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.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Assembling Our School Supply List in Time for Rosh HaShana

It was so interesting watching as the kids started assembling their books and supplies for school this past week. There was a lot of time spent matching their supplies with the official list sent out by the school. What's kind of funny is how detailed the lists really are, everything from the length of the ruler to the color of the folders, and if the folders need pockets, brand of pencil, how many pencils, brand and number of erasers, how many binders, what colors the binders need to be, and of course don't forget the markers, colored pencils (and brand) and clear tape. The lists go on and on. It's quite a project.

Why do the kids need such specific details regarding school supplies? Isn't any colored pencil "good enough"? Or does it matter if a child has a blue folder with pockets or a pink folder without pockets? Truth is that it actually does matter.

The school supplies are the children's tools to be successful in school. Each of these supplies is a 'tool' for a certain task at school. When the teacher assigns the blue folder with the pockets to be the folder for social studies and starts handing out photocopies of the material to be kept in that specific folder - the child had better have a blue folder with pockets... the pink one without pockets won't cut it. 

What's fascinating though is applying it to the mitzvot, the Commandments that G-d gave to the Jewish People. There's certainly a feeling sometimes that the mitzvot are too detailed, too involved and why can't I make due with "good enough".  And the answer is no - it's not "good enough".

The mitzvot are our tools to be successful in our relationship with G-d/HaShem. Just as each school supply has it's task to fulfill, each mitzvah we tackle brings us closer to being successful in creating a world that HaShem wants to dwell in. We are partners with G-d in making a better world. Sometimes it's obvious what needs to be done to make things better - and sometimes it's not so clear. Rather than assume that "any" colored pencil will do the job, perhaps an understanding of why the brand chosen is important. For example, I just found out this summer that some colored pencils sharpen better than others - it's important to know this because when you sharpen this particular brand, it continually breaks and it's quite frustrating.

While sometimes we think we know what has to be done to make this world a G-dly one, it is a good idea to check the "official school list" i.e. The Torah and find out what G-d actually thinks are things we should do and not only rely on our own "good enough" list. Even when we don't understand why one brand is chosen over another, we trust that the teacher knows why we are required to buy that brand. In the same vein, we need to trust that HaShem knows why these mitzvot are detailed and need to be done in a certain way to be successful.

Rosh HaShana gives us an opportunity to get our own supplies in order. We need to take the time to "match up" where we are at with the "official" list. What are our strengths and weaknesses? What small steps can we take to improve our relationships with our family and friends? What small mitzvah can we take on to improve ourselves and create a G-dly world?

Like assembling our school lists, we will always be missing something on the list. We are human beings, susceptible to failure, but also capable of amazing things. 

It's time to get excited. The first day of the New Year is coming. G-d willing, it'll be a great year.

I want to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Successful year ahead, full of clarity and blessing.

Shana Tova.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Allowing Others to Exist

The main idea to focus on during Rosh HaShana is that we are crowning G-d/HaShem as our King. What does that actually mean? The mitzvah of hearing the shofar blown is recognizing the "coronation" of our King. But still, what does that mean?

During Creation of the world, G-d in a sense pulled Himself back to allow us and our physical world to exist. (For more information on this concept, click here). While we know that we are supposed to emulate G-d in character traits - for example: slow to anger, helping those in need - we can also follow HaShem's lead in how to deal with other people. 

Many times, especially in our social media age, we cannot allow others to exist - they have opinions we don't agree with, or we don't agree with their world view. We un-'friend' them. We pretend they do not exist, and in our social media world, with a click of a button, they don't exist. Even in the real world, friends and family have even been cut off - and their opinions and thoughts no longer need to 'offend' our sensibilities. Their existence no longer concerns us. 

During Creation, HaShem pulled Himself back to allow us to exist. That is a lesson to us all. It's a basis for our whole physical existence. We have to learn from G-d's example. We need to recognize that we are not the center of the universe, that our opinions and thoughts are not the last word. Perhaps it's okay to be challenged by others, to be someone who learns from everyone we meet, as Pirkei Avos says. We can pull our egos back and allow others to exist.

This Rosh HaShana, let's hear the blowing of the shofar and let that sound enter our hearts. Together we will coronate HaShem as our King instead of our egos.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Being Content is Dangerous... Let's Discuss!

Instead of a book club where we can discuss what we are reading, I am going to pick short videos (about 5 minutes) of different fascinating people who are bringing their brilliance to us. Please watch and comment below what you think. Whether you agree or disagree, I am sure you will enjoy the speakers.

Here is Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski speaking, "Being Content is Dangerous".

Sunday, August 8, 2021

I'm Back! Cue the Happy Dance!!!

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul! Just the right time to get back online. Unbelievably, we are a month away from Rosh HaShanah. I'm not ready, are you?

Here are a few posts to get you in the mood.

My 30 Days of Changing a Bad Habit and Doing Kindness

Aish HaTorah's Elul Inspiration Page

Chabad's Month of Elul: Stocktaking and Introspection

Also - feel free to wander about A Jewish Minute's past articles. I've been busy the last couple years with life and haven't had time to update properly. Hopefully, I'll be able to rectify that.

I'm thinking about leaving shorter pieces on A Jewish Minute's Facebook page, while posting longer articles here. 

Any suggestions or questions? Free free to contact me.

Chodesh Tov!!!