Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers on a car
What would yours be?
Bumper stickers on cars 
There for all to see.
A clever quote?
A humorous saying?
Or a picture of your cat?
That bumper sticker on your car
Tells us where you're at!

Who to vote for
Or your passion
And where you stand
On issues that are
Controversial 
Whether small or grand
Something you're proud of
A mountain you've climbed
Or a sight you've seen
Whatever you place
In that little space
Gives us a little taste
Of something that's inside
What you've done
Where you've been
Or where your passions lie

Yet I wonder why
I've never seen
A selfie or real image
Of the driver of the car
Or the passengers riding in it

A bumper sticker 
For all to see
Tells the world so much
But no one has ever
Been so brave 
To commit an act
Oh so grave
As plastering their car with
Pictures of themselves 
And I wonder...why?

We do it all the time 
I think
And I wonder
Do we think?

We may not be driving
Around in cars
But we share pictures 
That express who we are
To more people than 
We are aware
We update and post
And then we share

Would we paste that selfie
On the back of our car?
Or does that detract
From who we really are?

Profile pictures
Updated often
With pictures of our faces
I wonder how quick we'd be
If viewed beyond friends and family
And shared in public places

We may not realize 
How many people
Can view it and then share
People we'd never show 
Such pictures to
Perhaps we shouldn't dare.

So although it's not
A bumper sticker 
On our car
It might be worthwhile to think...
Is that image a reflection 
Of who we really are?
And do we want it 
To be seen 
By all-near and far?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Self Care

The following article was written by Sarala. It is such an important message and I hope you will benefit from it!

The Importance of Self-Care

Have you ever taken the time to observe Hashem’s creations and marvel at its awesome beauty? Have you recently decided to take a stroll down your block to get some fresh air? Or, have you taken the liberty to sit down, unwind and read? If you answered no, you’re in good company! Baruch Hashem, we’re all busy people. We may be running to and from work, running errands, taking care of something in the house and the like. We rarely take the time to sit down for a few moments and just be. This is where self-care comes in.

Imagine the following scenario:

Rivkah wakes up on a nice, sunny Monday morning. She gets dressed and quickly throws some food into her bag for the workday. She walks fairly fast to the bus not paying much attention to pedestrians, cars or trees as she passes them. She arrives at work a bit harried and starts her work day. The time comes and she’s done for the day. She packs up and leaves. When Rivkah gets home, she eats supper, takes care of a few things and heads to bed with one eye half closed.

This is a bit of an extreme scenario, but nevertheless has a familiar rhythm to it. From the above example it seems like Rivkah had a successful and productive day – which she did. Yet, upon closer observation, you will see that Rivkah neglected one very important part. That is herself. Yes, Rivkah does need to get to work on time and take care of her personal duties. But, somehow, her more personal responsibilities got pushed to the back burner albeit subconsciously.

As it becomes more obvious, we clearly see that an important responsibility is lacking in the above example. Taking responsibility for ourselves and our needs is referred to as Self-Care. It’s ironic that we make great effort to take care of our priorities but neglect ourselves. This is why it’s extremely important that we all take a step back from our hustle and bustle and observe ourselves. Taking a step back for a few moments and tuning into ourselves and our needs will enhance our well-being in so many ways.

I will illustrate the above with a personal example:

I was busy yesterday making supper, going to a neighbor’s Tzedaka party and taking care of various other things. Towards the end of the day, I began to feel a bit on the edgy side. I realized that as busy as I was, I needed to stop for a few moments and just be with myself and see how I can relax. Sometimes, I’ll sit on the couch, observe my thoughts, think about my day so far and how I’m presently feeling. Other times, I’ll read, listen to music and the like. In other words, I’m putting my foot on the “slow down” pedal and using taking a temporary “vacation.” Other forms of self-care include eating properly, going to sleep on time (!), reading, and taking pleasure in doing something you enjoy. It can be purchasing something new for yourself, getting your nails done, meeting up with a friend or carving out some time to be alone.

I’m not suggesting that we spend our time with our feet up on the couch. If only we had more time to do that! However, it’s essential that we carve out some down time that’s devoted to us and us only. Having a few moments to ourselves has the power to give us a boost and a little pick-me-up, thus expanding our energy for various other tasks and our family and friends.

Just remember: "Taking good care of YOU means people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what's left of you."

