Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Time

I got a ticket.

For an expired meter.

I was frustrated and upset. 

I rushed out of a store after waiting on line for way too long and saw the two police officers...slowly walking away from my car. There was the familiar orange color of the ticket tucked into my windshield. I ran.

I ran after them. 

I begged and pleaded with them to please take the ticket back, do something, anything so I wouldn't have to pay the money.

"Buy a new one," one of the police officers said. "There's nothing I can do, but quick, buy a new meter card and I'll explain..."

"But..." I stammered

"Just buy it-if there are six minutes between the time on the ticket and the time on your new meter card, you..."

I didn't listen to the rest. 

I got a quarter, quickly put it into the machine and checked the time. It said 2:13pm.

I grabbed the orange ticket and compared the time. I was "caught" at 2:09pm. My new meter card showed four minutes after the time the ticket was issued.

I waited for the policeman to explain the rest, while trying to calm my pounding heart.

"Now you have a way out," he explained. "Since there are less than six minutes between the time you were ticketed and the time on your new card, you can now fight the ticket. There is a six minute grace period...and you can say that you were in middle of getting a new card and you had to get quarters from your car and during that time you got a ticket."

I'm not sure about the lying part and making up a story, but if there is a way for me to get out...if the judge will give me six minutes of time...I will not have to pay this ticket. I am grateful.

Rosh Hashana is almost here.

We feel so unprepared.

What?? Elul passed already?

It's been almost 30 days...what do we have to show for ourselves?

But Hashem is a Ba'al Rachamim.

He is not out to get us. He doesn't want us to have to pay for our mistakes, for our negligence, for our lateness.

And so we were give the gift of Teshuva. And the gift of time. And more time.

When we repent, show real, true regret for the things we may have done wrong, the good things we should have done but never did, the lost opportunities, the mistakes we made, Hashem listens.

He is aware of the circumstances that may have caused us to fall. And unlike the police officers who didn't care about the long line that caused me to be delayed by a few minutes, Hashem understands and takes all those "excuses" into account. 

When we are sincere about the kind of person we wish to become, Hashem hears.

When we ask Him to help us change, because it is just too hard for us to do it alone, Hashem listens...and He will help us.

But more than that, Hashem blessed us with time...and more time.

Yes, the meter is running out, but we can "buy another card." After Rosh Hashana, we are given ten days, the aseres yimei teshuva and after that we have Yom Kippur.

Look at how much rachmanus Hashem has!

He keeps giving us more and more time to do teshuva and come closer to Him!

That is not to say that we should push it off to the last minute (even though the last minute is almost here!). We should utilize the time we have now to think. Think about the past year...and the coming year...and the brachos we would like to see in our lives...and the changes we would like to see in ourselves...and start now. 

We may feel discouraged by the fact that so much time has passed and we haven't even made a dent in the changes we wish we could make, we didn't use Elul much...and we went through our daily routines without even thinking about teshuva. But we should not dispair! Just like when the meter was out, instead of slowly strolling back to my car, I RAN, we can all run now. Instead of sauntering through the next few days as if we don't have a care in the world, let's show Hashem how becoming the person we want to be is important to us. Let's show Hashem that we want to change, we want to become better, different, elevated, spiritual, growing people. 

Let's use the little time we have left to think about the past year...the things we did that we wish we would never have done, things we may have read, watched, listened to, spoken about...and let's think about ways we can put up safeguards so that we don't stumble every time. Yes, we may fall, but falling is part of the process of growing. And like a trampoline, realize that sometimes we can jump even higher because of our downs, because of our falls. It is all part of the beauty of spiritual growth.

Change isn't easy. But we are given another gift-the gift of tefillah. And we can ask Hashem to help us become the person we dream of becoming. It may seem far off...but with baby steps, we can get there.

Thank you, Hashem for the gift of teshuva. Please help all of us use whatever time we have left until the yom hadin to utilize that the fullest!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Baby Talk

"Aah-pi-dee coo-key"

I'm walking back from the bus stop with my baby and my neighbor. 

"He wants me to open his bag of cookies...isn't that cute?"

"I would have no clue what he was talking about!" she says.

And I'm reminded about something I heard a while back about tefillah and the way we daven

When a little baby or toddler who is just learning how to talk starts to communicate in his own language, only his own parents can truly understand the things he is saying. He is not using real words yet, just a combination of sounds...but every sound has real him. And his mother and father know exactly what he means to say with each sound that comes out of his mouth. 

But a stranger wouldn't understand at all. 

When we daven, there are times when we mumble the words, don't pronounce them correctly...and just rush through our tefillos. We can't always say the words the way they were meant to be said, with the proper pronunciation and concentration. 

After all, we are human beings.

But Hashem is our Father. And He understands the thoughts and feelings behind the words we say. He understand what we really mean to say, even if sometimes we're talking in baby talk.

