Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hungry-a Poem

Recently, while looking through some old things I wrote, I found this poem. I hope you like this message as much as I do.

Hungry
Thirsty
Take a drink
Can of soda
Snap and pop
Open up
And pour it out
Take a sip
Let the taste
The fizz
Tickle my tongue
It fills me up
Easily
Makes me feel full
But
My thirst
Has not been quenched
I want more
But there is no more
Left.
The full feeling
Sits in my tummy
But slowly subsides
And I realize
I'm still hungry
Thirsty
Need something more
Something else.
In life
We feel hungry
Thirsty
Yearning
For something
To fill our souls
Our hearts
Our lives
Our days and nights
With fulfillment
Accomplishment
With meaning
But the fizz
The excitement
The bubbly feel
The colorful choices
Of drinks
Entice us
And we take a sip
Finish the can
Indulge
In physicality
In pleasures
In fleeting pleasures
That don't last
Out to eat
Out to shop
To the mall
To the shops
To the restaurants
To ice cream
We're never satiated
We want more
Vacations
Luxuries
We chase them all
But we don't feel full
Something's missing
That inner yearning
That inner thirst
Cannot be quenched
By physicality
By materialistic pleasures alone
There's more

There's more to life.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Letter From God

My precious child,

I want to wish you a shana tova, a sweet new year, and share with you a few things that I think you need you to know.


When I look at you I see something very different than what you see when you look in the mirror. You see yourself as you are now. But when I look at you I see who you can become. My primary goal is to help you grow from where you are now to where I know you can be.


Sometimes you are already challenging yourself and pushing yourself to become that person that I created you to become. So I just watch, with great nachas, and gently guide you in that direction. I orchestrate the events and experiences of your day-to-day life to ensure the maximum possibility of your achievement of that goal.


Other times, I have to present you with challenges and hurdles in order to convert your potential greatness into actualized excellence. I know that those moments are sometime painful, but if I don’t challenge you then you will never actualize your potential. Please remember that I am closer to you during those moments than I am at any other time.


I want to tell you about one of my most important employees. He is the V.P. of Human Development. His name is Yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and he works for me 365 days a year, 24/7. The Yetzer hara gets a bad rap, but he is really your best friend. If it weren’t for him, you would remain a nobody forever. I have empowered him to provide you with constant assaults and to approach you with a never ending barrage of creative tactics, but they only come to challenge you to grow and improve yourself. The Yetzer hara and I have only one goal for each encounter you have with him: we both want you to overpower him and show him what you are made of. Of course, once you do that I send him back with a more difficult obstacle to overcome, because that’s how you really become great.sh


Here’s some good advice: Speak to me. Often. And don’t think I only understand Hebrew. I understand every language there is. So speak to me in your own language. And you don’t have to wait to be in a synagogue; speak to me any time of day, no matter what you’re doing – when you’re driving your car, when you’re taking a walk. Speak to me before you go to sleep. And most of all, speak to me on Shabbos. I am always available and I really am a good listener. In fact, I understand you better than anyone else (even yourself) because you are mine and I made you. So don’t be shy, don’t feel awkward; just pour your heart out to me and I promise I will respond.


And take advantage of Shabbat; it’s My special gift for you. Turn off your phone, computer, iPad and all those other gadgets and use the quiet time to celebrate your most important relationships: your relationship with Me, your relationship with yourself and your relationships with those special people that you are closest to. Even if you can’t carve out the whole 25 hours for this purpose, at least use some of the day to connect to me.


I will let you in on a secret: I am talking to you all the time but I speak in a faint whisper. You have so many competing sounds, a cacophony of noises going on around you that drown me out. Find some quiet time and Shabbos and listen. You will be amazed what you hear.


Don’t try to go through the journey of life on your own. I want you to find a mentor who can guide you and teach you and show you how to find Me and connect to Me. When you find that person, cling to him or her and don’t let go. Make them teach you and guide you and take their advice to heart.


In addition, find someone to take this journey with. It is a lot easier to make this trek if you have someone with whom to share the journey. You can both make sure you are staying on target and heading toward your goals.


