Sunday, November 29, 2009

We all want to come home to our Our Father In Heaven

I'm a long way from Home
I'm so far from the Palace
And I want to return
but I can't find my way
I've been searching so long
I don't know if I can go on...anymore
And if I do return will I find that open door

Father, I long to come back to You
I wish I could ease Your pain
I know I don't look like a princess now
But inside I'm still the same

Oh, Father please bring me back Home
All these years as a peasant have taken their toll
I know I don't look like the daughter You lost
but she's here inside my soul

To be the daughter of the King
to be descended from Nobility
I dream of just how it would be to be-
the daughter of Royalty

To act with grace and royal pride
to have true dignity inside
I've always thought that it must be that I am

a daughter of Royalty

I'm a long way from home
I'm so far from the palace
And I want to return
but I can't find my way
I've been searching so long
I don't know if I can go on...anymore

And if I do return will I find that open door
I'm a long way from Home...
I'm so far from my Home...
Father please bring me Home...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feedback from YOU!

What topics do you want to hear more about on this blog?

I put a poll on the right so you can all vote - keep in mind that you can select as many choices as you'd like. We want to hear from all of you so we know what you want to read more about. This blog is about inspiring others with all sorts of inspirational information and the only way for us to do that right is with feedback from you!

So please go ahead and vote - and if there are any topics that are not listed on the right, please comment here and we will try to do our best to keep you inspired!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Friday Night Story - Part 3

Here's the end of my story...but maybe it's just the beginning of her story!!

We got to the house, looked at the name on the bell just to make sure it was the right house and knocked on the door. So the craziest thing is, that the name that we had was this person’s maiden name! Mind you, she is married for over 15 years but for some reason, she is known by both last names. The hostess opened the door, let out a yell, hugged her guest (twice!) and jumped up and down saying, “I can’t believe you are here!!” Then she gave us a little background about her guest. Basically, they meet at their Weight Watchers group every week, but this girl had never had a Shabbos meal before, her parents are against her learning about Judaism, but she was invited as a “no commitment” just to come for a Friday night dinner and enjoy. No books, speeches, lectures…just come and see what a Friday night meal is all about and enjoy it. This girl is thirty-two years old and never had a shabbos meal in her life!! Think about that!! She spent thirty-two years in this world and never spent shabbos surrounded by family with the warmth and love that we all enjoy and take for granted!!

The hostess then said that they already started their meal but, “Don’t worry, my son will do it all over again for you! He will make Kiddush, hamotzi…and I lit the shabbos candle for you already so whenever you are ready, you can accept the shabbos and let it enter your heart!”

The girl was HIGH! Seriously, she was in the clouds that Hashem helped her all along to find her place. The whole thing was amazing!! Every minute of her night was calculated! She got lost, my mother and sister left my house at exactly that minute so they can meet up with her, they came to my house and I knew the hostess because of the one time she had given me a ride, my neighbor was able to give us exact directions to their house and this girl felt Hashem with her every step of the way!

Now here’s a continuation of this story. I was running into a grocery store on my way home from work to pick up something really quickly for supper the next night and who do I see?! The hostess!! (Do you see how Hashem plans every minute of your day?! I was going to run in and out and as I was going into the store, I saw her walking right in front of me!) She told me that this shabbos was unbelievable for her guest. She was so inspired, so uplifted, she loved EVERYTHING about shabbos! She was only supposed to stay for the Friday night meal but loved it so much, she asked to stay overnight. They set up a bedroom in the basement for her, she went to shul on shabbos morning, went to a shiur on shabbos afternoon, did not pick up her cell phone the entire shabbos, and just loved everything about shabbos! She said it felt so right, so good, she wanted to know everything and keep it all! Of course, the hostess told her that she should take it slow and not take everything upon herself at once but this girl’s life is changing, that’s for sure!! She was on a total high from her shabbos experience!! It looks like she will be spending many more shabbos meals with religious families…and who knows how far she can come, in another few years…

My Friday Night Story - Part 2

Here's Part 2 of the amazing story that happened to me...

After a few minutes of talking and the get-to-know-you introductions, I casually asked, “Oh, so what’s the name of the family you were supposed to eat by?”
When she told me the (mother’s) name, I said, “I know who she is!!”
She jumped off the couch (for real!) with excitement and started to flip out!! She wanted to know how I knew her and was already holding on to her bags and was going to run over to the house. But although I know the lady, I didn’t know exactly where she lives, I just knew she lived within a few blocks from my house but had no clue exactly where.

Happens to be (nothing really “happens to be") that I know her because she had given me a ride once when she stopped by my office and was not able to drive me all the way home because she had to stop by her house to take care of something and then was going to run somewhere else…

So while she sat on the couch, I looked up the name in all the phone books I have and couldn’t find it. I went with Elisheva to two neighbors to ask them if they knew where this family lives. Neither of them answered the door. I went back upstairs and a few minutes later, my husband came home from shul. I quickly explained the whole story to him and we decided I’d go with my mother and sister and try to find the house. Hashem would help us!!
I knocked on the first neighbors door, looked through a phone book that I don’t have in my house and couldn’t find her name. I went to another neighbors (they were already up to the soup and I felt so bad to interrupt!) and they knew who she was and where she lived!! They told me the street name, described what the house looked like, (pass the garage, the first house on that street, with a gate around it…)

Yipee!! Finally! We were making progress!!!

