Category Archives: Finding hope

If My Siddur Could Talk

It was the night before my chasunah. I can still feel the mixture of fear and excitement that I was experiencing. When a small box was delivered to my house with a card, I tenderly opened it up, and there inside lay a beautiful leather siddur engraved with my new name. I held it. I looked at it. I smelled it. I opened it – and I knew I would treasure it forever.

It is now sixteen years later.  The siddur is torn, the binding separated from the cover. The thumb grips are tattered. And some pages are torn in half. I can’t use this siddur anymore. I realized my davening was compromised as I searched for the missing pages or concentrated on making sure that no loose pages fell to the floor. This siddur has been through a lot with me. But now it is time to put it away, high up on a shelf where it is safe, in a place that can’t be reached.

But I wonder – If my siddur could talk, what would it say?  If we took a trip together down memory lane, what would its memories be?  I suppose it would go back sixteen years ago to the day of my wedding. I was eager with anticipation. A whole new life beckoned to me, a life I was about to embark upon. It was hard to visualize my future as I held tightly onto my siddur, and I davened. I davened that life with my new husband should be as glorious as I was imagining it to be.  I davened that we should be zoche to a bayis ne’eman where there would be berachah in abundance.

And so began our journey together. Through ups and downs my siddur was with me. When I was full of gratitude for a healthy baby, I thanked Hashem from my siddur. When my husband left yeshivah, and I felt apprehensive, I took my siddur and asked Hashem to guide us. When I felt tired and overworked, my siddur reminded me that I can ask Hashem for physical strength.

As I watched my two young children play together, I grabbed my siddur and exploded with praise to Hashem for these gifts. And when I gave birth to a set of healthy twins, my siddur helped me remember that it was all due to Hashem’s kindness.

It was my siddur that I cried into when my sister was diagnosed. And I continued to cry into it when my mother was diagnosed. It was my siddur that I turned to as we anxiously awaited results. And it was my siddur that carried me through the difficult days of shivah for my father. As the roller coaster ride got bumpier and bumpier, I held on tightly to my siddur.

It was with pride that I davened on the day my oldest started learning Mishnayos and later Gemara. And it was with pride that I davened as each one of my children continued to reach milestones.

It was my siddur that was there for me as I sat in the hospital room watching my sister die. And it was that siddur that I cried into, joy mingling with pain, as my newborn daughter was named after my sister.

I held on tightly to my siddur as I begged Hashem to give my mother a refuah sheleimah. I cried into my siddur as I heard the doctor’s hopeless report. And I continued to cry into it as I sat shivah for her.

I grabbed my siddur as my bar-mitzvah bochurim made me proud. And I continued holding onto it as we navigated the road of mesivtas.

My siddur gave me strength when I felt sad and alone. My siddur reminded me of all the blessings Hashem has showered upon me. My siddur watched me grow from a young innocent girl whose world was full of excitement and expectation into a mature woman.

My tears of pain have ripped the pages. And my tears have gratitude have torn the binding. I kiss my siddur and put it high up on a shelf out of reach.

Today I got a new siddur. It isn’t leather, and my name is not engraved upon it. It’s not wrapped up, and it didn’t come with a card. But I hold it filled with hope and anticipation. The future continues to beckon to me. I know there will be ups. I know there will be downs. But I know that my siddur can always help me find expression for both the good times and the sad times.

We are about to embark on a journey together. If my siddur could talk, I wonder what it would say.

Beach Lessons

A few summers ago a friend called me up with what I thought was a preposterous idea. She wanted me to take a morning off and go with her to the beach. My morning schedule rose before my eyes. After the kids are off I need to clean up the bedrooms, clear up from breakfast, wash laundry, take care of some bills and phone calls, run a few errands, start preparing supper, etc.

For me it simply made no sense. There was no way I could just take a morning off. And then I stopped myself and thought it over. I work hard. Each day is a full day, centered on my family and their needs. Isn’t it okay to take some time for myself?

Suddenly I had visions of a beautiful sunny sky. Sparkling blue water and waves crashing at the shore. And I would be there by myself. At a private beach. With just myself and my friend.  No children going too far out, no toddler moaning because of an overturned sand castle and no baby crying for his bottle. This would be a vacation for me. A onetime, three-hour vacation. I decided to go for it.

And so the next morning I waved a cheery goodbye to my older children, dropped off the younger ones, and then I was ready for my well-deserved break. I quickly threw together my bathing cap, towel and water bottle, and we were off.

I felt like a young child as we parked the car and ran into the sand. It felt delicious to have the warm sand between our toes. We laughed and giggled as we came closer to the water. And like carefree children we shrieked in delight as we jumped into the crashing waves.