Take care!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

To Accept


I found my comfort. After feeling like I've been going through inner torture since this story, Hashem sent just me the chizuk I needed. It didn't come from something I read online, or from a video or lecture I listened to... (and I I have been searching for something, anything that would heal my aching soul...)

Yesterday, I opened a pirkei avos to prepare a lesson for my students on sefira. I wanted to highlight some of the "mem ches devarim," 48 ways to acquire Torah. I figured I'll choose the ones most relevant and appropriate for them. As I was readijng through the list (it's in perek shishi), one of them jumped out at me and hit me in the heart. 

One way to acquire Torah is through "kabalas hayesurin," accepting painful things Hashem puts us through. I tried to keep reading, to keep going through the list, but my brain and my heart kept going back to that one.

It hit me.

If we are to live a life of Torah, we will experience painful things. We will not understand many of them. But we need to accept them. We need to accept that this is the will of Hashem.

It doesn't take the pain away. But this thought did soothe an aching heart. My soul was able to find some peace and I was able to rid my head of the crazy thoughts that have been traveling through my brain faster than I could control them these past few days.

When my kids were super cute and delicious, I would worry that it's the good ones that are taken. Every mother who loses a young child talks about how their kid's smile would light up the room. Or how their kid had an exceptional love of life. Or what a fun personality their kid had. Or how caring they were. So when my kids displayed their natural caring heart, my insides would scream...STOP! Don't be so good. So cute. So caring. So yummy. So full of positive energy and love of life. I don't want Hashem to take you Chas veshalom!
I couldn't deal with regular, positive, healthy interactions without thinking that this may be the last time...the last time I tuck my kids into bed, the last time I say "I love you..."

I thought...if this is what happens to someone who went through one loss, who is next? There seemed to be no guarantee that my family would be safe. That those close to me would be blessed to stay alive. 
I was scared. Scared of what the future would bring. Scared for my kids. Scared for everyone close to me that I love and care about. 

But then it hit me. 

Hashem decided to take this special engaged couple because...we don't know why. And we don't have to know why. But we have to accept it. We have to accept this pain so it doesn't rip us apart and hold us back from functioning. 

And this is how we will be able to be mekabel the Torah on shavuos. By realizing that we can't understand some of the difficult challenges Hashem sends to us. We can only accept it as reality and move forward with our spiritual growth. 

We can't let challenges paralyze us and stop us from living life. We have to look at the challenges as an opportunity for us to fix ourselves, to take one small thing upon ourselves so we can become more spiritual. We can become more loving and more expressive of that love towards those closest to us. We should inject joy and happiness into our lives and the lives of those around us. 

This is the way I found comfort and inner peace.

I hope you can, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dear Father of Mine

The following poem was written by a friend, B.K., and I'm posting it with her permission.

Dear father of mine
To you I cry and sigh
Tear after tear
Hoping you do hear
I scream and yell to you
Maybe something it will do
I stand here with great pain
Pain so intense, could go insane

Dear father of mine
I cry and sigh
It’s hard to understand
You left us Behind in the sand
It’s hard to go on
Feel like a part of me is gone
How many more will you take
How can this be for the good of their sake

Dear father of mine
I cry and sigh
Engaged to be wed
And now their dead
So fresh so young 
And for them a grave was dug
I can ask why a million times
And come up with neither answer nor find

Dear father of mine
I cry and sigh
Is this truly life
Full of crime and strife
Days filled with anger and sadness
People shooting with madness
Death signs all over 
People with faces so sober 

Dear father of mine
I cry and sigh
For all those who have died
For parents walking around red eyed
For teens so lost
Sick kids full of exhaust
So many battles fought each day
Yet so pure they never complain 

Dear father of mine
The sun does still shine
I know one day I will look back
See things in white not black
One day I’ll understand why
You made us cry
Why we went through so much hurt
Trying to find you amongst the dirt

Dear father of mine
All these suffering are the sign
The time for redemption has arrived
The Jewish nation please do revive
Glorify your name 
Your place in this world acclaim
Being moshiach now
The goyim to you will all bow

Dear father of mine....

I will continue to cry and sigh..