So together we walked listening to this girl tell us more about herself. She totally felt Hashem with her! it was not normal because this girl is not frum, doesn’t know about shabbos and mitzvos and here she is, telling us how she feels Hashem is with her…and she told us that her earliest memory was when she was 3 years old, they made a mi shebairach for her in shul because she was sick with pneumonia and ever since then, she never got sick!! She was always healthy and she felt that it was because of the mi shebairach they made for her in shul!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Friday Night Story - Part 1

I'm breaking this post up into a few parts because after I put it up here, I realized that it's too long to read at once...

These stories don’t happen to me! I’m telling you! I know I’m Chaya Sara’s sister, but this story is the type to happen to her not to me!!
Anyway, you just see how Hashem is in charge of every little detail of what happens and every minute of your day…

Last week (not this past week, but the week before), I was having a very busy erev Shabbos and my younger sister, Elisheva, called me when I was super busy to ask me if she can come visit me on Friday night. She was planning to come right before candle-lighting when it’s not-yet-dark outside and then she would need to be taken home because in order to walk from my house to my mother, you need to pass through a not-so-safe neighborhood. I was waaaay too tired so I told her that it wouldn’t really work for me since I had a very exhausting week so maybe she’d come another week.
Well, a few minutes after I lit candles, I heard someone coming up the stairs. I went to answer the door and who was standing there? My sister, Elisheva! She was puffing and panting and said, “You don’t understand what happened!!” And then she started to tell me:

I was walking with mommy to come visit you (she must’ve really wanted to come visit me, because she came up with her own plan, walk with mommy and so she’d have someone to walk home with!) and as we were walking, we saw a girl (who was obviously not religious) carrying a bag. She asked us, “Is it shabbos yet?” (sounds like that book…Is it Shabbos Yet?!) and mommy said, “Yes, but let me help you. You look lost!”
So this girl said that she was supposed to be eating by someone but I lost their address. So my mother, being the tzadekes that she is, stayed with this girl to try to help her find her place. Together, they knocked on the door of someone on that block to try to get the address of the family this girl was supposed to eat by. In the meantime, Elisheva came to my house and told me a little bit about the girl they had met. She was reform, never kept shabbos before and her train got delayed and here she was, roaming the streets, trying to find someone to help her. Once she met my mother, the two of them started on their search.

Elisheva was very worried about my mother. They had gone a few blocks away from my house, where the not-so-safe neighborhood gets even worse to try to find this family. Elisheva kept peeking out of the window, opening my door and trying to listen out for my mother, hoping she was okay. I kept calming her down. Finally, after what felt like a long wait, there was a knock on my door…this time it was my mother and the girl she had met.

Now, before I continue my story, I want to just describe to you what this girl looked like, just so you can get a better picture of where she is coming from. She was wearing bright red lipstick, a bright orange long-sleeved t-shirt (and when I say bright, I mean bright, like the type that you need to squint when you look at her, it was so bright!), a flairy mid-length denim skirt (She said it’s the longest skirt she has!), lots of (gold) necklaces of different lengths, a bunch of bracelets, multi-colored sneakers that lace up to the middle of her leg, and carrying a backpack. I don’t know if this describes her well, but this can definitely give you a start.

I welcomed them in, had them sit down on the couch and listened. They ended up knocking on the door of a family with the same last name - but not the family they were looking for. They had walked in the freezing cold and now they were stuck. They guessed that this person was not listed in the phone book and came to me. The girl made herself comfortable and started telling us a little bit about herself and about how sorry she felt that she wouldn’t be able to join that family for the meal. In my head, I was already planning the rest of her shabbos for her. She’d eat the meal at my house and I’d ask my neighbor if she could sleep in their guest room. I hadn’t prepared extra food and since we are only a family of two who eat (my baby’s food is of a different sort!), and I was not sure what we’d do. I figured we’d do the best we can, I definitely have enough challah and dips and salad but when I prepare for two, I already know how much we eat. Well, Hashem runs the world and we just got to see it so clearly!!! We can try to plan but the One Above has everything all planned out for us!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lessons on Rav Aharon Kotler's Yartzeit

Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl (R’Aharon Ben R' Shneuer Zalmen), who built up Lakewood and changed the outlook of the world on Torah life and Torah learning. Here are two points from his teachings. May they be a zechus for his beloved neshama and a zechus for us.

