Monday, December 22, 2014

She's a Gift

It's the seventh night of Chanukah.

Four years ago, on this day, I gave birth to a delicious little girl. We named her Chaya Gitty and she already personifies her name. Full of life and full of goodness, I sometimes wonder if she can be too good. But then I see her acting like a regular, normal, healthy little girl, doing things girls her age should do and I smile inside. She is a gift.

Every child is a gift. It sometimes passes us by and we are too busy to take the time to notice it, but on this day I take a few minutes to think and to be grateful. Grateful to Hashem for giving us such a precious little girl who lights up our home with so much sunshine and joy.

The cute things this little girl says, the way she shares and plays, the amount she absorbs and understands, the purity and innocence of her young heart, every bit of it is something to be grateful for.

And she's so happy. So simply happy. What does it take to make a little girl excited? A new doll. And not a huge 18 inch American Girl Doll (even though she'd be thrilled til the sky to have one of those!), just a teeny little Polly Pocket or a small six inch doll. She doesn't expect much and she's happy with the little things she gets.

What do we expect? 

What happens when things don't turn out the way we anticipated?

Do we pull through, coming out stronger? Or do we succumb because it's just too hard and our dreams have been shattered?

We all have dreams. 

We plan our lives the way we expect them to turn out.

And sometimes, sometimes life just doesn't follow that script. The imaginary life we thought we'd live...with all the hopes and dreams packed into one little fairy tale...turns out to be so much more challenging...yet so much more real.

It's a chance for us to become more real. To discover our essence. To appreciate our strengths and work through our weaknesses so we can become a different person. Stronger, better, more connected...and more whole.

It's okay to wish, to dream...and even to expect to some degree.

But we have to know that Hashem has a better plan. 

Even if it doesn't seem all that wonderful in the moment. 

He has a reason, there is a purpose, and one day, we may even get a glimpse, a little peek, a little bit of understanding. 

It takes work to accept, to let go of the dreams and to create a new reality with the life and challenges we have been given.

But at the end, we will feel happy inside.

To my sweet and precious little girl, I continue to daven and hope that your life continue to be this happy. That you keep that innocence and purity with you for a long time. That you keep being that good little girl, with the right balance of giving and sharing but standing up for yourself when you need to. That the passion you have for doing mitzvos, davening and learning more never leave you...and that you follow on the right path with love every day of your life.

Hashem, I thank you for giving us such a wonderful gift. I can't imagine my family without my little Chaya Gitty in it. And on her birthday, as I take the time to reflect on how lucky I am to have her in our family, I ask you to please give me the strength to take care of her (and all of them), the ability to make the right decisions, and the knowledge I need to be mechanech all of my children to stay on this beautiful and special path we have started on. Let my home be infused with spirituality, positivity and happiness every single day.

Happy Birthday, CG! 

And Happy Chanukah to all!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why is Chanukah Eight Days?

Here is a compilation of answers to the famous question from the Bais Yosef. Why do we keep 8 days of חנוכה if the נס  was 7 days since there was enough oil to last for one day?