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Free

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

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!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

One Soul

Too much pain
Hurts my brain
Can wrap my head around it
Hurts my heart
I can't start
To imagine it
For those closest to it
A young couple
Engaged to be wed
And instead
Boom
They're dead
How??
How does Hashem allow
Such pain
To remain
To exist 
In this world
Our imperfect world
Our confusing world
Our painful world
In His world
In His book
This all looks
Perfect
How??
How can we understand 
We can't
Make sense
Of something
That doesn't make
Any sense.
A young bride
Smile so wide
Stands beside
Her new partner
Her partner in life
And now in death
They met their end
Right at the beginning 
Of their new life
No chance to be
Husband and wife
No chance to prove
All the wonderful things
They started to know
About each other.
Shidduchim
So complex
So deep
So full
Research
Say yes
Go out
Another yes
And now?
A slap
A no
No
You will not go
The way of most
Brides and grooms
You're escorted to
A different room
To a place where
Neshamos go
Because Hashem knows
That your neshamos glow
Brighter than
The smiles you wore
While you were so sure
Of your wonderful life
Ahead of you
Hashem took you
Away
From your families
Together
Your neshamos were bound
In this world
Two halves
Of one whole
Ready to become
One soul
Now you're one
One with Hashem 
One with each other
One with
Your other brother
The one who
Just two
Years ago
Also
Left this world.
Do all these neshamos 
Hang out together?
Do all of them
Watch us
Cry and remember?
Do all of them have 
The clarity we seek
Oh how I wish
I could have a little peek
A touch of understanding
A hint of clarity
A piece of that light
To illuminate this night
(And a chunk of time
With someone up there
That could stretch til eternity
So we could just share...)
But I am stuck here
Alone and confused
With nothing to gain
And so much to lose
If I just wallow and cry
And continue to ask why
I need to do more than just sigh 
I need to use that why
To propel me to go
To move
And to grow
To higher places
To better places
I wish I could know
Where I am meant to go
In which direction to grow
Where to direct all this pain
So something will be gained
To know what to change
Yet I am left in the dark
I can only do my small part
In trying to fix
Myself
To take this pain
So it won't be in vain
But 
We are stuck
In galus
Without clarity
Or prophets
To help us
To tell us
To explain to us
The true meaning 
Behind each happening
So I will pray
For the day
When we will have
All that
And more
Clarity
Closeness
Connection 
With the One Above
And the ones we love
Hashem...?
Can you strengthen me?
Can you strengthen all of us?
Until that day?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hamantashen and Triangles

I know Purim has passed and our minds are busy with Pesach and the preparations that go along with it. Yet I still want to share one inspiring message while the taste of the sweetness of Purim still lingers.

On Purim, we eat hamantashen.

Why?

Look at the shape of this cookie. It is shaped like a triangle-the same shape as one of the nekudos, a סגל. We see this root word in one of the names given to the Jewish People. We are called the עם סגולה. 

What is the significance to all this?

If you look at the סגל, you will notice that any way you turn it, it will keep its shape. The same is true of the hamantash and triangle. It doesn’t change its shape when you twist it, twirl it or flip it.

The same is true of every Jewish person. No matter what a person does, no matter which way they turn, they will always remain a part of the עם סגולה. There is nothing a person can do-no sin, no act, no thought and no belief that can change the fact that they are a part of the Chosen Nation, the עם סגולה. 

So no matter which way life takes you, remember this. Remember this on all the twists and turns of life. Remember this forever.

You will always be a part of our Chosen Nation.

That is the secret behind the hamantash.

And that is what bothered Haman so much about us to the point that he wanted to kill us. We are an עם מפוזר ומפורד בין העמים. We are scattered, far-flung and widespread and yet at the same time, ודתיהם שונות-we have different customs. We don’t do what the goyim do. We are different.

How?

Because we are an עם סגולה. And by always remembering that we are part of the Chosen Nation, we can keep our identity strong no matter which direction life takes us.

May we always be able to keep our identity strong and remain proud of who we are.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Purim Poem-A Mashal

Here is the Purim Poem I wrote to go along with my mishloach manos this year.


It's finally here-this exciting day,
Purim with all its simcha has come our way
How can we make the most of this time?
It can be explained with a mashal in this little rhyme.

There once was a man who saved the king,
And as a reward he was allowed to take anything,
By spending a day in the king's house full of treasures,
The riches he'd amass would sustain him forever.
But to distract him from filling his sacks with gold,
The king found out what the man loved most and was promptly told,
Music was his passion, so it was played throughout the day,
And it worked, the man spent his time listening to the musicians play,
Instead of collecting diamonds, rubies and precious stones,
And he left the king's palace with nary a piece of value to call his own.

