Monday, January 20, 2014

The Little Leaf

We live near a train station. From our window, we can watch the trains come and go. My little Moishy loves watching them. He gets all excited when he hears the engine of another train coming, stops what he is doing and runs to the window shouting "tchayy".

Recently, we started adding a "look out for trains session" before he takes his nap. Moishy sits on my lap and we look out the window together, waiting for the next train to come. We wave "hi" together and then say "ba-bye" to the train as it disappears from view.

Sometimes, many times, a train pulls up the second we sit down together and look out the window. Other times, it takes a little longer. many times the train comes right away.

And I wonder...I think about the famous story about a rebbe who went on a walk with his chassidim in the forest. One chassid asked his rebbe why so many leaves were falling off the trees. The rebbe said he would watch out for the next leaf that fell and give him an answer.

As they continued to walk, another leaf slowly fluttered down to the ground. 

When the rebbe lifted up the leaf and saw a little worm under it, he explained the following, "This little worm was crawling in the forest and the sun was beating down its back. It was uncomfortable. So it called out to Hashem and cried, "Please Hashem, I am so uncomfortable. I am so small. I don't know what to do to help myself. Please, help me. Only YOU can help me." And so, Hashem commanded the wind to blow over all the trees in that forest. The wind blew and blew until it shook the leaves of one tree and one leaf detached from its branch and slowly fell to the ground. It swished this way and that until finally, it fell down...right on top of the little worm."

R' Yom Tov Ehrlich sings this song in yiddish. I don't remember the whole song, but I do remember the beautiful words at the end. Un der kleineh veremel iz eingeshlufin zees-loosely translated as-and the little worm fell asleep ever so softly...comfortable now, shielded from the blazing sun.

I love repeating this story to my children. It's such a good message for them to hear-again and again. They need to know that every little thing is calculated. Every leaf that falls down to the ground has a purpose. That Hashem takes care of every single person. If Hashem cares so much about the comfort of one little worm who called out to Him in prayer, don't you think He cares about each one of us? How important it is for us to call out to Hashem when we are uncomfortable. How it doesn't matter if it's something small, like if we are cold or hot or itchy or whatever, we can ask Hashem for anything. Nothing is too small for Him. And He cares. And He listens. And He answers....sometimes. (I don't tell them about the sometimes yet...they are not old enough to understand that there is so much that we cannot understand. :))

And I wonder...while I am sitting there on the bed with Moishy on my lap, looking out for the next train to come, is that too calculated? 

I wonder...there are so many people waiting for the next train. Some of them are in a rush, some of them are in no rush at all, many of them busy with their phones, tablets and games. Perhaps some people take a few steps forward and look out to see if the train is coming, if it is at the next station.

When the train finally does come, is that calculated for my little boy? Is that Hashem's way of giving over this message? I wonder if He's saying to all the passengers waiting to move on with their day, to get to work, to shop, back home or wherever they need to go...You need to wait another 30 seconds. There is a mother getting her son's pacifier and blanket together and they will be looking out the window in another few moments. This train has to come at that precise minute. Just another few seconds and your train will that mommy and baby can come to the window and see the train at the exact moment that they sit down together.

Is this also part of Hashem's plan?

I like to think it is. It makes me feel loved and cared for.

It helps me see Hashem in the little things. So that when I have a hard time seeing Him in the bigger things, in this big confusing world I live in, I can know without a doubt that every single thing is calculated. That He knows what He is doing. Even when I don't see it. Even when I don't understand.

While I wait for the train to come roaring down the tracks, I have the daily opportunity to remind myself that Hashem  IS there. He IS watching. He IS taking care of me...of my little baby...and He is watching over the whole world with precision that can only be attributed to Hashem Himself. 

Thank you, Hashem, for this reminder.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


While going through my 10th grade journal full of articles and poems I wrote for writing class, I found the following. I wanted to share it with you. 

Did you ever think about how bad life is?

We have so many problems.

Little kids have problems. They scraped their knee. Their friend didn't share their snack with them. They didn't get a red smiley sticker. They couldn't stay up until 8:00 like their big brother. Their arts and crafts ripped. They couldn't wear their favorite dress today. They didn't get a red lollipop. They left their snack at home. They weren't picked for Shabbos Mommy. Their Morah didn't let them be chazanis. They didn't have a stationary collection like the rest of their class.

Teenagers have problems. They failed a test. They didn't get into dance for the school play. Their teacher looked at them the wrong way. They have 15 detentions. They have ugly braces. Their haircut didn't come out good. They don't have "any" clothing. They have too much homework and no free time. They didn't get accepted to camp. They have politics. They have no talents. They have too many boring teachers who just cant understand why they always fall asleep during class. They just found another pimple and they are so ugly. They are so fat and must go on a massive diet. They cant get the phone at night so they have no time to "socialize."

