy every single match to make sure it was not usable. He didn't want anyone to ever find it and be able to use the matches to light a cigarette.

I look at my son Shalom Baruch who carries on his name. At this time of year, he gets to hear a lot of stories about the uncle he never knew. He even reminds me of some of the stories he heard last year that I didn't repeat.

And then I think of the similarities between Shalom a"h and Shalom Baruch.

First, my big boy loves to climb...anything and everything. When we moved to our new house with a big tree in front of it, it wasn't long before Shalom Baruch climbed right up. One day, he sat on one of the branches eating sorbet with his legs crossed, chilling as if he's relaxing on the beach drinking iced tea.

It's a delicate balance for me. I need to let my child do what he is good at without panicking when he stretches his daring, adventurous muscles. I need to ensure that he stays safe and doesn't do anything dangerous. At the same time, when he is doing something that reminds me of my brother, I cannot let my memories get in the way. There was a time where he sat on a branch that was too thin and I watched it crack right off the tree. It was scary for me. Baruch Hashem he was supported by another strong branch. Although the fall would have been minimal, watching it unfold was enough to make my heart race.

During the nine days and until the yartzheit itself, I did not let him climb our tree. Since this is an unfavorable time in the Jewish calendar as well as in my emotional calendar, I didn't, I couldn't let. But he will be right back at it as soon as he has another opportunity. And it's okay. It is a safe tree to climb. It's easy for him to get up and the branches are big, they're strong. I just have to breath deeply and let go. I have to leave the rest up to Hashem.

Shalom Baruch also loves to take things apart, to figure out how things work. From the flashlight he took apart when he was less than twenty months old to the clicking pen with four colors that he reassembled this tisha b'av, learning about the inner workings of everything around him always fascinated him. He was wide-eyed when I told him about the time when Shalom a"h asked my mother if he could keep the blender she was going to throw out one Pesach. With her permission, he took it to his room and got to work. Shalom a"h separated the wires and buttons from the outside plastic it was made of and had a field day putting it back together and creating something of his own. He turned it into...an alarm clock! And he attached it to a timer so when it was time for him to wake up, the whole thing made a loud, whirring noise and spun all around the room! He had to actually get out of bed to turn it off!

The look on Shalom Baruch's face when he heard all this was priceless. "How did he do it??" he asked incredulously. He looked like he wished he could have asked Shalom a"h himself. But he can't.

He takes after him though.

Just like Shalom a"h, he is very musical. Not just with his voice, but with his ability to follow the beat of a song. His friend recently taught him how to beat box and it is the coolest thing ever. It's the drum behind the song. And that's what Shalom loved to do (although I wonder if he knew what beat boxing was! :)) I remember a game we used to play on Friday night at the meal. Shalom would drum his fingers to the beat of a song or zemer and each of us would have to guess which song it was. He was so good at it, that we were able to figure out the song just by listening to his fingers drumming on the table! When it was our turn, we would hum the tune of a song and everyone would easily guess.

Shalom Baruch loves chess. I taught it to him slowly when I saw he was ready for a challenging game, a game that would stimulate his brain and keep him thinking. He's a smart kid and can think a few steps ahead. Right now I let him win every time but I don't always make it too easy for him. I want him to think. I like watching his head at work and I'm sometimes amazed by his brain and the way he plans his next move.

Shalom a"h also loved chess. He was a good player and he thought before his moves too (on a more mature level). There was a point when every Friday night he'd sit down to a game of chess with my mother. All the kids would crowd around, watch them play, then someone would interject with a good move or a warning, and then there would be a loud announcement/reminder that no one is allowed to help either side...it was all good, solid and happy fun. 

I often wonder what it would be like if Shalom a"h were still alive. What would our relationship be like? Would we still be the best friends we were when we were kids? Would I be really close to him? I know he'd go crazy over my kids. He always loved kids. (Besides, everyone goes crazy over my kids :-P. And I'm not just saying that because I'm their mommy. Ke"h they are delicious and have a special chein.)