The nimshal is clear: whenever we can achieve something great,
The satan works hard to distract us, he doesn't wait.
So on purim he keeps us focused on costumes and themes,
To make sure we forget the miraculous story and the lesson that it brings:
That in the zechus of the tefillos and the teshuva that we did,
Hashem spared us from destruction, each and every yid,
And the Jews of Shushan merited an incredible salvation,
And Purim became a day of joy and celebration.

Let's not fall for the Satan's trap and focus instead on what we can attain,
"כל הפושט יד נותנים לו," we have so much we can gain!
Just like we give tzeddakah without checking if the "pauper" is real or a fake,
Hashem doesn't check if we deserve good, it's in our hands to take,
Advantage of the opportunity to ask without holding back,
We are in the King's ultimate treasure house for a day-let's fill up our sack!
Because on Purim we have the power to achieve our own salvation,
For ourselves, our families and the entire Jewish Nation.

May we be able to utilitze this day that is saturated with power,
With tefillos from our hearts so brachos onto us Hashem will shower!
And let's remember to daven and bag for this galus to end,
When Moshiach ben David, Hashem will finally send!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Power You Have

The following was written by Sarala. Enjoy this great read!

I am very passionate about this idea - Smiling. I hope it gives Chizuk and most of all inspires you.

Thank you for reading.

Smiling
Getting dressed takes a considerate amount of effort and can be time consuming. We want to look our best and take some time to be sure that our shirt matches our flowy skirt which we just bought on sale; that our tights aren’t pimply and that we don’t make a run (because its brand new and we want our money’s worth) oh … whoops… ya, a run! We also want to be sure that our earrings match our outfit. Then goes the makeup. We look into the mirror making sure the base is rubbed in. Alas! We look into the mirror one last time, admire our beauty and gleam with pride! We smile inwards and applaud ourselves mentally.

With this being said, I want to tell you a little secret (just make sure to forward it!): There’s something else we all wear which isn’t a tangible article of clothing. Nevertheless, it’s another thing we wear (or hope to wear more) which can really change our day. That is … you guessed it! A smile!! All it takes to smile is to place both your right and left index fingers on both corners of your mouth and gently move them upwards. Well, that takes minimal effort (if you followed my directions) which is the long way. This is really works. It gives us a little boost when you’re not in the best of spirits and improves our mood.

What’s Behind a Smile?
So, you ask, why does smiling have so much “power?” What is it about smiling that deserves much elaboration? From a scientific point of view, smiling has the ability to create “good feelings” in us. On the surface level, smiling sends a message to our brain (via the muscles that contract) to produce those “good feelings.” These good feelings, generate positive emotions in us.

What a Simple Smile Can Do:
Imagine this:
You wake up at 7 am feeling tired and groggy. You make your way to the bathroom and stub your toe. After you recover, you throw on your clothes and schlep your tights up only to rip them. Its 7:30 and you feel your patience ebbing away. As if that drama wasn’t enough, you accidentally tilt your yogurt cup and add a decoration to your shirt (not the kind of decoration you’d buy). Not only are you tired, and groggy, but you’re moody and almost start yelling at your yogurt. You change and finally arrive at work. Your coworker greets you with a hearty “good morning.” You (the once tired and groggy person), greet her back with one of your nice warm smiles. Right then and there, you feel a certain calmness washing over you. Your feelings of fatigue literally vanished.

The “Magic” in a Smile:
What happened here? Was this some kind of magic potion? Yes, this was a kind of “magic.” Your co-worker’s (magic) smile generated positive feelings which replaced your fatigue and moodiness. Not only are you no longer tired; you’re happy, smiley and full of positive energy! Not only does a smile have the power to help us feel good. It also enhances our beauty. What’s sweeter than being greeted with a hearty, warm and inviting smile? It’s incredible!

This is the Power of a Smile!
We tend to underestimate the power of smiling and rationalize its importance/power by thinking, ‘what’s the big deal?’ What’s my smile really going to do? Can I really make a difference? All these rationalizations stem from the Yetzer Hara in an effort to make us feel inadequate and small. Nonetheless, the Torah gives us have first-hand evidence and explains its importance.

[1] Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai was exceptionally nice in one area. He was the first to greet others and say “hello.” Why was this so special? The Gemara is teaching us the importance of acknowledging another person. When we make a point to notice someone and acknowledge their presence, it shows them that they’re important in our eyes. We are giving them the message that “you matter!”

[2] The Meforshim explain that the Neshama is called Kavod. Why? Because our Neshama gives others value and respect; it gives life. When we greet someone, we’re tapping into their Neshama, showing them they are worthy of respect and this makes them feel valuable, which is why their face lights up.