* The Ramban writes (in Sha’ar HaGemul) that there are three Judgments that a person must succeed in. The yearly judgment (on Rosh Hashana), the judgment faced upon departure from Olam Hazeh, and a third judgment prior to Techiyas Hameisim. What is the difference between the second and third judgments - after all, the person was not alive any more to perform mitzvos or commit aveiros! HaRav Aharon explains that this judgment is most complete, because it also takes into account all of the ramifications of a person’s actions since they passed away. What did you accomplish, what mark did you leave - did you lead others in the Derech Hashem of Torah and Mitzvos - by your sincere action and your exemplary conduct? If so, all of the actions that succeed you in all future generations of those who learned from you, whether it be children, other relatives, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances or friends (even of the impressed person sitting next to you on the bus or plane)-all of this accrues to your merit. What we do in our lives is so important, not only for this moment or this year, but for a lifetime, and the generations that succeed them, until the end of days. Appreciate the true significance, the incredible and everlasting effects, of your actions, so that their ramifications benefit you - and the world - literally, to the end of days.

What a lesson!! The work is not over when a person leaves this world...they can affect generations because of the mark they left! Look at our brother Shalom a"h and see how much good came to the world and how many zechusim he is accumulating! So many people have changed and became better after he was niftar!! Our life is not over when we die, we have to remember that while we are alive, we can set an example for others, cause others to change and then the zechusim from their mitzvos become ours forever!!

* Chazal bring that the reason Lot was saved from Sedom was because he remained silent and did not disclose anything to the Mitzri’im when they were told that Sara was Avrohom Avinu’s sister. While this silence by Lot is admirable, it would seem that he had much greater zechusim to save him than this one act of silence. Had he not just taken in guests at the risk of his own life, was he not willing to jeopardize the welfare of his own family members so as not to violate the trust placed in him by his guests...and had he not just baked Matzos in celebration of Pesach?! Why do we have to go back so long, to such a seemingly insignificant event as simply not disclosing Sara’s additional relationship with Avrohom to the wicked authorities? HaRav Aharon answers that we learn from here how much more important it is in the eyes of Hashem if your act or deed is an expression of your own thoughts and efforts - your self-developed “madreiga atzmis” - a level that you have reached or attained by yourself, rather than simply acting in a certain (even good) way because you are used to it, because your parents did it, or because you are fortunately in that kind of environment. This point, HaRav Aharon continues, is incredibly true, even if the habitual or customary item is truly much greater-and even if it involves actual mesirus nefesh-in its performance. Lot’s hachnosas orchim was par for the course, expected, and ordinary-in spite of the adversity and danger, because it was something that simply had to be done and get done. Developing your own area or areas of growth in Avodas Hashem is especially treasured by Hashem. Putting it in further perspective-in Lot’s case-and B’ezras Hashem in ours-it actually planted the seeds for Moshiach. Tread new ground, develop your own new path beyond that which you are used to and is expected of you-for this is your best measure of greatness!

We see many people who are "naturally" good in certain areas and other people who struggle to excel in the same area. Remember what is truly precious to Hashem - when you work on something and climb up the spiritual ladder it is MUCH greater than if it comes easy to you! So when you feel how hard it is and have a challenge, remember, your actions are worth so much more than someone for whom it is an easy thing to overcome!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim - Part 3 (Conclusion)

In Israel I became closely connected to many caring and incredible people. I felt that their encouragement was genuine and they really believed in me. My mentors guided me patiently and showered me with love. They gave me the ability to love life, the Torah and most importantly, Hashem.

One incident that inspired me was when I was at the Kosel, and I noticed how people were pouring their hearts out to Hashem at the wall. This wall seemed like any other, and I wondered what made it so different that the people kissed it and cried to it with all their emotion. Every type of person would place a written note into the wall. I was so puzzled about what I had observed.

As I was inching my way up to the Kosel, I felt a rush of emotions inside my neshama. Although words cannot describe the feeling, Hashem suddenly opened up my heart and I began to feel an overwhelming connection pulling me toward Him, encouraging me to speak to Him. I felt a very strong pull and I, too, wanted to cry out to the wall. I did not know what overcame me, but I ran over to the wall as if I was meeting a friend I had not seen in years. And then I started crying and shaking as I kissed the Kosel with all my heart.

I felt Hashem pulling me to come and talk to him. I knew in my heart that Hashem was real. From that moment I told myself that I was ready to be Hashem's child and be closely connected to him. I had found the most loving father who was always ready to hear from me; I just had to invite him in. I knew I had found my way home, but that it would be a long journey to reach my destination.

For the first time in my life, I wanted to daven and reach out to Hashem. I felt a change slowly coming over me, and my heart began to unclog. I allowed myself to reach out, and I saw Hashem responding. When my boarding mother contacted me and said that she was experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, my reaction was to run to the Kosel on her behalf. Hashem answered my Tefilos, and she had a great nes; although she gave birth prematurely, the baby did not have any crucial complications. Hashem really showed me how he is always ready to help me I just have to come and ask him.

