Thursday, August 21, 2014

Baby Talk

I wrote this last year and wanted to share the message with you again.

"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, parnassahrefuos 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!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Special Connection

It was over seven years since I had seen her last. But as soon as we met up and hugged, it was as if we just spoke yesterday. Well, almost. We had a lot to catch up seminary roommate and I. But we connected instantly. The closeness we shared was right back there; the moment we began talking we felt it.

There's something unique about someone you room with for close to a year when you're away from home, independent...and...vulnerable. Your roommate gets to see the parts of you that no one else in your seminary does. What you're like when you wake up in the morning, how you react to stresses, what you do when your shabbos plans fall through on Friday morning and how you deal with the disappointments you don't necessarily carry with you outside your dorm room. She also gets to see you when you're tired and hyper and silly and giddy and sad and tired and emotional and...did I mention tired? :) She honestly gets to see every part of you. Every emotion, every mood, everything.

It's kind of like a sibling. 

The connection formed with my seminary roommates was unique. I got to Eretz Yisroel two and a half weeks after my younger brother, Shalom a"h was niftar. It was also a couple of days after my older brother got engaged. I was flying high, excited to be in the holy land, just as happy as everyone else...and showing off family pictures from my brother's vort to all who came to see. But inside, my heart was crying. I was holding a secret, a big, difficult secret in there.

I remember the shailos I had to ask during those first few weeks. I was in middle of my brother's shloshim. Was I allowed to watch a slideshow together with the rest of the seminary if there was music playing in the background? (I had to wear earplugs. And sit in the back-a little to the side-because an avel is not allowed to be part of a large group that is gathering together.)What should I do if I was studying with friends and they put music on? (That was okay because they didn't put it on for me. But it hurt because I knew I wasn't allowed to listen and the music was on and I loved it but I didn't want to hear it. And because I was carrying this heavy secret and I was sure that if these girls knew they'd never turn the music on when I was around.)

Then came the shloshim. With incredible bravery, I got up to speak in front of the entire seminary. I got sick that day and took off from class because I was so nervous, but I did it. I had to tell my roommates the night before-one who knew about it and one who was in total shock. We talked for a long time and comforted each other. 

Throughout the year, my one close friend who was in my seminary was there for me when I needed. While the rest of the girls were complaining about how they missed their families, I was on a whole different plane. I missed my brother! I knew I wasn't seeing him again. My family? Of course, one never knows what will be, but I knew that when I get home at the end of the year, I'll get to see my family, alive and well. I didn't miss them with the same intensity as I missed my brother-who was in the olam ha'emes, who was in my thoughts and my heart...but nowhere else. Who I only remembered as someone who was. Who I could only talk about in the past tense...

When I saw my roommate for the first time in over seven years, when I gave her a hug and we connected so instantly, I was hit with a powerful feeling. It didn't shake me until later that night, but I realized how a person-to-person friendship is so much more meaningful. And so much more real. It's nice to talk on the phone and it's nice to text and chat and email...and even to think about someone in your thoughts...but when you see someone, when you can give them a hug, look into their eyes, hold their hand and squeeze it tight, you have something deeper. You have a real relationship.

And although I had not seen her in so many years, the moment we saw each other, we connected. The bond was still there. The soul connection was there. Her warmth and sweetness was there. She was still the same...inside.

And I know that when techiyas hameisim will happen (although I do not know when that will be...), when I see my brother once again, I will feel that same strong bond. The connection of siblings that is so strong. We won't have to talk that much. We'll just look at each other and I'll see his smiling face. I will feel his warmth. I will look into his eyes and we will connect. 

It's a connection that never goes away. And although I can't text or chat, email or call him, he is in my heart and in my thoughts. We are still so very close...even though he seems so far away.

It's the day of his yartzeit that reminds me how much I miss him. It's this day that serves as a reminder to how temporary life is. How we must take advantage of our time here and appreciate those closest to us while they are still alive. Our children, our parents, our grandparents, our spouses, our friends. No one wants to look back one day and say how I wish I would have...Now's the time! You still can...connect, reach out, make up, open up, share, inspire, live and love.

And while I daven for the day when we will be reunited, I take the time to reflect on the messages of the day. On how this day inspires me to look at myself in a clearer mirror so I can work on myself to become better and stronger. 

May the neshama of Shalom a"h ben Chaim Nosson whose 9th yartzeit is tomorrow, Wednesday, yud zayin av, have an aliya.

Shalom, I know you are looking from your special place on high and are so proud of your nephews who carry on your name. I know how much you would have loved to spend time with all of them and I daven that my Shalom Baruch, who never got to meet you, carry on your legacy and be as special as you. He is already hearing stories about you...and I hope and pray that one day it wont be just stories...that we will all be reunited together...and he will say...this is the Shalom you always tell me about!

To read about Shalom a"h and the story, click here, here and here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I posted this last year and wanted to share the message with you once again.

