Sunday, January 9, 2022

Life is a Choose Your Own Adventure

Lo and behold my kids have discovered the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series - and they are loving it. About a day into reading the one book we own (yes, I'll get more), my 9 year old son says, "Hey! Life is like a choose your own adventure!" I was just blown away by that epiphany. He is totally correct.

However, in the books it is very clear when you have to make a decision. At the bottom of the page it gives you your choices.

"If you decide to run for it through the back door of the house, turn to page 40.

If you decide to wait where you are and prepare to defend yourselves, turn to page 30."

Funny enough, life never clearly points out those important "choice" moments.

A car just cut you off in traffic, leaving you at a red light. Should you-

a. Run the red light, so you can catch the perpetrator and give him a piece of your mind.

b. Stop at the red light, breathe deeply and carry on with your trip.

c. Stop at the red light, and give the jerk a piece of your mind anyway.

d. Be aware of your children in the backseat who will hear your rants about lousy bleeping drivers.

Every choice we make, whether big or small fills in the puzzle pieces that make us human beings. The trick is to be aware of those "choice" moments - and choose correctly as best we can. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler talks about these choice points, that real free will happens when there is a conflict in how we would approach a choice. 

For example - I don't have issues with murder. Do I have free will in that topic, no, because that's really not an issue for me. I do, however, have issues with losing my temper. That is a very real issue for me. So when one of my kids spills the entire jug of milk on the floor when trying to pour themselves a glass of milk - this will hit my "choice" moment. Do I freak out at the kid who really feels bad enough or keep my calm and clean it up? If I keep my calm, then I conquered that choice and established a precedent for next time (don't worry, there will be a next time) - and my "choice" moment moves forward. The idea is to keep growing and creating a better You.

Judaism is about using the Mitzvot to create a better You, a better You who will create a world that G-d wants to be a part of. 

Let's recognize our choices in our own personal Choose Your Own Adventure book of life and see how we can move our "choice" moments forward.

Have a great week!


Sunday, January 2, 2022

YouTube Channel to Follow - BAYT

Welcome to 2022!

It's important to start the new year with Torah! I found a fantastic rabbi to follow on YouTube. His name is Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, he is head rabbi of the BAYT, a large synagogue in Thornhill (north of Toronto), Ontario. He gives his take on the parsha and posts it on YouTube.

Here is the link to the BAYT YouTube page. I sincerely hope you subscribe to it. I have been thoroughly enjoying his takes on the parshas found in Breisheet/Genesis and Shemot/Exodus so far. Posted above is this past week's parsha of Va'era found in the Book of Shemot.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!


Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy 5th Birthday!

It's truly incredible how fast time flies. Today we celebrated my 5 year old son's birthday. It was an incredible day, mostly because of my oldest, 11 year old daughter. She happened to be home this week, attending her classes on zoom. She really cares about her brothers and tries to make their birthdays special. Today was no different. She decorated a blank t-shirt for him as well as baked a cake in the shape of his favorite Numberblock character (it's a fantastic math show). She was incredible. I didn't mind her taking off class today, she made her brother so happy, doing fun things with him all day - especially since he's been home sick all week.

Aside from the creativity she showed - what I saw was my oldest, growing up - and doing something that unfortunately many adults cannot do... celebrating without jealousy with another person. She focused herself completely on the task of making her little brother happy, doing things he wanted to do - and she was incredibly successful. He had a wonderful day, and I am so grateful.

There are at least two lessons to be learned here. First, I think is that empathy is something that must be taught if a child isn't naturally inclined to be empathetic. It's not simple. My daughter comes to it naturally, but it needs to be nurtured in every child. Second, to enjoy without jealousy someone else's life successes, life events, career successes - anything positive going on in someone else's life. I think that many times, it's easy to say - how come that amazing thing happened for them, but not for me? That may be a natural response in some ways, but we have to remember that we aren't in charge, and that perhaps what G-d gave to another person isn't appropriate for us, and that we don't generally have the bigger picture available to us. Also not simple.