Once, the Aim Bayis of my seminary, took our class on a trip to the Flower Caves. When we were deep inside one of the caves, we could not believe the intensity of the darkness, especially since we did not come equipped with flashlights. We were screaming in fright, and it seemed to take us hours to find our way out. On the bus ride home, my Aim Bayis sat down near me, and we discussed the terrifying darkness we had experienced. She told me that if a person used his eyes in the wrong way and looked at things that he shouldn't see, he might have to return to this world as a blind person, groping in the darkness, in order to correct his misdeed. This conversation had a profound effect on me, and I started to think about a person's responsibility for his actions. "I can't just act the way I want. I will eventually have to answer for my behavior."

Yet, I could not simply escape the lure of the Yetzer Hara, nor could I extinguish the overpowering enticement to escape into a dreamy world of amusement and bliss. I felt my heart being tugged in opposite directions, and my mind was in a constant quandary.

Before leaving Eretz Yisroel, I wanted to daven and ask Hashem to support and guide me in my quest for autonomy and acceptance. I hired a sheirut to drive me to Har Hamenuchos, where I poured out my heart at the kever of my great-aunt. Then I went to the kever of the Chidah which was nearby, and continued to plead for Hashem's assistance. My heart felt like it would burst, and a waterfall of tears flowed from my eyes. Despite my intense emotions, I felt relief; it was as if a gigantic boulder had been lifted from on top of me. I was now ready to return to the States, equipped with these Tefillos and the knowledge that Hashem would surely remain standing alongside me throughout my ordeal.

When I returned after my year in seminary, I was able to leave go of my anger, and replace it with a calmer composure. It was a slow process and a daily challenge to overcome the temptations that I continued to encounter at every junction. I had to reject the attempts by my boyfriends to rekindle our relationship. I realized that my old friends were not the understanding, caring people I had thought them to be. I needed to search for a new group of friends, but I did not know how to begin. I was still too fragile; I did not yet have the stamina to overcome all these complex issues.

My parents felt I needed to solidify my Emunah, and build upon the foundation that had been laid in Eretz Yisroel. I went out-of-town to attend a second year of seminary, where I grew in ruchnius and developed a yearning for Torah and kedusha. I came home for Yomim Tovim, felt I could connect comfortably with my family and developed new friendships. I felt that I had been blind before, and now I had a pair of glasses that enabled me to see. I used these glasses to gradually and painstakingly find my path in life.

When I reflect back to my teenage years, I wonder why I felt so confused and out of control. What triggered me to become so bewildered, and why did I become entangled in a world of obscurity? One explanation, I believe, is that Hashem prepared me so that today I am able to help teens at risk, since I understand their emotional pain and identify with them in their search to find contentment.

Based on my challenging experiences, I rebuilt my life, using the past as a strong foundation for my future. I have a clearer perception of the struggles others are battling, and I am able to encourage and inspire them in a positive and loving way. I channel my kochos toward reaching out to students in kiruv schools, and speaking at special events and Shabbatons. I act as a mentor to girls who are seeking to find themselves and strengthen their connection to Hashem.

That’s the end of my story. The parts that you got to read – well, that was originally written up to be published somewhere but it never happened. So instead, I decided to share it with all of you. There are other parts and details to my story that were not written here and I do hope at some point to share some of it with you. One thing I did see is that Hashem is with you every step of your life, even when you feel so lost and so alone!! And now, I am able to help teenagers who feel hopeless and confused because of what I went through!!!

I would love to hear what you thought of my story and how you this inspired you...

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim - Part 2

Thank you everyone for your comments and feedback!! I really appreciate each one! Here is a continuation of my story...

I hated everyone around me, because I thought that they, too, were looking to find fault with everything I did. My clothes were criticized, because I did not look like a Bais Yaakov girl. I felt rejected, unwanted and unloved. Yet, I built a protective wall around myself, not allowing anyone to communicate with me. I was unreachable, yet I wanted so badly for someone to reach out to me.

I was very unhappy, and extremely confused. Every morning I would ask myself, "Why am I alive? I'd be better off dead! Who needs a life filled with anger, hate and pain? I can't trust anyone, especially those spies who watch what I do and then report to my parents!"

I was known as the messed-up bum who was impossible to deal with. I hated myself because I caused myself so much pain, and I hurt my family so terribly. I turned away from my family, even when they were trying to understand me. I couldn't confide in the people I had once respected, and neither could I trust my parents. I would come home from school, escape into my room, and talk on the phone all night with my new group of friends.

I was angry at Hashem, and I stopped davening. I did whatever I wanted, and I thought that now I would be happy. Boy, was I wrong! I had chosen a place that looked like fun, but in reality it was the scariest place I could be. It was a place where the Yetzer Hara and the Satan resided, succeeding in imprisoning me in their entanglement. I felt more lost than ever, and very alone.