There are some contradictions in the halachos of Tisha B'av that make one wonder about the nature of the day. On one hand, we act like mourners, sit on low chairs, do not wear leather shoes and do not greet one another with a friendly "hello". On the other hand, Tisha B'av is called a Mo'ed, a yom tov-not only because it will be a yom tov when moshiach comes, but because now it can be viewed as a festival. This is why men do not say tachanun-a tefillah that is not recited on yomim tovim and other days of celebration.

How can Tisha B'av be viewed as a festival? Where is the joy in this sad day? And what can we take from the intense mourning of this day...that will bring us some measure of comfort?

The Chasam Sofer explains something interesting about the fact that we still mourn for the Beis Hamikdosh so many years after it was destroyed. There have been many nations in the history of the world who have gone through loss and destruction, yet none of them mourn; they have all been forgotten with the passage of time. Egypt, Spain, Rome-each nation had their high point and then fell. But we, the Jewish People, not only are we still around, but we still cry over our loss, so many years later. 


Our chachamim tell us that there is a gezeirah, a decree from Hashem, that the memory of one who died will fade as time goes on. It is possible for someone who experienced the loss of the death of a loved one to be consoled, to move on and even...even to forget. But because of this same gezeira, if someone mourns someone who they think is dead but really is alive, they will never be able to be consoled. No words, no stories, no inspiration...even the passage of time will ever comfort them. They will not be able to overcome this grief.

In the same way, other nations who have lost their power and greatness, who lost their country, who are no longer a People, can be consoled; they can overcome their loss...because their loss is final, it is complete. There is no hope for them. They will never be able to go back to their previous glory. The status they once held is considered "dead" and they become forgotten as time goes on.

However, the Jewish People can never be consoled over the loss of the Beis Hamikdosh. 

As it says in Megillas Eichahein la menachem-they have no one to comfort them. I always saw this as something so sad...for a different reason. When my family sat shiva for my brother, the stream of people coming to comfort us didn't stop. So many people came to try to offer words of consolation and to be there for us, with us in our pain. But when the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed, there was no one to comfort the Jews-for they were all in the same boat. They were all hurting. They were all experiencing famine, death and loss. Who could offer words of comfort in such a setting? No one. They were all in it together.

But that's not what the Chasam Sofer is saying. He takes a whole different spin on that phrase. Why can we not be comforted over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh? 


Because it is not a permanent destruction. It is not a permanent loss. No matter how much time passes, our hearts still ache, our souls still yearn to return...because we will return. We cannot forget the pain...because it is not a permanent "death", it is but a temporary loss.

As it says in the first passuk in Eichahha'ir rabasi am, haysah k'almanah-the city that was great with people has become like a widow. And Rashi says, she is like a widow...but she is not really a widow. She is like a woman whose husband went to a foreign city with the intention of returning to her.

The very fact that we are still crying on Tisha B'av, that we still mourn the loss of the Beis Hamikdosh, that we still long for and hope to return to Yerushalayim, is in itself the greatest source of consolation. The greatest nechama.

This is the reason why Tisha B'av is referred to as a mo'ed, a yom tov, and why those tefillos that are not recited on festivals are omitted on this day. We can feel comforted and yes, even rejoice inside while we mourn...for we know that it is specifically because we are still mourning that we know we will once again return...return to our Father, return to our Land and return to the former glory we as a nation once had.

This shabbos, Shabbos Nachamu, is a time when we can find comfort in the fact that we are still here. We spent Tisha B'av in a mode of longing and yearning, as we (hopefully) cried, wished and hoped for the geula. Although we are still waiting for that day to come, we can be comforted by the fact that it will come...that we have never forgotten...and that our Nation is still alive.

May we be zoche to experience the true nechama and live to see the day come when Kol Hamisabel Al Yerushalayim...all those who mourn over the rebuilding of Yerushalayim...will actually see and experience the joy when the Beis Hamikdosh will finally be rebuilt!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Cry

I look up at 
The deep blue sky
And slowly
Form in my eyes
And I 
Begin to cry


Why do I cry?

I cry because

When I am in pain
When I am hurting
I know how to cry
It's almost...easy
The tears just come

When I am overwhelmed life struggles challenges difficulties
I know how to cry
Those tears
Spring forth from my eyes

So why?

Is it so hard to cry?
When the month of Av
Comes around
And I should be thinking
Hashem's pain
Hashem's loss
Our pain
Our loss
A house that once was
A nation that once was
The glory that once was
A relationship that once was


Why can't I cry?
Why don't I feel the pain
Why is it
So hard to feel
To make it real
To me?

When I'm having it hard

When someone hurts me
Those tears flow
So freely

When I'm simply taken over

By so many little things
And sometimes
Sometimes bigger things

I can cry

But...Hashem's pain?!

The thought of the kosel
The thought of the shechina in galus
The thought of all that we are missing?
Why doesn't that make me cry?
As simply
As effortlessly
As easily
As my own pain?
As my own life?


I lift my eyes
Up to Your skies
I think about
Close to me
That hurt me
That touch me
That inspire me
To cry

And I realize...

They are all connected.

