Monday, July 30, 2012

For the VERY First Time

I posted this last year and am posting it again. I had similar thoughts when I broke my fast last night...

Remember the first bracha you made last night when you broke your fast?

Mine was a shehakol on a cup of water. I said the bracha slowly and carefully and thought about the words I was saying.

Why was this bracha different than the others that I say on a regular day?

It was the anticipation. I waited a long time to be able to take that drink of water so the few seconds before I took that first sip, I really thought about what I was saying. I was so thankful for that drink and savored the feeling of the cool water going down my throat and through my veins.

R’ Shimshon Pincus zt”l talks about how anticipation for a mitzvah makes all the difference in how a mitzvah will be performed.

Imagine a man who is on a road trip with his family when he suddenly realizes that it’s almost shkiya and he needs to daven mincha. He finds out where the closest shul is-luckily he is able to find one and he runs in and quickly davens mincha with a minyan. He davened but…what was that mincha like?

Now, imagine a man who is a chassid and is planning to daven with his Rebbe on Rosh Hashana. He plans to take a flight to his Rebbe’s city so he could be with his and he knows he is going to be so uplifted. It’s going to be such a special yom tov for him. He knows it. He feels it. He gets to the airport and…his flight is delayed. He keeps checking his watch and hoping he will make it in time. Finally, the plane takes off and he makes it to the city in record time. He rushes off the plane, gets into a taxi, drops off his suitcase and runs to shul so he could daven mincha on erev Rosh Hashana with his Rebbe. He catches his breath as he lands in his seat but...he made it in time!

What was his mincha like? It must have been incredible, full of kavanna and dveikus to Hashem!

How did he do it?

Didn’t he rush just like the other guy?
What was the difference between these two people?

It was the anticipation. The preparation. The excitement. The entire time he was in the airport, waiting for his flight to take off… waiting for the airplane to land, he was thinking that very soon he would get to his Rebbe’s city, get to his Rebbe’s shul and then…he would daven with his holy Rebbe! He waited so long for that moment and was so excited so it didn’t matter that he rushed into it because he prepared for it mentally all that time! When a person anticipates and prepares for something, it makes all the difference in the outcome.

And that is what made the first bracha after the fast so special.

Can you try to hold on to that moment?

Can you try to be more careful with your brachos, articulating them and thinking about the words you are saying while you say them?

Do you begin to realize what a gift it is to have so many choices of foods and drinks to eat and drink and enjoy?

Thank Hashem for it!

Hashem blesses us with so much good-green apples, bright orange oranges, red tomatoes, 4 different colored peppers, green cucumbers (can you tell I love fruits and veggies?!) – and that’s just naming a few!

Before you take your next bite, take a few seconds to think about and appreciate the pleasure and enjoyment you will have from the food you are about to eat.

Try to make the feeling you had last night before your first bracha last…for as long as you possibly can.
I’m trying…one bracha at a time.

So can you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Mother's Strength

It's been a hard day for me. It's a hard time for me now. Now that my brother's yartzheit is coming closer, I think about him a lot. Some days I'm okay, some days I try to be and some days I just can't fight the emotions inside of me.

So I call my mother. I know it must be hard for her too...and I just want to talk to someone who is there with me...who can feel the pain together with me.

But my mother's response to whatever I tell her is not what I expect. She is so full of strength...when all I can do is cry.

She starts saying things to try to give me chizuk. Things that blow my mind away.

I have to stay strong for all of you. If I would have crumbled, the whole family would have fallen apart. And she's right. She is our pillar. She holds us all together. She is the one who keeps the entire family from going under.

Then she tells me about how she davened. She says, I never told you this? She repeated this to so many people that it's hard to keep track of who she said what to...and that her own daughter never heard this part.

My brother was niftar a week and a day after tisha b'av.The year he passed away, when it was time for Shabbos Mevorchim Rosh Chodesh Av, my mother davened so extra hard, with such strength and passion, begging Hashem to let the nine days pass without any tragedies and that everyone should be okay and stay safe. This is the part I knew about. But what she said last night...brought tears to my eyes...and they started flowing and wouldn't stop.

She said...I felt like Hashem gave Shalom an extra week. We were so lucky to have him. He was such an extraordinary child. He loved to do chessed. He loved to help other people. He was so mature for his age. Which boy his age loves to help the way he did? He was a gift. I am so grateful to Hashem for all the time we had with him....and for putting such a special child in our family.

For me...this makes me cry. An extra week?? My mother is strengthened and I'm just crying. I think...yes, he was such an exceptional child. But why did we have to lose him? I cry because I'm in pain...and because I miss him...and because I want him back. 

Then she tells me how Shalom finished his tafkid. How he was put down in this world to accomplish something...and how he did accomplish that something. And how now, now he's in gan eden. He is happy. 