The school I attended was obviously not the right place for me. After being bounced around from school to school and feeling like I was a misfit among society, my parents finally tried high schools in other states. In eleventh grade, my parents met with the principal of an out-of-town school. The principal agreed to accept me out of pity for my parents, but I did not fit in with the girls at all. They were super-religious; I was running away from that. Again I felt like I didn't belong, even though the girls were exceptionally welcoming. They tried to make me feel included, but I had no interest in them at all. When they came to visit me, I had my boarding family tell them I had gone out. I refused to communicate with them.

At one point, my parents intercepted a letter I had sent to my best friend. Based on the contents of the letter, both parents banned us from contacting one another, whether via telephone or letter. However, of course I found ways to circumvent these restrictions. I lied whenever she called, and pretended her name was Malka. My boarding mother once listened into my telephone conversation, and heard me speaking to my best friend. She came upstairs and shouted at me, "You lied to me!" She had these piercing blue eyes that made me want to die from fright. She did not have to say one more word; I was mortified and embarrassed. My world was shattered! There was no one for me to confide in, and I felt that no one understood me. Even the therapist who I was talking to despaired of helping me, and said to my mother, "I can't work with your daughter. She is too angry. I never had such a difficult case. I can't seem to make any inroads with her, and it is pointless to continue."

I didn't want to hear anything about religion and Hash-m, because it seemed so absurd and illogical to me; I was repulsed by it. When my classmates would daven, I would whisper radio songs to myself. Instead of writing notes, I would write letters to my old friends. I refused to allow anything of Kedusha to penetrate the wall I had built around me.

I also spurned the attempts of my sister who was in Israel for a year of seminary, when she tried to reach out to me with sensitivity and concern. When she called and wanted to share a story of Hashgacha Pratis that had happened to her, I defiantly threw the phone away and refused to listen. She did not give up, but sent a huge Mishloach Monos canister from Eretz Yisroel, with a poster inside. The yellow flowers on the poster had two faces in the center, with a quote that read, "Sisters are nature's intended friends, and I'm glad you're mine." I was floored, and thought, "After all the nasty things I did, you still think I'm worth something?!" (This poster meant so much to me that I saved it, and still have it today among my sentimental possessions.)

A new year, my last year in high school, found me without anywhere to go. I felt I was an unwanted failure of a girl. My parents begged the principal of another out-of-town school, but to no avail. Finally, my parents asked a Gadol Hador, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, to intercede and speak on our behalf. Rav Shmuel was so caring, and he convinced the principal to admit me, even though the school year had already begun.

It was during this last year of high school that I started to feel hopeful. This school was more open-minded, and more tolerant. My boarding mother had grown up irreligious, and I was able to relate to her. She loved Hashem, and spoke to him openly. This taught me that there might be a way out of all my turmoil.

My sister had returned from Israel, and she took a special interest in trying to show me love and acceptance. She introduced me to one of her closest friends who tried to encourage me with stories of people who did teshuva and changed. After three hours of speaking to me, I turned to her and said, "Why are you talking to me, you're wasting your time? Everything you are saying is going in one ear and out the other. There's no point, I'm not changing."

She looked at me and replied, "Chaya Sara, one day you will be in my place, and you will be able to inspire and change others." I gaped and responded, "Are you nuts?! You don't make any sense. It will never happen to me!" I thought her comment was senseless and bizarre.

My sister and her friend kept in touch with me on a constant basis, and simply would not give up hope. They showered me with presents, sent cards, and had long conversations with me over the phone. Little did I realize that their intention was to purposely keep me busy all night, so that I could not contact my boyfriends. Their warmth and genuine, unconditional love began to permeate into my heart and made a slight impression. I never dreamed that they would succeed in convincing me to write a letter to my boyfriend and break up our relationship.

Just as I felt things were looking up for me in both my new home and my new school, it was time to apply for seminary. I was ready to move on, but again not one school accepted me. I was bad; I was a most unwanted reject. No amount of begging and cajoling could sway any director towards accepting me. There was no hope for me and no place for me to go. I felt worthless.

I secretly decided to try my sister's advice, and I opened my Siddur to daven to Hash-m with all my heart. That day, my mother scanned the newspaper and saw an ad for Project YES. We set up an appointment with Rabbi Mechanic, who promised me that he would not leave me stranded. He and Rabbi Goldwasser worked tirelessly to help me get into a seminary in Israel. And finally in November, I flew off to Israel with great excitement and anticipation.

To be continued...
Please let me know what you think of my story and how you can grow from it...

Friday, November 13, 2009

everyone has huge challenges to overcome... This is my personal Yitzias Mitzrayim

Ninth grade was the beginning of my whirlwind; so many confusing thoughts inundated my mind. I began to wonder about my purpose in life, why I should follow the path of Torah, and my belief in Hash-m was wavering. I was thinking and observing the world around me, and questioning my religious lifestyle.

Then it came, with a force so strong I could not refute it. A false accusation was hurled at me by my high school principal, and it hit me like an avalanche. "We know where you were yesterday. Don't try to deny it. We know what you were doing."

I was just a frightened teen, who wanted so much to be trusted and understood. But here I was in the principal's office, being charged with a crime I never committed.