It may be easier

For me
To shed tears
Over personal losses
Over personal hurts
Over personal frustrations personal life

And I see

I understand
That it all comes from
The same place

A place of emotion

A place of longing
Of yearning
And of hoping

So...although I may not

Be able to cry
Shed real tears
Over bigger losses
Bigger pain
Deeper losses
Deeper pain
I know...
That inside
My heart is crying

And Hashem

Who is bochain libos u'chelayos
Who knows
Who sees
And Who understands
The inner workings
The inner chambers
Of my heart

He knows

He sees
And He understands

The inner sigh

The inner cry


Real tears.

I lift up my eyes

Look up at the shimmering blue sky
Without real tears
But I cry inside 
And Hashem
I cry.

May we reach the day of u'macha Hashem dim'ah mei'al kol panim. Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2014


With the weeks and then days leading up to my brother's 9th yartzeit, there are times I am easily triggered. 

It doesn't take that much. It can be a thought, a conversation, a memory...and I am brought back. I think about my brother and I miss him. 

I know this was meant to be and I accepted this as Hashem's will, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt sometimes.

I think about what it would be like if he would be alive today. Would he be married? Would he have kids? Would we still be as close as we were when he was alive? What kind of things would I share with him? Would our relationship be more superficial? Would we chat about our daily schedule? The kids? Or would we talk about real things?

And I can only imagine...

I think back to the last time I saw Shalom and I can't help but cry. I remember saying goodbye to him on Visiting Day, not knowing that this would be the last time I would see him. The last time in my life. How I wish I could just have another few minutes with him, say a real, proper goodbye, a goodbye I would have said with an all encompassing embrace...had I known.

But I didn't know. 

I wasn't meant to know.

I snap back to reality. 

Life goes on. 

I'm in an elevator. I hear two young mothers talking about what it's like to have their kids in camp. 

"My sister says having her sons in camp is like a full-time job. All day she's busy sending packages with this one and finding rides with that one... And when the girls are in another camp on the other side of the mountains, oh boy does it get tough!"

And I want to scream. 

But of course, I don't say a word.

I walk out of the elevator and my heart is screaming.

Do you realize how lucky you are to have kids in camp?? Do you realize how lucky you are to be able to send packages to them and yes, to be busy with that? 

And I think back to the last summer of my brother's life. When for the first time since any of us kids went to camp, my mother sent packages to Shalom. In the beginning of each week, she would go to the grocery and buy nosh and treats. I always told her to buy the Softbite cookies because I knew those were his favorite. (We could eat them together so quickly-we'd finish half the package on erev shabbos after we had pizza for lunch and the rest would be gone by shabbos afternoon!) When the box was full, my mother would take it next door to my grandmother's office and she'd ship it to him in camp.

And when he got his package, he didn't keep it all to himself. He generously shared it with his friends. And when Shalom picked up on the cues from a friend that he needed certain staples for a staple gun so he could fix something, he asked me to send it in his next package. No details as to why...but I sent it to him...and he gave it to the surprised boy-who never asked for them in the first place! He had just mentioned in passing that he needed those staples and next thing he knew, he had them in his hands a couple of days later!

I think back to those packages...and I am comforted. I remember spending so much time making a collage of the pictures of my nieces and nephews, fitting them all in onto just two pages, printing them out on colored paper and sending them to Shalom. I know that I did mine. I know how happy he was to see those pictures...because he loved each niece and nephew with all his heart. He loved to play with them when they came over. He loved little babies. He loved kids. And he loved having those pictures...the last he got to see of them. It feels good to know that I was the one who sent him those one of those weekly packages my mother sent him during his last summer in camp.

It's those little things that can trigger so much inside of me. 

Snippets of a conversation between two mothers and look...look what it brought back for me.

I think about our Beis Hamikdosh...I think about my own personal loss...and I am sad. 

Where are our triggers?

We have no triggers.

We have no memories.

Just stories.

We are so far away.

So, so far away.

We have to force ourselves to feel. To make the churban seem real to us.

It has been so many years.

Too many years.

There is nothing that can bring on memories of that awesome time. We didn't live to see the avodah in the Bais Hamikdosh, the Levi'im singing shira, the smoke of the Korban Tamid. We never experienced a Yom Kippur, watching the red string turn white, coming out of that incredible day with the knowledge that our sins were forgiven.

We didn't experience life with the glory of Hashem's presence felt in Yerushalayim.

We didn't live to feel the churban.

The devastation. 

The deaths and the losses.

We are so far away from it all.

But we have our own losses. 

Our own personal challenges that help us feel that we are in galus.

So although we can't be triggered and we aren't close enough to the time of the Beis Hamikdosh to feel real pain over what happened so many years ago, we still have this one day a year where we can try. 

We can try to go back...try to dig deep inside ourselves and see...what touches us. 

What makes us cry. 

What are we sad about?

What do we want to change?

And remember that we are in galus.

We need to daven to Hashem...for change.

For redemption. 

For the ultimate Yeshuah.

May the day come when we have no memories of galus...when galus is such a foreign concept that nothing can trigger a thought about what the time away from the Shechina, away from the Kedusha was all about!

Have an easy and meaningful Tisha B'av.