But...as much as I wonder and as much as I think about it, it was not meant to be. Shalom's place is in gan eden, close to Hashem, close to the other boys who were niftar at a young age. And they are lucky. They fulfilled their tafkid in the time they had in this world. The rest of us are left here to grope in the dark, to try to make sense of the senseless...and ultimately hold on to that belief that every single thing Hashem puts us through has a purpose and is for our benefit. We may not see it now, but we need to work on instilling that belief deep into our consciousness.

And one day, we will actually be able to see it, to understand it. It wont just be belief. We will have clarity. We will recognize that every event in our lives was carefully planned by our Creator and it was all for our good. 

May that day come so very soon! And until then, may we be able to work on our emunah, internalizing our belief that every single thing we go through has a purpose. Every single thing Hashem puts us through is for our ultimate benefit. 

Let us continue to do good and spread goodness wherever we go. My brother cannot do that anymore. Yet, by sharing this with others who can be inspired, his neshama will continue to rise higher in gan eden

May this be a zechus for Shalom ben Chaim Nosson whose 11th yartzheit was yesterday.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why I Cry

I posted this before...and I want to share it with you again.

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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Free

Pesach is over
So much to wonder
About
Why the rush
To the pizza shops?
Why wait
On the lines
Just to get
Your own pie
The moment chometz
Is allowed again?
Can you pause
For a moment
Think 
For a moment
About this past week
(And a bit)
Of holy days
Special days
So much preparation
For these days
Where did it go?
What did you gain?
Aside from a few
Potato pounds? :)
Did you free yourself
From habits
That held you down?
Did you free yourself
From patterns
From actions
Reactions
That pulled you down?
What keeps you busy
When you're bored?
What do you do
When you have nothing to do
Or need an escape
From life
Real life?
Do you have good outlets?
Can you free yourself
From things
That pull you down?
Can you free yourself?
Release the bonds
Remove the chains
From around your soul
And feel yourself
Becoming more whole?
Even if you didn't yet
You still can
Even if you haven't yet
You can construct a plan
So the coming weeks
Leading up
To the day of
Acceptance
Of our holy Torah
You can become
A little holier
In small steps
By freeing yourself
Of the chains
That hold you back
That pull you down
That prevent you
From being
Truly free
May you be able
To have the strength
The determination
The perseverance
And the inner drive
To keep at it
To keep working
So you become
Truly free.

Happy changing over!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Purim Poem

Here is the poem I sent along with my mishloach manos this year. Enjoy!

Purim is here, a day full of fun
A day of happiness for everyone
The megillah is read for all to hear
Then gifts to the poor and goodies to share
There is so much meaning to the mitzvos we do on this day
It’s about finding Hashem in nature in a deeper way
Everything we have is like a personal gift from Hashem
From our health to our family and everything between them
It’s sometimes hard to notice that it’s special for you
When everyone around you has the same gifts too
So on Purim when the megillah is read
Hashem is migaleh, He is revealed from beginning to end
Even though His name is not mentioned at all
We can find Him when we see Haman’s downfall
Just like Esther didn’t understand why she had to be married to the king
It was only later when she saved the Jewish Nation that she understood everything
So too in our own lives, we may not always see Hashem’s hand
But we must internalize this emunah that He has a good plan
So after reading the megillah, our hearts overflow
With love for Hakadosh Baruch Hu for now we know
That whatever may appear to be bad in our eyes
Is really for the good, Hashem is just disguised
Now we want to give back to Hashem but how can we
Give anything to the King of all kings who created you and me?
Instead we give His children two types of gifts on this day
Matanos Li’evyonim is filling their needs and it’s as if we say
Hashem, I’m taking care of your children and since I am your child too
Please continue to take care of me, giving me all I need from you
Then Mishloach Manos-we give to people who don’t need anything
It is an expression of our relationship and closeness it does bring
So too Hashem gives each of us things we need because we lack
But He gives us so many extras, more than just the clothing on our backs
This shows that He loves us because we are His children so dear
He takes care of us and gives us so much bounty, every day every year
So on this Purim day, let’s realize that we show our appreciation
To Hashem for all the good by giving gifts to His Chosen Nation
And may this Purim be the year
When the “whys” of our life all disappear
And all is revealed and it’s finally clear!