"Yea, right, just shopping at the mall," the principal's voice reverberated in my ears. "That's all you were doing there."

"I really was. I was only shopping, I promise," I pleaded. "Why won't you believe me?"

"You were hanging out with boys, and at the movies. Go ahead, admit it," he snarled at me.

No matter what I said, my words were interpreted as proof that I was guilty. My tears were misconstrued as admission that I was a liar,and a girl who did not deserve to be in such an elite high school.

These words became my self-fulfilled prophecy. I became all those things, as I embarked on a downward spiral that led me into the depths of a nightmarish pit, from which I could not extract myself.

I felt that if everyone looked down at me and I was not trusted, then why not do whatever I wanted. I tried to convince myself that it was so much more exciting to misbehave and be a part of the other crowd. Together we partied until the wee hours of the morning. We spoke using inappropriate language, and dressed as we pleased. I was accepted by this group without any questions, and turned to them for succor.

On the first night of Chanukah, while my family was sitting around the table playing dreidel, I decided to take my own "spin." I announced that I was going off to the JCC to exercise. After I left, my mother sent my sister to spy on my whereabouts. She came back home and reported that I had turned up the block in the opposite direction, and had definitely not gone to the JCC.

I paid no heed to the agony I was causing my family, nor did I care that I had disrupted the Chanukah atmosphere. Instead of going to the JCC, I went out to the movies with some guys, where I could enjoy a night of fantasy and pleasure. On the way home, I asked them to drop me off at the JCC, since I felt the need to placate that inner voice in my heart which made me feel guilty for lying and cheating. I called my parents from the JCC's pay phone to tell them that I was coming home. They insinuated that something was amiss with my claim of having been at the JCC all night.

When I came home, I was attacked with a barrage of questions about where I had been. My parents had not only sent my sister to spy on me and see where I was going, they had also called the JCC to ascertain if I had been there. I knew I had gotten myself into a huge mess, but still refused to acknowledge the truth. I kept denying their accusations, and claimed that I had gone to pick up a friend of mine and that we went there together.

I used many different tactics to cover up and escape to my other world. I would pretend that I had a "babysitting job," while in truth I had arranged to meet with some guys. Sometimes we went to the movies, other times we went out to shoot pool, and often we just hung out in a nearby park.

One night, when I really did have a babysitting job, I thought of a great idea. No one would suspect anything, and I could invite some boys over to join me. The guys and I were enthralled with each other's company, and were not cognizant of the raucous we were creating. We were absorbed in our rowdy conversation, and were oblivious to the cries of the baby. All the other little kids were woken up, and they came traipsing into the dining room. They were bewildered by the sight that greeted them, and innocently asked me, "Who are those guys sitting on the couch?" I had to quickly think of something plausible, and blurted out, "They're my cousins. Don't we look alike?!"

The next morning, an infuriated Mrs. Klein phoned my mother, and alleged that I was guilty of intolerable behavior while babysitting. My mother was mortified with what she heard, and tried to appease Mrs. Klein. Then she immediately hastened over to pick me up from school, and took me out for brunch. While trying to conceal her anguish, my mother discussed this issue with me, but I vehemently denied it all. I said that a neighbor's son had knocked on the door to ask for some bread, and that Mrs. Klein misinterpreted what her children had said. I was convinced that my mother believed me, but inside I felt dispirited; I knew I had lied.

To be continued... Please let me know what this does for you, how it inspires you...
Because whoever does not know, this is my own real true story of finding Hashem....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Matters Most...

The first time the Torah mentions money is in this weeks Parshah, Parshas Chaya Sara. The Torah writes about Avraham Avinu purchasing Me’oras Hamachpeila so he can bury his wife, Sarah. I think there is a very powerful lesson to take from here. This is a reminder for us – the Torah is telling us where money goes and that it does not accompany a person when they die!

Whenever we look around and we see different people going about their daily lives, it is very easy to become jealous. This person is pretty, this one dresses so well, she has a nice car, she is always buying new things and she is always happy. It may look like the people you see have a perfect life – problem free! But no! Nobody’s life is perfect! What you see is just on the outside and you have no clue what is really going on behind the makeup and behind the smile, behind the well-dressed person walking down the street. Everyone has their hardships. And although it is easy to become jealous because of what you see on the outside, remember what the Torah says about jealousy – kinas sofrim tarbeh chochmah, it is okay to be jealous of the deeds of a righteous person because then it will push you forward to become better too. So when you see someone who looks like she has the perfect life on the outside, remind yourself where all the money, clothes, jewelry and cars go – they are not here forever!

Instead, look around at the people you see and the way they act and try to see what you can learn from them! That will definitely take you further in life and then you will be happier because you will be using your eyes and heart to search for ways to become better, instead of looking at other people wishing you had the same!
And then, when you look back at how you spent your time, you will see that you have grown as a person, you have used all the chances you had to learn from others, grow and change for the better instead of eyeing what they have and wanting it too!!