1.      The יונים ransacked the בהמ"ק many days in search of oil to make it טמא. Despite their strength and numbers, they overlooked one flask. A few weak, battle-weary Jews found it immediately. We celebrate the first day to commemorate the miraculous victory over the Greeks.
2.      It would take 8 days to get oil so the Jews divided the oil which contained enough for one night into 8 equal parts. They figured they would light one-eighth of the oil each of the next eight nights. Miraculously, on each of the eight nights, the oil lasted for the entire night.
3.      After they filled the menorah with oil on the first night, the jug remained full on all eight days.
4.      The oil in the cups never burned, the cup remained full the next morning.
5.      ברית מילה was not allowed and after the war they were allowed to do it openly so for the fact that after a baby boy is born we wait 8 days, we have 8 days of חנוכה.
6.      They needed thicker wicks but they used wicks 1/8th of the normal thickness so it would last for more days. It looked like it was very thick from far and brightened the whole ירושלים. So we light because the first day it was also a נס.
7.      They were not allowed to make a copy of the כלים in the בית המקדש so that’s why we make an 8 branch and not the 7 branch.  
8.      The משכן was completed on כ"ה כסלו  but it was only dedicated in ניסן. To make it up to חדש כסלו, ה' caused נס חנוכה  to occur in כסלו. The dedication of the משכן and the beginning of the עבודה lasted 8 days so we celebrate חנוכה for 8 days. The meaning of חנוכה is dedication- this eludes to this aspect of the celebration.
9.      The first day commemorates the dedication of the second בית המקדש –when it was built.
10.  It was a נס that they found a פך שמן טהור with the seal of the כהן גדול.
11.  The oil was enough for the first night but the מנורה must be lit by day too.
12.  They were forbidden to extinguish the fire on the morning of the first day in order to conserve oil yet the oil continued burning through the eighth evening-(זית רענן)
13.  The eighth day was celebrated out of doubt just like all ימים טובים outside of ארץ ישראל. (ברקי יוסף, תולדות יעקב ויוסף).
14.  They planned on using multiple wicks dipped in oil but the original wicks lasted all day.
15.  The candles didn’t burn out despite the wind outside. They lit the מנורה outdoors because the בהמ"ק was full of ע"ז.
16.  That year כסלו was short but nowadays its long (29 days versus 30 days). We still do the יו"ט from כ"ה כסלו  through ב' טבת even though it is now 8 days rather than only 7.
17.  The מצוה of lighting the מנורה comes right after the מצוה of keeping 8 days of סוכות (7 days+שמעיני עצרת) The חכמים took it as a hint that חנוכה should be 8 days too.
18.  The נס  is not in the quantity of the oil but  quality. That is burned 8 days slower than usual which also occurred on the first day.(ר' יוסף אנגעל)
19.  The oil was enough for lighting מנורה but not for relighting the western light in the morning as it was each day.(חמדת שלמה )
20.  They lit the מנורה before dark on the evening of כד' כסלו so the נס also applied to the end of the first day.
21.  We know that the oil was supposed to burn for one day and the miracle was that it burned for eight days. But, even the oil burning for one day isn’t “supposed” to happen. Everything that happens, even the things that seem like they happen naturally, daily are miracles.טבע  is really נס.
22.  The Zohar says: A bracha can only catch onto something that exists-like when we say Birchas Hamazon we have a piece of bread on the table so that the bracha could catch onto it. So on the first night, the oil burned the full amount of time but obviously, not all the oil was used because there had to be  oil for the next day for the bracha to catch onto So it’s a miracle that it burned the full amount of time but didn’t use all the oil.
23.  The Jews were impure from the battle. They had to use an earthenware menorah temporarily. Because it’s porous, one jar wasn’t enough for the whole day.
24.  That year, כה' כסלו was on Shabbos so they needed extra oil because they had to light the מנורה before Shabbos.
25.  They filled the מנורה, and the next day, it was still full.
26.  When they filled the מנורה, the oil stuck to the jug and so not enough was put in yet it still burned the whole night.
27.  Other Jews lit torches which did not burn out until the end of the 8 days.
28.  They poured a small amount of oil into the מנורה and it filled it all up.
29.  The מנורה needed 3 ½ לוגין of oil. The flask only had 3לוגין .
30.  So that the last day of חנוכה will be the same day that the miracle happened.
31.  Some say that the miracle was 8 days- not 7. (Sefer Pischei Olam)
32.  The flame was lit but no oil was being burnt.
33.  They used aמנורה  that was broken and could not contain a full day’s amount of oil but still, it miraculously burned for a whole day.
34.  They were such צדיקים that when they lit it with such excitement, it should have toppled over but it didn’t. Every day was a נס.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Yes, It's True!

By now, I think most (or all) of you have heard the very exciting news. But I can't let this go unpublished so I am finally sitting down to write the long awaited Mazel Tov post.

Yes, it's true! My older sister, Chaya Sara, is engaged!!

We davened, did every segulah in the book (literally!) and the time finally came.