If you can, make the effort to come to the place on earth where My presence can most be felt. Spend some time in My city Jerusalem and imbibe the wisdom that oozes from the ancient walls there.


Rosh Hashanah is coming up. It’s the birthday of mankind when I revise the plan of human history and write the next act for the year to come. Think about what major role you want to take. I am willing to let you play any role that you are committed to play. So think big and create a passionate vision of who you want to be this coming year. And on Rosh Hashanah, instead of counting the number of pages left in the machzor, talk to Me and tell Me what role you want to play.


The Book of Life will be open on that day and I am putting the pen in your hands. Choose life.


Love,

Your Father in Heaven who believes in you and loves you unconditionally.

I don't know who wrote this, but if anyone does know, please tell me so I can give them the proper credit!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tzom Gedalia

Here's a short thought and a practical lesson we can take from today's fast day.

We fasted because the tzaddik Gedalia was killed on this day. He was warned beforehand that someone was planning to kill him but he didn't believe the Lashon Hara nor did he investigate to see if there was any truth to it. 

We learn from here that there are times to ask questions, to see if something negative we heard is true-in order to protect ourselves. We can't have an "absolutely no Lashon Hara"  policy. 

Extremes are not good; everything must be done in moderation. 

Maybe this day comes right after Rosh Hashana, when we start to accept new changes upon ourselves so we can be aware: STOP! Don't take too much upon yourself. Do good, make changes, but don't go to crazy extremes or you may end up hurt in the end!

Have a meaningful next few days of slow, gradual changes!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Elul-A Message

Someone sent this to me and I wanted to pass on this beautiful message.

There is a fellow who owns a jewelry store in Israel. One day a nine year old girl walked into the store and said, “I am here to buy a bracelet.” She looked through the glass cases and pointed to a bracelet that was $3,000. The man behind the counter asked her, “You want to buy that bracelet?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Wow, you have very good taste. Who do you want to buy it for?”

“For my older sister.”

“Oh that is so nice!” the storekeeper replied. “Why do you want to buy your older sister this bracelet?”

“Because I don’t have a mother or father,” the little girl said, “and my older sister takes care of us. So we want to buy her a present, and I’m willing to pay for it.” She pulled out of her pocket a whole bunch of coins that totaled just under eight shekels, a little less than two dollars.

The fellow says, “Wow! That’s exactly what the bracelet costs!” While wrapping up the bracelet he said to the girl, “You write a card to your sister while I wrap the bracelet.” He finished wrapping the bracelet, wiped away his tears, and handed the little girl the bracelet.

A few hours later the older sister entered the store. “I’m terribly embarrassed,” she said. “My sister should not have come here. She shouldn’t have taken it without paying.”

“What are you talking about?” the storekeeper asked.

“What do you mean? This bracelet costs thousands of dollars. My little sister doesn’t have thousands of dollars – she doesn’t even have ten dollars! Obviously she didn’t pay for it.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” the storekeeper replied. “She paid me in full. She paid seven shekel, eighty agurot, and a broken heart. I want to tell you something. I am a widower. I lost my wife a number of years ago. People come into my store every single day. They come in and buy expensive pieces of jewelry, and all these people can afford it. When your sister walked in, for the first time in so very long since my wife had died, I once again felt what love means.”

He gave her the bracelet and wished her well.

During the High Holy Days, we come to the Almighty and we want to buy something very expensive. We want to buy life. But we cannot afford it. We don’t have enough money to pay for it. We don’t have the merits. So we come to the Almighty and we empty out our pockets, giving him whatever merits we have plus promises for the future. I’ll pick up the phone and call someone who is lonely, I will learn an extra five minutes of Torah, I will be kind and I will be scrupulous about not speaking lashon hara (gossip) for one hour a day.

The Almighty says, “You don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve felt what love means.” He sees how much we love Him and how much we yearn to improve, and He says, “You know what? You have touched my heart. Here it is, paid in full.”

(The story was told over by Rabbi Go’el Elkarif who said he heard it from the person to whom it happened.)

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.