I hope that the recent holiday season, the chagim, were meaningful for you, as well as enjoyable. I had the pleasure and privilege of spending several weeks in Jerusalem, and found it meaningful indeed. Although it had been such a difficult, tumultuous summer in Israel, spirits were high and the holiday spirit prevailed.
‘V’samachta b’chagecha v’hayisa ach sameach..’ And you shall rejoice with your holiday (holy day) and you shall be happy. Many comment that this may be the most difficult commandment of all. How can one be happy when facing daunting circumstances? Is it really possible to simply don rose colored glasses and then automatically view life from a positive angle? How does this work?
Neuroscientists have shared with us results of intensive research, lauding the amazing elasticity of the brain. With repetition, repeating certain mantras, again and again, repeating certain actions, over and over, we can literally build new neural structures in our brains. So the response to our earlier question is a resounding ‘YES’. We can change our brains, our outlook, our perspective in life. Maybe not automatically, but over time, yes, indeed.
When experiencing life challenges we may find ourselves traumatized. “Trauma occurs when one experiences oneself as helpless within an intolerable situation.” So states Sarah Chana Radcliffe, familyfirst, Aug 27, 2014. We need never find ourselves helpless. Trauma is not an inevitable result of loss.We all have internal resources we can access. We have tools available to weather the storms.
The amount and the quality of inspirational reading available to the Jewish public today is unsurpassed. The books, the magazines, newspapers just keep coming. Classes in Jewish thought are offered across the globe. Webinars and telephone conferences unite us from the 4 corners of the earth. Let these lessons and readings fill our tool boxes. Take advantage of all that’s being offered. All, including myself of course, stand to benefit from an extra dose of Torah wisdom.
“Difficulties in life can be embraced rather than shunned.” So continues SC Radcliffe. Don’t ask ‘Why?” Rather ask, “Where do I go from here? What does G-d want from me right now?” We can empower ourselves, if we approach each situation mindfully, with a conscious decision to persevere and even grow through the experience.
Rabbi Fishel Schachter, Inyan Magazine, Sept 3, 2014, suggests that we reframe our efforts from ‘problem solving to shelter-seeking’. “Seek out what you can do to reasonably fix or protect yourself. ….move to the most reasonable solution and draw the effort/outcome line…” And then step back…”..this is what I did; let’s wait and see what Hashem will do now.”
Let’s make G-d part of the picture. Ultimately, it is He who is running the show. Let’s acknowledge His role and mindfully allow Him to be an integral player in our lives.
Leaving Israel just last week, I bid farewell to our 2 youngest, 2 sons, who are both learning in Yeshivot in Jerusalem. I’ve always had a hard time with goodbyes. As I anticipate each farewell scene, as well as each welcome home scene, the same thought crosses my mind. As much as I love my children, and I love them fiercely!!- that’s how much G-d loves me, even more!!!! And that comforts me. G-d is always present in our lives, as long as we let Him in!! Talk to Him every day, formally through prayer, or informally throughout the day. Seek out instances of Divine providence; look for G-d’s interventions in our every day lives. He is our Father, intimately involved with our lives, orchestrating the details. He has charted a path for each of us to follow…There is a purpose to our pain, there is a rhyme and reason to our challenges. “Let go and let G-d”- so states a major mantra adopted by the international OA program.
Sara Rigler shares the tale of Aviva, who tragically lost her daughter to cancer. (AmiLiving, July 30, 2014) There were many ups and downs during that particular journey. A lesson Aviva had learned from Rabbi Paysach Krohn helped her through the more difficult times. Every day we make the blessing “…l’havchin bain yom uvain laila… to bless the distinction between day and night.” States Aviva, “ I learned that if I had a bad day, that day would eventually end, and there was a chance that the next day would be better…..otherwise we would have had one interminable day.” There is always hope for tomorrow. The Jewish day begins with the evening. After the night’s inky darkness, the sun emerges with its radiant light.
Steven Sotloff, the American journalist was tragically slain on camera by an ISIS terrorist. A letter he had written was smuggled out earlier by a former cellmate and read aloud at a memorial service. He wrote, “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you have only one.”
In truth, the term ‘chaim’, life, is always written in the plural. We live a multiplicity of lives. Have you any recollection of being in your mother’s womb? And yet, for certainty you spent perhaps up to nine months in that welcoming environment. Similarly, we have no sense of the world to come, the world of souls. We do live a multiplicity of lives. Let’s do our utmost to make each life, each aspect of our lives, meaningful and significant.
Says Bassi Gruen, FamilyFirst, “For a Jew, every last day, even the most final, is also a beginning. When G-d closes one door, He is opening another. And that is a source of joy.
Wishing you all a winter filled with hope, new beginning, new door openings, fulfillment, meaning and abundant joy!
Warmly, Miriam Liebermann
p.s. Dear Readers, I’d love to hear from you. What brings you joy? What inspires you to keep going? What lessons have you learnt through your personal challenges? What keeps you going? Let’s share the challenges as well as the joys. Let’s probe the difficulties, and share the emerging solutions…