A Freilichen Purim!

(If you are looking for a Purim poem and came across this one and want to use it, please email me or leave a comment here. Thank you!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Accident

I was in an accident almost two weeks ago.

I was coming off the Verrazano Bridge, driving along with the speed of traffic when the car in front of me short stopped. I couldn't stop fast enough. I knew that if I continued going straight, I'd hit the car in front of me. In order to avoid a collision, I veered a bit to the right. That's when I heard a loud noise. The truck in the right lane scraped the passenger side of my car. My mirror flew off and disappeared onto the highway, my front bumper fell off and my tire got sliced.

Baruch Hashem, nothing happened to me or to the truck driver. His truck was fine too. All I had was a small headache and a team of people to help.

First it was a police car. Someone driving by saw an accident and called 911. 

Then the tow truck came. My car was towed to a safe spot a few miles away (while I got a ride inside the police car ;). I saw the buttons that make each type of siren sound and I eyed the policeman's gun with calm trepidation.)

Next the men from the towing company (who do this as a free service for all accidents on the bridge) offered to change my tire for me. They found the spare, changed the tire, and also outfitted the front of my car with duct-tape. I now had a real yeshivish-looking car :-). It was all ready to go...straight to the mechanic for some major fixing.

I had a lot of time that day to think and reflect. 

The driver who made that short stop in front of me went on driving, having no idea what happened right behind him. 

And I thought...how many times did someone short stop behind me while I went on driving? 

I have no idea.

How many times does Hashem protect me from danger?

We daven for so many things. We sometimes wonder, Hashem, why aren't you answering my tefillos? But we don't know how many things could have happened that didn't. Because we didn't see it. 

In shemona esrei, we say, "melech ozer u'moshia u'magein"-Hashem is the King who helps, saves and protects. Magein-protect means that Hashem prevents bad things from happening. He literally protects us. And I got to see it with my own eyes. The driver in front of me was protected, and Hashem was watching over me when I drove in the left lane along the bridge the whole time. This way, the impact of the accident was on the passenger side and not on the driver's side. Had that happened chas v'shalom, I don't want to think about where I would be right now. I probably would not be sitting at home typing up this inspirational post.

Hashem was protecting me.

It made me think of the concept we all learn about in school when Hashem passed by Moshe rabbeinu while wrapped in a tallis and Moshe rabbeinu asked Hashem, "Show me your ways." He wanted to understand the ways of Hashem, why bad things happen in this world. Hashem responded, "vera'isa es achorai"-you will see My Back, but you will not see My Face. The way we always learned it was that a person can only understand why they had to go through difficulties after the experience is over. While they are in it, it is not possible to understand why. Sometimes it takes years to be able to understand. (And sometimes a person can never understand.)

Maybe it means, when you're in the back, when you're behind someone, you can see what they were saved from. But they can't see it because they are in the front. They don't have eyes behind their back!

The person driving his car in front of me had no idea what he was saved from when I short stopped on the Verrazano. 

We have no idea what Hashem is saving us from. 

We may get frustrated sometimes when we don't see our tefillos being answered. But let's remember that every single day, Hashem is protecting us from harm, watching over us with love and taking care of our needs.

