Am I There?

Traveling the path of a ba’alat teshuvah isn’t the easiest and sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get where you want/need to be, wherever that is. The path that I have taken is that of Chabad, a Chassidic group that focuses on spreading the light. That’s how I was brought in, by an outreach group of this particular sect of Judaism. I became close to the rabbi and his family that led the group and eventually made it to the shul he belonged to. People were warm and inviting, I saw their light and it began to make my wick desire the fire that it knew was imminent. I was hooked.

After a little bit of time, slowly but surely taking on all of the mitzvot, moving within a mile of the Chabad House in my town, getting two new sets of dishes, pots and pans – no wait, three, an extra fleishig set for Pesach – and purchasing ultra-modest clothing, I feel like maybe I’m “there.” But where is “there?” I’m not sure, and I hope I’ll never know. I always hope to be growing, reaching for the stars, making myself better, learning, learning, learning…

Last night I was listening to my daughter entertain our guests as I finished frying the last latkes and cutting up an Israeli salad. I can’t tell you the nachas I shepped, pride I received, from that encounter. I thought to myself, “How did I get here?! My child knows what to do, she is entertaining the guests, doing hachnasas orchim, hosting guests, and doing a mighty fine job of it.” Okay, maybe I’m giving my, kah, 5-year-old daughter too much credit. Is she really thinking about fulfilling the mitzvah? Is she doing it because she wants to spread light? Or is she doing it because children enjoy being the center of attention?

I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter why she is doing it, but rather the fact that she is doing it. For a lot of us, there are things we need to be doing, and sometimes we do it unknowingly, but the important part is that we are doing it.

Before we started down this path of teshuva, we didn’t have a lot of guests over. Actually, we didn’t really have anyone over, ever. My daughter was ultra-shy when we met new people. When we began hosting people for meals, she was still very shy, it took her a while to warm up to them to even say hello. Now we are inviting guests for Shabbos, yomim tovim and just normal nights for dinner. My daughter entertains, I cook, clean and educate. We have conversations, love those who enter our home and show our love and fear of G-d. If you told me two years ago this is what I would be doing today, I would tell you to stop kidding yourself.

This was the moment that I said, “I’m there.” Just like all of those homes that I walked in to scared and shy to unfamiliar territories, the children came and took us by the hand – figuratively if not literally – and told us to not be scared and look, here are toys! Now my daughter was that child that I was so very thankful for when I began to traverse this path.

Realizing that your life is where you always wanted it to be (even if you didn’t know that for many, many years!) is a good feeling. It’s like waking up in the morning and realizing that you’re living life. It’s pretty cool, life’s a pretty cool thing, it’s hard to get, but once you get how to play the game and use the rules provided, it’s pretty sweet. Now that I’m “there,” all I can continue to do is do what I have been doing for the past two years. Continuing to learn, continuing to have guests, continuing to cleave closer to G-d and understand the directives from my spiritual leader, the Rebbe.

This journey for klal Yisrael was only started after we said, “naaseh v’nishma,” we will do and we will listen, saying that our children are our guarantors to continue the Torah from generation to generation. The best thing I have now is the ability to transmit good middos, values, to the next generation.

How I Blame Michigan Time for My Punctuality Defect (and other ways to avoid taking responsibility)

I bike to school every day, rain or shine, snow or ice (just not too icy!). I did have one crash while I was trying to make a sharp turn on our first real day of snowfall, bit the dust – or snow, technically – and got back on my back a bruised and puffy eye, chin and thigh later. Something I like to do while ride my bike is contemplate intense ideas. Naturally, yesterday I was riding my bike to school, at approximately 9 a.m. when class begins at 9 a.m. However, I go to the University of Michigan, so we have this thing called Michigan time.

Michigan time: A phenomenon originating form the University of Michigan where most classes begin at 10 after the hour rather than the hour appointed. For example, if your class begins at 8:30 a.m., it really starts at 8:40 a.m.

So now I push the limits as to when I have to leave my house for my 6-8 minute ride to school, depending on which building I’m in first. Needless to say, I’m late to class a bit. This lateness also translates to my life outside of school. I’m late getting out of bed, I’m late getting my daughter to school and birthday parties. Generally, if there is an appointed time, I’m late. I claim that Michigan time created my punctuality defect.

I mean, that would make sense and get me off of the hook for actually taking responsibility for anything. However, if we would carefully asses the situation, we would see that I have been increasingly less and less punctual over the last 5.5 years. So now I’m going to blame my defect on my daughter. Because, of course, I don’t have any responsibility in any of this.