He knows we really want to praise Him. He knows that we really mean to ask him for health, parnassah, refuos and yeshuos. He knows that when we go through shemona esrei and we don't really think about the meaning of every single word, we really do want to. We want to do it right. 

But sometimes we stumble. 

Sometimes we mumble.

Sometimes we don't think into the meaning of the things we are saying and asking for.

And He understands our baby talk.

But...does that mean we should stay that way? Just because He understands, should we talk like little kids? 

Of course not. 

Let's try. 

Let's grow up.

Let's work on our concentration.

On our pronunciation.

On saying our brachos and tefillos the way they were meant to be said.

Because even though Hashem understands that we mean a lot more than "baruchata...borei minaymezonos..." or "selachlanu...mechalanu", we might as well put in the effort and talk a professional businessman. Like someone who knows his stuff. 

Hashem is always listening. He understands our innermost thoughts and feelings...even when we can't express them in words.

But when it's time to daven, when it's time to say our brachos, when it's time to bench, to ask Hashem for things we need and thank Him for the things He gives us, let's try to do it right.

Enough with the baby talk. It's cute...but at some point we need to grow up.

I open the bag of cookies for my baby and he spills most of it on the floor. But I understand. He's just a baby. He asks for things and he can't even enjoy all of it. But I'm his mother...and so I give.

Hashem knows us so much better. He knows what is good for us, what we need...and what we want...and when the time is right for us to get it. He is our Father...and He gives much good.

May you be able to express yourself properly with the words of your tefillos and brachos...and mature in your tefillos from baby talk to big-girl talk!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Park Musings

I'm in the park with my baby. I watch a whole group of girls entering the park excitedly, together with their counselor. They walk together, as one unit, in close-knit groups of friends having fun together.

And I think.

I think about these individuals. Each one of them is precious to their parents. Each one comes from her own home with parents who worry about them as they hope for them to have a good day, to have good friends, to just be happy.

Yes, these girls look like one group of happy day-campers, having fun and playing together. But there is so much more behind each face. Siblings who love them (hopefully), parents who care for them, grandparents who enjoy them and shep nachas when they see them...a whole separate family unit, away from the group of girls they spend most of their days with.

There's a girl running through the sprinkler, having a great time, getting soaking wet. 

There's another girl who trips and falls down, but her counselor gets her back up again without even giving her a chance to cry. She joins the rest of the group and forgets about her fall within seconds.

She's just a counselor, I think.

How would her mother react?

Her mother's heart would skip a beat when she'd see her child fall. She'd quickly embrace her, calm her down, comfort her and then let her run off again to play...with a warning to be more careful next time.

Parents love each child...each one as an individual. 

It doesn't matter how many other cute, pretty or smart girls there are in her bunk.

Each child belongs to her mother. To her father. To her parents. To parents who love them with their whole heart, who would do anything for their children. 

Even if a parent has more than one child, they worry and care about each one separately, independent of their other children. Each child, with his/her character, personality and makeup has different needs...and every parent wants to do their utmost to take care of them and make sure those needs are met.

We are all children of Hashem.

Hashem loves each of us as an individual. 

We are like an only child to Him.

Yes, there are so many other "children" playing in the park of life, running through sprinklers, getting wet, having fun, tripping and falling and needing help getting back up. 

That's the greatness of Hashem.

He is not like a human being who is limited by time and space, who cannot do more than one (or two or three for the really talented multi taskers out there!) thing(s) at a time. 

Hashem, like a loving, caring father, looks out for each of us at all times.

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is an acronym for ani ledodi vedodi li. It is a time for us to come closer to Hashem, closer to our loving Father, look inside ourselves and around us and think about the things we want to change. 

Our relationship with Him.

If you moved away from your parent and during that time your relationship got somewhat strained and then you found out that your parent was moving your your town...down the street from you...wouldn't you want to work on fixing your relationship? Wouldn't you want to become close once again?

Well, now's the chance. 

Hashem is moving back. He's moving in. He's coming back to you. To your neighborhood...

He will enter your heart.

All you have to do is let Him in.

Try to rid yourself of things that distract you from Him. Try to connect to Him once again...with your siddur, with your tehillim, with your own words...with His Torah.

Take out a book, a Jewish book, an inspiring book, a book that talks about growth...and try to reconnect.

Your Loving Father is waiting for you.

Don't wait. 

As the month of Av, which stands for Elul Ba, comes to a close, and we welcome in the month of Elul, do what it takes to achieve that closeness and connection your heart is yearning for.

Hashem will welcome you with open arms. You just have to take the first step towards Him.

Pischu Li open the opening the size of the head of a needle...V'ani eftach lachem...and I [Hashem] will open for you...the size of a ballroom.

May you be able to utilize the time you have during the coming month to take positive steps towards change and growth. May you be able to move slowly, one baby step at a those changes last. And may you be able to look back at the end of this month and be proud of yourself and what you accomplished!