So many thoughts come to my mind as I write this. I want to share some of them with you.

The simcha that this simcha has generated throughout our family and friends is unbelievable. The sheer joy, the excitement, the tears...the reaction of every person who found was surreal. I personally have never cried tears of happiness before in my life, but when I picked up my phone to answer that "Is it really true?" question from someone who is very close to Chaya Sara, I was brought to tears. To tears of joy. The person on the other side said, "Ohmygosh, Chaya Sara bas Charna Raizel, I just took challah and said her name last night!" It touched me so deeply. So many people have been davening and doing things as a zechus for her, so many people never gave up on my sister. So many people knew that this day would come. They didn't stop davening. They didn't stop hoping. And now we can all share in this wondrous simcha together. Yes, it is true!

I got that question more than once the day she got engaged. "Is it true? Is Chaya Sara really engaged?!" My phone didn't stop ringing, beeping and buzzing. I almost felt like the kallah myself! It was incredible to feel the joy that everyone else felt, to share the excitement everyone had for my sister.

This simcha teaches us on the most personal level how every single tefillah a person davens is stored by Hashem. No tefillah ever goes to waste. If Hashem doesn't answer a prayer now, He may save that prayer for later. But every single tear a person sheds, every request he makes, every single cry he utters...every prayer that escapes his saved by Hashem.

And the Torah proves this to us.

In Parshas Vayeira, before Hashem destroyed Sedom, the passuk says, "hamechaseh ani me'Avraham asher ani oseh? V'Avraham hayo yihiyeh legoy gadol"-Hashem asked, "Can I hide from Avraham the fact that I will destroy Sedom?" And Avraham will surely be a great nation.

What is the connection between these two pesukim?

The Dubno Maggid explains this with a mashal.

An old man walked into a suit store and before he purchased a suit, he had the salesman measure him to make sure the suit would fit him perfectly. Another young man walked into the same store and without trying on anything, selected a few suits that he was going to buy. The old man walked over to the young man and asked, "I don't understand. How could you buy so many suits without trying them on to make sure they would fit? Isn't this an incredible waste of money?"
The young man answered, "I am still young. I am still growing. Whatever doesn't fit me now will fit me later. And if it will not fit me later, in the future, it will be good for my children. So no, my money is not going to waste. All these suits will be put to good use."

Now, I don't suggest that todays teenagers go shopping like this young man. Perhaps he wasn't concerned about the changing styles and the suits he was purchasing. But the nimshal of this story is clear.

Hashem knew before He told Avraham that He was going to destroy Sedom that Avraham's first reaction would be---Tefillah, he would daven. Hashem also knew that the tefillos Avraham would daven would not be answered for Sedom would be destroyed. So did these tefillos go to waste? What happened to all the bakashos Avraham made? And if Hashem didn't answer him, what was the point in telling him that He was about to destroy Sedom?

We see from here that every single tefillah a person davens is treasured and saved by Hashem. No tefillah goes to waste. Ever. Avraham davened for Sedom to be saved and Hashem took those special tefillos and saved them for his children...for the times when WE would need them.

This is the connection between the two pesukim. Hashem said, I cannot hide from Avraham that I am about to destroy Sedom. Avraham will surely be a great nation and the tefillos he davened for Sedom will be saved for his children. Just like the young man in the mashal who bought a lot of suits knew his money would be put to good use...because although some of the clothing he bought might not fit him, they would be saved for his children, Hashem knew that the tefillos Avraham davened would be put to good use, they would be saved for his children...for us.

And in my family, we lived to see this come true. All the tefillos, all the tears, all the bakashos, all the zechusim, davening at kevorim, at the candles on Friday night, from a siddur or from our hearts...every single tefillah we davened for Chaya Sara to find her zivug was treasured and saved by Hashem...and our tefillah was finally answered.

Hashem, thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts for letting all of us see and experience this awesome day. May the tefillos we davened for Chaya Sara and her chosson continue to enable them to live a beautiful and happy life, filled with peace, love, connection and may they build a warm and loving family together.

Yes, it is true!

Mazel Tov!!