A Personal Example
As I was leaving work one afternoon, my boss gave me a compliment with an added bonus: A Warm Smile. It wasn’t one of my best days and I was quite tired. However, I felt so much better: I felt energized, valued and calm. That’s the power of a smile!

To end off, here are two quotes conveying the importance of a smile and their sources:

“We can never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

“Nothing you wear is more important than your smile.”

------------------------------ ----

Footnotes:
[1] Brachos 7a
[2] Metzudas Tzion and Tehillim 57;9
(This is taken from one of the emails that I get from an amazing program called Middos Challenges. For more information, please click on the following link: torahdesigns.com/middos- challenges)

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Most Meaningful Birthday

Today was my hebrew birthday. 

It's a different birthday than other years. 

I think back to the time when I used to be able to feel something different on this special day. It used to feel meaningful. I'd wake up in the morning and I'd feel like I can imbue meaning and spirituality into my day.

I would daven the full davening, slowly and with concentration.

Today, I only davened the brachos. I'm lucky to be at this stage. A mommy, and a busy one too. My daughter was home; her school has mid winter break. She needed me and my attention, I had to put my siddur away.

I thought back to the birthday I celebrated while I was in seminary in Eretz Yisroel. It was so meaningful. So spiritual. Such an uplifting day. I heard from other girls that it's a nice thing to say the whole tehillim on your birthday. So when I saw my birthday fell out on shabbos that year, I thought I might be able to do it. And I pushed myself to do it. 

I spent the shabbos of my hebrew birthday in Yerushalayim that week, not too far from the kosel, and I went to the kosel on shabbos and was able to complete the entire sefer tehillim in one day. At the holiest place in the holiest city.

It was a spiritually uplifting experience. That moment when I closed my tehillim and stepped away from those holy stones, feeling like I just accomplished something big...It was special. 

And now? I can't daven like I used to. I can't even daven shemona esrei! My kids need to be watched at all times and if I so much as try to pull out a siddur to entertain the thought of a meaningful prayer, they make sure to put me in my place. Either it's a fight or a needy kvetch, but it's always something.

I remember the time we were staying at my Grandmother's new apartment and I decided to take out a siddur and daven an amidah prayer. All was quiet so I thought, why not? I was up to magen avraham when I felt a hard bang on my head. My son had found a metal pole that was in the door to the backyard (usually put there to keep the kids from opening the door, but you can't put anything past my kids!) And he hit me with it. I don't know if he realized what he was doing, but I got the message. Loud and clear. This was not the time to try to daven. I never had to be "hit over the head" again to understand my role. I need to take care of my kids and be there for them, not with a siddur but always with a prayer on my lips, in my own language.

It took time for me to acknowledge and accept that this is my tafkid right now. Davening with a siddur is not for now. Now my job is to look after my children, Hashem's children, and to make sure they are safe, happy and healthy. 

I can still daven. And I do. I just can't take out a siddur and rely on the ancient verses established by the anshei kneses hagedolah.

I can talk to Hashem from my heart. And I do. Throughout my day, I can ask Him for the things I need and thank Him for the things He gives me.

I know that as a Jewish woman, my job is to uplift the physical to a spiritual level. That's my role. I taught that to my students and I continue to teach it to myself. To remind myself.

When my sister told me that she met someone who davens for each of her children as she folds their laundry, I thought, "I love that! That is such a powerful yet simple way to elevate a mundane job into something more meaningful."
And I try to remember to do it too.

(And I forget half the time :) Cuz I'm a mommy and my brain is on overload.)

So this year, although it may not be as spiritually elevating for me, I can accept that this is exactly where Hashem put me and this is my role. No, not to daven and say tehillim all day. I can start each day with a small prayer, and then I move on to the regular tasks of a mother. And I can give my kids a good time, help them learn how to interact with others in a peaceful way, making a kiddush Hashem wherever we go. I can imbue them with a love for Hashem, the Torah and His mitzvos. 

And I can give my readers a bracha :). It may not be as long as my old ones, because bh I'm too busy for that, but it's still my wishes for you. 

May you be able to find fulfilment in whatever you do and may you be able to uplift every physical activity to something more meaningful. May you feel at peace with your role but never fully at peace with yourself, always climbing higher and setting new goals for your life. May you be able to strengthen your emunah in Hashem and believe that every single thing He does is for the good.

And most importantly, may you have health and strength to be able to live your life to the fullest.