May we all be safe and be able to appreciate all Hashem does for us without any terrifying stories.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter-A Poem

Winter's here
Trees are bare
'cept for some snow
Who would know
What's going on beneath the ground
Under the snow covered mound
Of dirt
Of grass
Of concrete for some
So much
Going on
Beneath the surface
So much
Happening
Underground
But we can't see it.
Just because we can't see it
Doesn't mean it isn't happening
So much growth
So much change
Down there
Even though
Up here
The trees remain bare
The plants aren't there
No flowers to behold
Just emptiness.
But then...
Spring comes!
The sun begins to shine
The leaves begin to rustle
The plants
And fruit
And flowers
Begin to blossom
To grow
To add color
And light
Make bright
Our days
Our time
Outdoors
How?
How did that all happen?
So quickly
Seemingly
It's because
When we couldn't see
Beneath the surface
So much was happening
Underneath the surface
We just don't have
The vision
To see it.
Life brings with it
Many seasons
And during the winter
When things are hard
Dark
And cold
Harsh
Difficult
Sometimes seemingly
Unbearable
We must remember
We must internalize
We must believe
That there is something
Something very deep
Something very profound
Going on
Beneath the surface
It's so big
Yet so tiny
So...precious
Yet so hard to grasp
That we cannot even see it
We cannot even notice it
During the harsh winter
But then...
When Spring arrives
It's suddenly so clear!
It's so...there!
You can't even miss it if you tried
It stares you in the face
The growth
The change
The color
The depth
The newness
It's a whole different creation
WE become different
WE become new
WE change
WE grow
With a depth
With a maturity
With a resilience
With strength
With character
All because of
The winter
All because of
The darkness
All because of
The hard times
When we couldn't see
We were in so much pain
We couldn't even notice
The tiny changes
But once they happened
Little changes grew
Little steps became a staircase
Climbing up
Reaching up
Forever higher.
All during the cold, harsh winter
When Spring arrives
We can finally see
The beauty
The color
Of our blossoming character.
Stay strong.
Hold on through the cold.
Hold on when it's dark.
Hold on when it's so tough.
You will grow.
You will blossom.
You will change.
And when the Spring comes
You'll finally
Be able
To see it
Yourself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Miracle

As you prepare for the Yom Tov of Chanukah, a day when every Jew celebrates the miracles of the past and the miracles of the present, you may wonder...What miracles am I experiencing in my life? I just go about my schedule and nothing earth shattering is going on in my life. What am I celebrating? What miracles am I thanking Hashem for?...Just remember this: "If you don't believe in miracles, perhaps you've forgotten you are one."

I'm polishing the menorah.

My little Moishy wants to watch me do it. He brings over a chair and stands next to me so he can see how I scrub the menorah until it shines and sparkles.

He wants to understand how it works.

Of course, my little boy wants to touch everything so he can get a better understanding of how it works. If he feels it, he experiences it on another level. So he reaches over to stick his fingers into the silver polish.

I stop him immediately...before his little fingers get close enough.

"Don't touch it, Moishy! That's a chemical. It's not safe for you to touch."

He hears the word chemical and he backs down.

But he wants to feel it.

So...he tries to smell it and again I stop him (not fast enough though :)).

"Eww! It doesn't smell good, Mommy," he tells me.

I know that. And I tell him. I explain...

This is not a safe thing for us. We should not touch it, taste it or smell it.

And I think about how amazing that is. It's amazing that it smells very unpleasant...so that we should know not to take it one step further. Don't touch, don't let these chemicals inside your body, protect yourself.

And I tell him...

Isn't it amazing that Hashem created our bodies to be able to smell things that are dangerous? Isn't it incredible that those dangerous things have an unpleasant smell? And things that are edible and are healthy for us to ingest look and smell appetizing?

Is that not something to marvel at?

You are a miracle. Never forget that.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Believe

I love this! It's too good and I had to pass it on. I hope you will like it as much as I do.

Question:

How can a rational, thinking person believe in G‑d, when there is absolutely no evidence for His existence? Today we have X-ray, radar, satellites, infrared photography, ultrasound imaging, gamma-ray telescopes and CCTV, and yet we still have found no trace of G‑d. If He is supposed to be everywhere, why is He nowhere to be seen? My logic says, if you are nowhere, you don't exist...

Answer:
By R' Aron Moss

Being everywhere doesn't make you easy to find. On the contrary, logic says that if you are everywhere, it's as if you're nowhere. A bit like our fridge.