At first I felt a little intimidated by those large waves and hung back closer to the shore. I watched and admired my friend’s fearlessness as she gracefully jumped into each wave. Determined to make the most of my well-deserved break, I caught up to her and commented on her bravery for jumping into these large roaring waves. She laughingly replied that there is no need to fear; you just have to decide if you will let the wave ride you or if you will ride the wave. And then she jumped right into the oncoming wave.

For me the light moment suddenly took a more serious turn. How right she was. But not just about the waves in the ocean – also about the waves in our lives. We all have those bad days, those difficult moments and painful revelations.  It is so easy to sink into self-pity; it’s so easy to moan and groan about life’s unfairness. But it’s at such moments that we have to take an honest look at ourselves and ask, “What does Hashem want from me now?” It is at moments like these that we must draw strength from our realization that everything is from Hashem. If we trust in Him and do what we know He wants us to do, then we are not letting life’s waves ride us, but rather, we are riding the waves.

In between bobbing in and out of the waves I shared this thought with my friend. Before she could respond she went back down and under that strong, strong surf, only to resurface a moment later.

When she came up again, she laughingly said, “You see? At times you think you are going under, but you always come right back up.”

How true! Don’t we all feel like we are drowning sometimes? Aren’t we all familiar with that feeling of suffocation when painful waves of challenge overcome us? But as believing Jews, we are resilient. As long as we look inward, we are riding the waves, and we will come back up.

We continued frolicking in the ocean a little longer. We then came out and lay under the sun’s warm rays. We were peacefully relaxing as the seagulls flew around us, and once again I thought of Hashem’s strength. Only nine months before, Hurricane Sandy had rolled in, and these waves had turned ferocious, destroying almost everything in their path. Today the beach was a safe place to be. Today the sun was shining and beautiful. But Hashem could have just as easily made the weather cloudy and rainy, keeping us indoors. It really is true. We need to draw strength from Him because He can make anything happen. He can change difficult situations instantly.

We got home, and I went straight back to the mundane. But I felt light and invigorated. This vacation had done me good – in more ways than one.

When the Wind Blows

We all go through challenging times. It is usually during these times that we start seeking out Hashem in a more intense way.  Here are some thoughts I had a while back when there was a lot going on in my life.

I was walking outside with my daughter who was a toddler. She was running ahead and giggling. Suddenly there came a strong gust of wind. She fearfully ran to me and held out her hands. I picked her up, and she wrapped her hands and feet tightly around me. When the next gust came she buried her head in my shoulder. The wind continued, but to her it no longer mattered. My daughter’s world was safe. She was protected by her mother.

This started me wondering. I know that as much as I love my child, Hashem loves me more. But many times the winds of challenge have blown through my life. Whom can I wrap myself around? And if the challenges grow stronger, into whom can I bury my head? Shouldn’t it be Hashem?

My daughter likes to stand on the third to bottom step of our staircase. She throws herself down into my outstretched arms. She isn’t fearful that I might miss. She has enough confidence in my love for her to know that I will catch her. I would never let her fall.

And so I realized Hashem is here for me. His arms are outstretched. He isn’t letting me fall. He is constantly catching me. But it is up to me to realize it.

I came into the parking lot. I was in a rush. I was hoping to find a spot in this overly crowded lot. I had a choice to turn left or right. For some reason I chose the right. Just as I was reaching the end of the lot, the last car in the section pulled out. I felt as if Hashem was saving this spot just for me.

I went to the grocery store early in the day. I bought some frozen food to make for supper that night. I had the store deliver my order to me. Usually it comes quickly. On this day they were backlogged. My children were coming home from school, and they always come home starving. My order hadn’t arrived, and I was stuck. I turned to Hashem and said, “Hashem I need my delivery to feed my hungry children after a long day of school.” Right then there was a knock on the door. My children’s supper had arrived. Hashem was listening to my requests.

On a typical day while driving around town, I was stopped by the police. Unbeknownst to me, my registration had expired. They insisted on towing my car. An ehrliche man who just happened to be in the area at the time was watching all the proceedings. He came over to me and offered to drive me home. Hashem didn’t leave me stranded.

I was nervous about an unexpected expense that came up. I wasn’t sure how to pay for it, and yet I knew it was something that could not be ignored. Feeling very frazzled, I went to bring in my mail. That day we received a check from the insurance that was completely unexpected.

 

I won’t ever know for sure why the winds of challenge have to blow through my life. But I do have to know that I can wrap myself around Hashem and bury my head into him. He is here to catch me. If my eyes are open to it I will find Hashem in my life all day, every day.

My daughter (and all my children) can continue to run to me for protection. Whether it’s the wind and rain or anything else that scares her, I will pick her up and make her feel safe. And I will know that just as I am taking care of my precious little girl, Hashem is taking of me.