He is happy. But I still cry. I continue crying. My mother continues speaking...trying again to comfort me and help me see the good. I don't see good. I just feel pain. I know deep down that this is for the good...and I don't understand how this is good or why it had to happen. 

She tells me how lucky she feels to have three grandchildren who are named after Shalom. Lucky? It hurts. It makes it more real when someone carries on his name. But she gathers strength from these things. Because she sees it as a gift. Every child is a gift. Each of her children are something to be grateful for. And to have a grandchild with the same name as her special child gives her comfort...comfort in knowing and hoping they will follow in his footsteps.

My mother is strong. I hope one day I too will have such strength and be able to feel all the things I know are true but bring so much pain to my heart when I think about them. One day, I will think about my brother and it wont hurt so much. I'll be able to feel comforted in the fact that Hashem put him into this world for the amount of time He did and we were lucky to have him. That he is in a good place. That he accomplished what he was supposed to. All the things I know in my head but I don't yet feel in my heart. Slowly, the gap between my mind and heart will get smaller and narrower and I'll be able to really FEEL the things that I know are true.

But until then...I just feel sad.

Until then, I just want my brother back.

Until then, I will try to gather strength from my mother's words...and hope that they can strengthen me too.

One day...I'll get there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mourning for the Bais Hamikdosh-Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 on this topic, read it here.

When I thought and thought about it, I came up with my own answer.

When someone dies, no one needs to tell you how to feel. The emotions come almost instantly, with such force and intensity, it is natural to mourn in the deepest possible way. The grief, the pain, it's all so raw, one cannot help but feel it. I know because I've been there. The mourning starts with shiva. Staying home, sitting on low chairs, wearing the same clothing that was torn at the levaya all week long...(the shell underneath can be changed.) It's intense. It's heavy. It's hard. But it helps to go through this part and be able to feel it all, hear stories from other people, remember the loved one that passed away, in order to be able to move on to the next phase of mourning. 

The shloshim. It's not as strong, but plenty strong too. Memories keep coming back and tears continue to flow. But hopefully, it's not as constant as during those seven days of shiva. The restrictions aren't as severe, there's still no music, the joy isn't back yet.

For a parent, there's a year of mourning. Baruch Hashem I haven't experienced that but it is a way of continuing to grieve, to mourn, to hold on a little longer to those deep feelings of loss. The music cannot play when someone's parent is gone forever.

Eventually, the cloud starts to lift and life must go on. It's hard to start smiling again. It's hard to see people in the street for the first (or second or third) time since "it" happened. They don't know what to say. You just want them to talk to you normally but they're at a loss. A loss for words that is. You're the one who suffered a loss.

With time, things start to get into a routine and you try to go on. But you never forget. There's a yartzeit every year as a reminder that we don't live forever. It's a time to remember the one you lost. But you try to move on...past the pain, the initial pain of hearing the news and trying to digest this as your new reality, the continuous pain that comes back so many times without a warning. But you must move on.

There are times when these emotions can come back with such force, it's hard to imagine such intensity exists unless you've experienced it yourself. I know because I've felt it. It can be a small little trigger, seeing or hearing something that reminds you of the one you lost, but when that happens, a sea of emotions start raging inside of you and you feel as if you might just go under. But you hold on, hold on to the fact that you need to make it through this, try to let some of those tears out...and go on.

This is a little bit of an explanation of how losing someone close to you starts from more intense to less intense forms of mourning. It starts off with strong feelings of mourning and slowly, you start to get used to things and learn to deal with the pain and move on. Although there are times when the pain comes back, you learn how to get through those times and continue on.

When it comes to mourning the bais hamikdosh, it works in the exact opposite way. We don't know how to mourn. We don't know what we are missing. We are so far away from it. We never saw Hashem's holy house, we never lived in a time of clarity, real joy, real meaning, real depth, real connection. We don't know what we lost and we are expected to want it back. So we need to slowly ease in to the mourning. We need the rules to be set up for us so we can try to mourn on the outside so it can affect us on the inside.

We start off with the three weeks. No music. No haircuts. No new clothing. No weddings. It's supposed to break the monotony of our daily schedules. We don't just hop into the car and turn on the music first thing. Stop. Think for a minute. Why aren't we listening to music now?

Then come the nine days. Bathing and showering come along with rules. We don't just take comfortable, hot showers. We are supposed to be feeling some level of discomfort on the outside so that it will affect our thoughts and emotions on the inside.

And then comes tisha b'av. The day of mourning for the bais hamikdosh. Just like during shiva, we do not offer greetings of "hello" or "how are you" to other people we see. We are more subdued. Sad. We are supposed to feel something real. What should we be feeling? How can we feel sad on this day when we don't know what we lost?

We need to spend some time during the three weeks leading up to the nine days and then to tisha b'av thinking a little bit. The mourning on the outside is supposed to do something to us on the inside. These shouldn't be three weeks of simply managing without music, without the haircut, without the new clothing, without weddings, just so we can make it through this time. We need to internalize what we are doing on the outside by letting it touch us on the thinking...and by asking...