As our family grew, we needed more fridge space, so we bought an old fridge online. It was a bargain. We soon found out why. When we plugged it in, it started humming quite loudly. At first, we thought we couldn't live with this constant, monotonous buzz coming from the kitchen. But in a day or two, we didn't even notice it anymore.

You can only hear a noise if that noise sometimes goes silent. But if it's always there, it's like it’s not there at all. If you would ask our kids what that buzzing noise coming from the fridge was, they wouldn't even know what you were talking about. When you live with a noisy fridge, buzzing is silence.

It's the same with G‑d. We live in a reality where the buzz of G‑d is everywhere. There is no place devoid of Him, no moment when He is absent. So of course we can't detect Him. You can only detect the presence of something if you can detect its absence. The very definition of finding something is knowing where it is, but for that you have to know where it isn't. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, G‑d is all and all is G‑d. There is nowhere that he isn't. So we never see Him, because we are always looking right at Him.

This leads to an interesting conclusion. It's not that you can't see G‑d. You actually can't miss Him. It just depends how you are looking. Put down your telescope and look at your life. You'll see He's been right there all along.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Time

We have an extra hour tonight
The clock will be pushed back
What will I do with this extra hour?
Will I stay up later?
Will I sleep in tomorrow?
Or will I utilize this hour?
I always say I need more time
I always feel like I need more time
In my day
And now that I'm getting it
Another whole hour
Will I sleep it away?
Will I waste it away?
What if
I took this hour
Took advantage of this hour
And did something with it?
Something I never do
Something I never made time to do
Take care of something
Take care of someone
Take care of myself
Use this hour
To make a resolution
To think
To come to a conclusion
So there is something valuable
To be gained
From the extra bit of time
Granted
To me
On this night.
Let me think about
How I use my time
And utilize this time
To think about 
A change
That I want to make
That I want to see
In me
But never had time for
Never made time for
Now I have it
That extra hour
How will I use it?
Now I will use it
To take that step
To make that change
To think about what's stopping me
To think about what motivates me
To do it
I know I want to
I know I can
And if I feel I can't
I will turn to the One who can
Help me
Guide me
Support me
And give me
Clarity
To use this time
To make the change
And hold on to it
So I can keep doing it
And stay strong
Without backing down
So that next year
At this time
I can look back
And be proud
Of how I used this time
Of changing clocks
To change myself

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Grateful

His first day was great
How much I appreciate
His rebbe's hard work
His approach
He will coach
His talmidim
Help them learn new skills
On their knowledge they will build
Using contests, charts
Stickers,
Prizes too
Whatever it takes
To get his boys to
Learn
Challenge themselves
Strengthen their skills
Build upon them
And keep learning
With excitement
Enthusiasm
And love for
Torah
Mitzvos
Work on middos
Listen to stories
He will do it all
He will teach
They will absorb
My son absorbs
He is eager
To learn
Excited to advance
Push himself
Further
I am so grateful
A new start
A good beginning
A great beginning
Thank you, Hashem
Thank you for the good
Thank you for a good start
Thank you for a good click
Between my son
And his rebbe
Thank you for
The sparkle in his eyes
When he tells me,
"Rebbe said......."
Thank you for
The things I hear
When he tells me
What his favorite thing was
Today
Davening
(Wow, so special)
Playing outside
(Okay, he's normal :))
And for a rebbe who is willing
To work
To change things
So my son can be
Happy
Feel satisfied
That he is learning
At a good pace
And when he said
His least favorite part
Of the day
Was
Benching
(With a nervous look on his face)
And he told me why
'Cuz the boys go too fast at the end
At the part he isn't familiar with yet
He didn't learn it
At his summer camp 
So I sent a note
Asking if the class 
Could go slower
He did it
Right away
And the next day
The very next day
My big boy said
He was able to bench
Together
With everyone else
'Cuz rebbe went slower
Today
Thank you, Hashem
For every day
With this rebbe
Who ignites his heart
With a fire
A passion
A love for
His learning
Torah
And mitzvos
I am grateful
And I keep davening
That it will
Continue
This way
Every day.