Some people have problems, lo aleinu. They lost a parent. They have a sick child who needs constant care. Their best friend was killed in a suicide bombing. They lost a child. They are struggling to put bread on the table. They have a relative fighting in the war against Iraq. They have a special child who must have expensive therapy to continue. And the list goes on and on and never ends.

Now look at these problems and see how much you have.

You have a pure neshama returned to you every morning. You wake up each morning to a beautiful sunrise. You have eyes that see the beauty of nature. You have ears that hear all the everyday sounds that are taken for granted. You have clean air to breath and food to eat. You have a brain that works. You have a roof over your head. You have loving parents. You have siblings who care about you and friends to lean on. You have a beautiful world to live in. think about this and think about where it's coming from. Acknowledge who it's coming from and thank Him. If not, Hashem will have to make you acknowledge it using another method.

One last question I have for you: Did you ever think about how good life is?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Breaking Habits

Today, vav Shvat is my hebrew birthday.

Last year, on my birthday, I took something really small upon myself. I wanted to break a habit. I wanted to stop doing something I've been doing for years. I started on my birthday and continued with my progress daily. The first few weeks were hard. I would keep slipping up...and every time I'd catch myself I'd remind myself to stop.

With time, I would slip less and less often. I'm not sure exactly how much time it took, but by  now I can say that I officially broke that habit. And it's a good feeling.

Growth in Judaism must be done in baby steps. We hear it all the time. The trick is to act on it. To take that first step towards change.

In her book, The Committed Marriage, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis talks about the concept of shteiging, of constantly developing ourselves and our characters and growing in our relationships. She quotes her husband who explained this concept so well. If you were told to read the phone book and remember all the names, addresses and telephone numbers, you would give up immediately. However, if someone asked you to memorize just one name, one address, and one telephone number every day, you would do it easily and you would be able to retain that information.

The same is true with changing ourselves, our habits and our personalities. If we thought about the person we want to become one day-the ideal perfect person we want to be-it would be too overwhelming and we would probably give up before we even started. On the other hand, if we were to make one little change, take on one little mitzvah, work on one bad habit and do it one day at a time, we would be able to master it. We would be able to make real changes. The trick is to do it slowly. One day at a time, one thing at a time.

On my birthday, I realize that change can happen. I look back at this past year and I see how much has changed, how much I have changed. When I try to look ahead, I feel overwhelmed. The coming year is full of uncertainties and unknowns. I daven to Hashem to help me become a better me, the me that I am meant to be...and I know that I will have to take the steps to change slowly and I can only do it with His help.

My birthday is also a time for me to reflect on the brachos Hashem has given me and to thank Him for them. Hashem has given me the greatest gift of all...the gift of life, the gift of a family, my precious children. They are all intertwined. I don't know where I would be without my adorable little kids who keep me going, push my buttons, make me laugh and cry and overwhelm me with stress and gratitude and everything in between. I am so grateful for them. 

I have learned so many lessons this year. Hashem helped me strengthen my trust in Him in so many ways. Although I don't ask for challenges, when I look back and see how they have affected me, I can appreciate the growth and change that came about because of them. No, I don't want any more tests. But I know that I am not the same person I was a year ago...and that is because of the life Hashem is playing out for me...and because He is strengthening me and helping me every step of the way. I believe in Him more, I trust in Him more and (I hope) I talk to Him and connect to Him even more than before.

On my birthday, I like to give my readers a bracha. goes :)

May each of you be able to zero in on the things you know you need to change and take small and steady steps to be able to break bad habits and start good ones. May you feel Hashem at your side, helping you become the person you want to be. When you feel your strength waning, may you feel Hashem strengthening you-because change is harddd...and even with small steps, you will still need His help to keep at it.

May you be able to notice and appreciate the good you have been given and may Hashem continue to shower you with so much bracha and good things. He should keep each of you happy and healthy always and give you many reasons to keep thanking Him.

Almost every person is awaiting a yeshuah of some sort. Whatever it is that you are waiting for, whether it is health, parnassah, a shidduch, a job, children, shalom bayis, nachas from children, clarity in your purpose in life, answers to tough questions, an end to stressful times, family harmony and peace, Hashem should send that yeshuah so soon. Keep davening for the things you are waiting for. May that connection to Hashem get stronger and not weaker, may that bond never be severed and may you be able to see Hashem answer your tefillos in the best possible way. easy as it is for me to give out brachos, that's how easily Hashem should make them happen! It's easier for Him to make those changes than it is for me to type up this blog post! :-)

Birthday wishes, brachos, cake, chocolate and ice cream...I take all of those! :-)