So heading into the new year, while I'm not a fan of resolutions - I will try my best to be genuinely happy for my family and friends who are successful in whatever they are doing. Even small gestures mean a lot. A small chocolate bar with a drawn heart - goes a long way in showing your encouragement and happiness for them.

I wish you all a year ahead full of good health and happiness.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Tishrei, Cheshvan and Lech Lecha

Wow! Welcome back! 

It has been an intense time this past month. Tishrei, the month with a zillion holidays (okay, not a zillion - but it felt like every other day was a holiday - yeah, okay that's true). We reconnected with Gd and family over Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah we finished our yearly reading of the Torah and started anew.

We're now in Cheshvan. The month after Tishrei. No holidays to celebrate. Some of us are breathing easier because we aren't making 20+ full blown meals in one month. Lol. Personally, I enjoyed the holidays, but it was definitely a marathon of cooking.

What occurred to me after finishing the month of intense connection and walking into a month of "nothing" - reminded me of something my child's speech language therapist with my child. She did intensive work with him for a few months, then gave him a month to let the work he did with her 'gel' and work on it on his own.

Elul (the month before Tishrei) and Tishrei are intense. We spend much time apologizing to friends and family for possible mistakes and how we may have mistreated them. We think about our connection to Gd and how we want to improve for the coming year. And now we're in the time of Cheshvan - the month without holidays. This is the time we want to take the work we did back in Elul and Tishrei and let it 'gel' - revisit our goals for the coming year. 

This week's parsha is Lech Lecha. The parsha where Gd tells Avram to 'go for himself' - to set out to the Land that He will show him. Where are we going? What goals have we set for ourselves? Start small - every step we take counts. No matter how small a step it is - it creates stamina for the next step we take.

Have a great Shabbos everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Can't Make it to Services? Watching Children on Yom Kippur

I wrote this back in 2016 and it is relevant every year. If you're a mother or father that cannot go to synagogue because you're watching your kids at home - this is for you. It's written for mothers, but is relevant to anyone who is home watching their children. Click HERE!

Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful fast. Gmar Chatima Tova!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Yom Kippur Video Message: Let's Discuss

This is a short (under 5 minute) video on the meaning of Yom Kippur. Truthfully, I never had thought about it this way. Watch and leave a comment on what you think. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Your Choices Matter

G-d says in the Torah, (to paraphrase): I’m putting life and death in front of you- choose life!
Life is full of choices- from the moment we wake up to the moment we get into bed. Each choice is significant. What do we do with our choices... are these life affirming choices, like giving of our time/money to others, dropping a can of corn into the food donation box, being truthful in our speech or simply offering a smile to a stranger? Or are these choices that lead nowhere... consciously ignoring those who we can actively help?
If you scan the news headlines for just a short moment, it is clear that there is pain and need everywhere. The Oral Law in Pirkei Avot says (paraphrasing): You are not obligated to complete the work but you cannot desist from it... you cannot NOT get started even if you know you cannot finish it. There are no excuses.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov had a famous saying, “Know that a person needs to cross a very very narrow bridge, and what is essential is not to be afraid. One should not be afraid at all.”
Like a narrow bridge the world is a scary place at times and as on a narrow bridge it is easy to become frozen with fear, unable to move. The same may happen in our own lives, unable to move and make choices. Rabbi Nachman is saying that the main thing is not to be afraid- to go ahead and make those life affirming choices because G-d/Hashem is with you.
When you follow Hashem’s guide to Life, the Torah, there should be no fear- only joy. Joy/Simcha comes from knowing you’ve done the right thing, that there are no doubts in your actions. When Hashem says - choose Life! - and you make choices and take action in life affirming ways, you should feel joy/Simcha in those choices and actions.
As we approach Yom Kippur, we should take a moment to consider our approach to life. Hopefully we can say that this coming year will be full of true Simcha for all the Jewish People and the world. We need not be afraid, because Hashem loves us and is with us always.
Gmar Chatima Tova, wishing that everyone be written and sealed in the Book of Life ❤️ May you be blessed with ALL that you need in your life.