Here is a beautiful video that illustrates this point:

What matters most is how you spend your dash, that teeny little line in between the from and to of a person’s life! It does not matter how much money you have, it does not matter how many things you have, what matters is the way you spend your time in this world!
So don't spend your time thinking about the things the people around you have, instead, notice the good things you see people do so you can learn from them and become better!

Monday, November 9, 2009

You're Watching Me

Here is an amazing video with an equally unbelievable story!!
Hashem is always watching us every step of the way and you can see that every moment is calculated!!

May you be zoche to feel Hashem guiding you and at your side wherever you are!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hashem is in charge of every button that you press even the wrong ones can sometimes be better than we thought!!

I just wanted to tell you the MOST incredible thing ever. You don't understand! These stories don't happen to me! Hashem is nuts!!! Ok so we were on the hotline last Thursday night and after we read Daughters of Dignity, some voice asked "What was that?" and we said the title and everything and moved on...
Later the person announced that we do not know her but her name is Rachel and how do we all know each other. We were so confused and say "Camp." As we continued a couple more questions popped up, like "So what exactly is this?" "Well we learn every night on here." "What do you mean?" And i got a little freaked out that she wasn't Jewish and it was just a little weird... and she explained that someone gave her the hotline number but she messed up the room code. But this girl stayed on the entire time. She remained all through 3 hours of learning not all of which she undestoond and then once it was only like 5 people left, she asked, "So you all go to yeshivas? Have you all been brought up religous." And we said yes and then asked totally hesitantly, "um, what's your background?"

This is going to blow you away. Here's her story: Well, some non Jewish person gave her that number and she by Hashem's total will messed onto our learning. Her grandparents were like old school religious and her parents weretotally anti-religion. A year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and sent to Maimonodes and her roomate was religious. Her parents made her switch rooms but she ended up back witht he religious girl. The religious girl always wore a skirt so Rachel asked her about it, and it made sense to her that if you cover your body, maye G-d will make your body better. So Rachel tried putting on a skirt and slowly became more religious and everything jsut got easier. Her parents are totally against it though (I even mentioned because she mentioned R' Zelig Pliskin's books and she said that her parents filter her internet AGAINST the relgious stufff). Anyway, she now wears skirts and doesn;t even really think about, she sometimes does but she was saying how in the regular world, no one thinks of skirts covering the knees. The questions "Does it just cover or does it even reach your thighs?" But as she covered more and more, she just really saw how right it all was. But then, a few months ago, she just said forget it. And she was expecting fire and brimstone and the world to crash. But. Nothing happens. And she realized that the world doesn't work like that.. One time she even got a pair of jeans that she knew she would love and she cut it up and sewed it into a skirt- how crazy cool!!! weare all listening, mouths gaping open.

She also said a story about how she was discharged from the hospital for a few months, and she came home and decided that she was not eating meat any more, becoming vegetarian was an easy way to be kosher. Her mom was not happy and had a whole fight about it.
She had to head back to the hospital sooner than expected and had a feeding tube in her mouth. Right after she got off the feeding tube- the hospital began giving out kosher food. What crazy hashgacha!!

And she's still learning with a roommate and she is in public school, and lives in, get this, Brooklyn! And she has a crazy postive attutiude, such a cool, great attitude. And we were asking her questions, like how she keeps her emunah and how she got into all of this and how it felt to be becoming religous and sh was amazing! She was giving us chizuk!! This is so sent from Shamayim, it is nottt normal. Then it became just like 4 girls on and we were shmoozing and chilled and she asked us what different words we sai on the hotline meant and to explain things like Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos. She asked what Shabbos is like for us.. We began talking about Rosh Hashana and she has jsut no plans for ROsh Hashana.. I don't know what the significance of al this is, but I keep waiting for someone to say "Joke, sorry, shes my friend from whatever, there's a reason behind all this," but it's form hashem, most random coincidence, it's jus nuts, I can't get over it. We gave her an email address and she has emailed even and she has come back on the hotline 3 times. tonight, after, she asked what we learned exactly and I explained what each bok is. To keep coming and on and to eamil means she really is into it. It's just the coolest thing ever that's happened. And also we asked her what she does on Shabbos and she said she doesn't really know enough about Shabbos to do anything, and she wants to change and doesn't have the means to do so and we are all just not sure how we can help her out..
Here's what she emailed Tmima ( just btw)
"Guys its Rachel, this is the coolest thing ever. well i found out that the conference i wanted to call's pin was 74 and was over at ten O'clock. If you can give me the password for the blog you made i will try to look at it. you guys sure love camp, to all keep up! I think your hot line is the coolest thing ever. I wanna tell you what makes me stay on to hear you guys talk its not all those things you read (i x understand if you all grew up religious why do you have to read all those books?) but the respect you all show to one another. You all wait for the other one to finish talking and then ask if anyone else has anything to say... well I never heard that before. I want to thank you for the entertainment at night, one of my meds i take makes me really groggy so i end up falling asleep making me to a real night owl! "
This is what a real kiddush Hashem is...
she was not brought up frum and yet she realizes how beautiful our mitzvos are!! Even though her parents dont allow her look how Hashem worked it out for her to have a frum roomate!!
When we open our eyes we are zoche to get a glimpse of Hashem's incredible world!!
From a song one part that i feel is soo good for us to hear
Lost and alone no shelter in sight, feel his
hand on your shoulder, as he leads you towards the light!!
Fill your heart with faith only then will you find peace,
he's everywhere aorund you, just look and you will see!!
Tamar thank you soo much for this story!!
May we be zoche to open our eyes and see how Hashem is guiding every push of a button that we press!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Are a Diamond!!