What was the bais hamikdosh? What was life like back then? Why do we want it back? These are questions we need to ask ourselves (or others if we need to) as we go through the motions of that the external forms of mourning can have an effect on us, deep inside of us...and then we will truly be able to mourn.

May we all be included in those who mourned for the destruction of the bais hamikdosh and be zoche to see it's rebuilding, as it says, kol hamisabel al yerushalayim zoche v'roeh b'simchasah. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mourning for the Bais Hamikdosh-Part 1

I was wondering about this last night. I'm sure this question has been asked before and I'm not the first one to come up with it...but I was thinking about the way we mourn for the bais hamikdosh and I had this question.

Why is it that we mourn for the bais hamikdosh in the opposite way that we mourn the death of a human being? When someone dies, we go from stronger to lighter forms of mourning. It starts with shiva, seven days of sitting on the low chairs, not leaving the house, not wearing leather shoes, people coming to comfort those who lost their loved one...and continues to the shloshim where the halachos are not as severe. There is still no music allowed...there are still some restrictions. And this continues on for a full year for someone who lost a parent.

On the other hand, when we mourn the bais hamikdosh, we go from light, the three weeks, where we do not listen to music, wear new clothing, to the nine days, where we are restricted with the way we bathe and shower, to tisha b'av itself-the day which we observe the most intense form of mourning.

Why is it like this?

Why, when it comes to mourning the death of a human being do we go from more intense to less and when we mourn the destruction of the bais hamikdosh do we start with a lesser form of mourning and slowly increase the level of sadness?

So...there's the guy's answer, which is the short and to-the-point answer, and the girl's answer, which as you can guess is more emotional. :-) (My husband's answer, and my own. One day I'll write down all my chiddushei torah. lol)

The real answer, one that is much more logical, is that this is the order that things happened when the bais hamikdosh was destroyed. It wasn't burned down from one day to the next. The city of Yerushalayaim was surrounded by Nevuchadnetzzar and his army. There was a siege. It took time until the events of tisha b'av occurred, until the bais hamikdosh was actually destroyed and burned down to the ground.

When we mourn these events, we go in order of the way they happened. Things went from less intense to more. We start off at the beginning of the three weeks with a lesser degree of mourning simply because things started off at a lower degree of devastation during the time leading up to the destruction of the bais hamikdosh. With time, it got worse and worse and so our level of mourning gets stronger as we get closer to tisha b'av. And tisha b'av is the climax. It's the most intense day of sadness, as we ache for the day when we will have the bais hamikdosh back.

The answer I came up with is much longer, too long to fit here so I'm going to save it for another blog post.

In the meantime, if anyone can come up with another answer to this question, it would be nice to hear it. You can post a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Year Later

I wrote this today, Yud Aleph Tamuz, on the yartzheit of Leiby Kletzky.

I sit here with so much going on around me
And no one would know what's going on inside me
I remember with clarity that dreadful day
When precious little Leiby was suddenly taken away

The news that he was missing opened all our hearts
And the news that he was found awoke us with a start
That tearful morning when all of us were told
He was found but no longer with us, a child, a treasure, like gold

Today, one year later, so much to think about
It's easy to point fingers, to get upset and shout
We can talk about safety and not talking to strangers
We can talk about awareness and prevention of dangers

But we must accept this as reality, no Leiby's not coming back
It is hard but we need to take something from the day our world turned black
A message, a lesson, from this story so scary
And move beyond the tears so we can start to see clearly

We need to internalize this idea until we believe it's true
That there is a plan from above by Hakadosh Baruch Hu
At times like this when it seems so confusing and unclear
We need to keep reminding ourselves that Hashem is always here.

He watches over each of us, our each and every step
And even though we cannot comprehend, we don't know why just yet
There are so many pieces to this puzzle of life and
There are so many things above the surface-we cannot understand

So...our focus for now should be, not the details of the story
But on how we can change and do something, ask how can this change ME?
Take a message from this little boy whose life was shortened so suddenly
And try today to appreciate those close to you-your family

Take the time to show them how much they really mean to you
Show them they are important, speak gently, try not to argue
Verbalize the three words that express that it is true
Don't push it off for another time, just say I love you

Because anyone who lost someone close to them very suddenly
Will surely say the same as I, they surely will agree
The one wish that we have, is for another chance to
Spend some more time with them, say one more I love you

So while you still have a chance, express it, don't you wait
Don't keep pushing it off, until it is too late
Tell those closest to you how you really feel inside
Your parents, spouse, siblings, children-your true emotions don't you hide

And keep davening for the day when all our pain will end
When the ultimate yeshuah Hashem will finally send
May we all be zoche to the time when our deepest dreams come true
When we can almost feel Hashem telling us, "My child, I love you!"