The mitzvah of tznius is suuuch a special mitzvah and it’s really sad that there are so many girls who were not taught about it the right way! They were told that they cannot wear this, should not wear that, should close their button, this is too tight, this is too showy, the skirt is too short etc. and this can really turn you off! Is that all there is to this mitzvah?! Am I defined by what I wear and that’s it?! Is there anything deeper over here or is it all about what I wear?!

I would like to try to answer and explain this mitzvah because once you realize it, you will see and understand that we are so lucky to be able to be tznius! Yes, lucky!!!!
So what is this mitzvah all about?! Why is there so much emphasis on covering my body?
The explanation is really amazing (and this is not only one way to explain it – there are many other ways to explain this special mitzvah!) and it will make you feel so special about yourself.
Okay, here goes…

When something is really precious, we take great care in covering it and protecting it from the outside and we save it only for those special times when we will need it.
For example, look at the sefer torah – it is so, so precious that we are extremely careful with it, we don’t leave it on the bookshelf for everyone to see and touch! Rather, we keep it covered with a few coverings. The sefer torah actually has 4 coverings. It has an elastic clasp to tie it, a velvet mantel to cover it, it is placed in the aron kodesh and then the aron kodesh is covered with a paroches – that beautiful curtain. These four coverings correspond to the four places in a woman’s body that she covers – her legs, elbows, collar bone and (after she is married, her) hair.
Now is that all?! Certainly not!!! If a woman covers these 4 parts, does that mean she has fulfilled this mitzvah?!

Here’s a cute joke just to make you smile…
Amelia Bedilia trys to look modest…She came into a religious home on roller blades and everyone there thought she must be the worlds greatest roller blader (is that a word?!). Of course, she was wearing elbow pads and knee pads to keep her safe, right?! When they asked her if she was professional at roller blading, she answered, “No! I’m just trying to be modest! I heard that I need to cover my elbows and knees and I was never in a Jewish home before so that’s what I did!” Just to mention, she was wearing short sleeves and pants!! Covering those parts are not all there is to this mitzvah

Another example is that a person who has a diamond will not carry it out in the open, rather, he will keep it covered in a special case and wrapped in a special cloth. You are a diamond! You are precious! You are not just any worthless 25-cent-machine-ring that a little kid puts on her finger and shows off to all her friends!! Your body is precious! Hashem made you beautiful and he wants you to save your body for the right time!!

When you have something special, you save it. Just like a beautiful wedding outfit or shabbos suit – you keep it in your closet for when you need it. The more special something is, the more careful you are with it. And then when you get to enjoy it, it is so much more special because you saved it properly! If you wore your shabbos clothing every day, it wouldn’t be special in your eyes! But the fact that you save it makes it all the more special! It’s the same thing with your body – it is special, precious and beautiful! If you save it and are careful with the way you dress, it will be that much more special and exciting when the right time comes!!!

Another thing – dressing in a way that’s modest means that you are dressing in a way that does not attract attention to your body. When a person wears clothing that emphasizes different parts of their body, they are taking away from who they really are. What does this mean?!
I want to be looked at as a person who has depth and meaning. When somebody looks at me, I want them to think, “I want to get to know that person for who she really is…” There’s more to me than my outside! I am a human being with thoughts and feelings. I am not just my body! There’s so much more to who I am!!! When I dress in the right way, I am making sure that others who see me think the same thing! I want them to want to get to know me!! When I look at my non-Jewish neighbors walking down the street in the tightest jeans ever (how did they ever put them on?! Lol), do you know what I think??? I think, "I feel so bad for her! Her whole life is revolved around her body and how she can dress in a way that will make guys look at her! Does she ever think about the fact that there is more to her than her body?! Every time she gets dressed, she probably thinks about what the guys will say! Is that all there is to life?! Is there any depth to this person?!" Okay, her body happens to be covered in a pair of jeans but looking at her makes me think of her body and nothing else!! I don’t think of her as a person, I see her as a body!!
Am I just my body? I don’t want people to look at me as a body and disregard the rest of me! There’s so much more to me! so dressing in a way that attracts attention to my body makes people look away from what’s really there – a neshama, a person with depth, personality, thoughts and feelings…

More to come soon iyh...but in the meantime, please let me know what you think about this. Thanks!