Being a mother is tough stuff, especially a single one, and getting out of the house is one of the hardest tasks. Thank G-d I have this opportunity. But to blame my punctuality inside or outside of school on Michigan time is simply, well, copping out of responsibility. In everything that I do, from actions to reactions, I am responsible. There is not anything that the outside world can contribute that makes my actions or reactions not my fault. No matter how difficult the situation, I always have the opportunity to act like a mensch.

“In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” Hillel, Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, 2:5

Be a good person even though others aren’t. Take responsibility for yourself, even though there are not good things going on around you.

But this is just one facet of taking responsibility. As for the Michigan time dilemma, well, it’s more a dilemma of procrastination. Yes, Michigan time allows me to procrastinate longer than without it. Yes, being a mother is difficult, especially as an only parent. I was always on time before I had my daughter. Now, I have a less than perfect punctuality score. But I make it to things that are important, and I rarely apologize for being late. Why do I rarely apologize? Because I’m not sorry, and not in a mean way. Saying I’m sorry means that I want to take steps to fix being late. I knew I was going to be late. I know I will continue to be late. Currently, it’s how I am operating. Is it the best I could do? That’s debatable. Maybe at this moment in time, yes, because I have no desire to actively work on my timeliness. Am I bad person because of this? No. I’m just an honest person taking responsibility for my actions.

One day I will aspire to be more punctual, maybe. Then, if I am late, I can genuinely say “I’m sorry,” since I am working on my punctuality and intended on being there in a more timely manner. But until I have that motivation, I’m okay with being a little bit late. I just need to recognize that this is not due to anything other than my own personal habits.

Spinach Lokshen Kugel

I have been saying for years – since my daughter was 18 months old, now she’s kah (kein ayin hara, Yiddish for “no evil eye”) 5-years-old – that I am going to lose weight. At 4 months postpartum, I had lost over 60 pounds and was 20 pounds lighter than I was pre-pregnancy. Well, I think I’m finally sticking to my guns and going to lose the much needed weight. I am about 30 pounds heavier than I was at my lightest, and I’m trying to get back to that weight. It was a healthy weight. I felt good, I exercised, I ate right. Now, I try and eat right, but I’m getting older and not making the best food choices all of the time. For the next 3-4 months, I will be embarking on this process of trying to shed the extra weight.

I’m using My Fitness Pal to record my calories and exercise. It’s both a phone app and a great full-version online. I’m cutting calories and trying to work out at least twice per week for 30 minutes each time (as suggested by a friend). I hope to eventually schedule in another 30 minutes in my week. But right now I’m so busy and even these 30 minutes are a miracle! I ride my bike to and from school and to the gym. I’m trying to find foods that are healthy, filling and low-calorie. On this quest, I’ve found that my carb-filled spinach lokshen kugel is only 129 calories per serving. It’s not the healthiest, but it’s filling and fills that craving for a full stomach.

I posted on Facebook that the art of dieting is to find the food that is most filling with the least calories. A friend asked what I had found. I posted my spinach lokshen kugel. Another friend asked for the recipe. So, Devorah, you ask and you shall receive!

Spinach Lokshen Kugel: 16 servings
Adapted from Spice and Spirit Kosher Cookbook

6 eggs (I use Trader Joe’s White Grade A Cage Free Eggs)
1/2 bag of Bodek spinach
1 medium onion
fresh garlic to taste (optional)
salt to taste
1 bag medium egg noodles (my bag was 12 oz, you can modify if your bag is more than 12 ounces, also, the calories per serving will change)
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9×11 pan (I don’t spray mine, but you can if you need/want to). Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain them and put them in the pan. Sautee the spinach with onion and garlic in olive oil. Salt the mixture to taste. Mix the noodles and spinach mixture completely. Add in the eggs and mix thoroughly. Pop the pan in the oven for 40-60 minutes. The kugel is done when it has browned and puffed up evenly. Let it cool before you cut it.

I made this kugel after my Rebbetzin made this over the chagim. Oh-so-yummy! It’s even good reheated but best right after cooking.

Nutritional Facts: 129 calories per serving (16 servings), 4 g fat, 103 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 36 mg potassium, 16 g carbs, 6 g protein

How Simple Gestures Make a World of Difference

A few days ago I was walking to class after taking the bus downtown rather than riding my bike because I was feeling tired and lazy. As we approached my stop, I found out that yet another street on the route (the first street was closed during the Winter semester, and will be closed until June 2015) is partially closed. This meant that my few-minute walk to class turned into a 15 minute trek (which still isn’t bad, but I was lazy!!). I was feeling quite solemn to begin with, and this minor setback didn’t help my case.

As I was walking along my final stretch to the Modern Language Building for my early morning Hebrew class, an elderly (50’s? 60’s? 70’s?), presumed-to-be-homeless man looked at me and said, “Good morning!” I looked up at him and a huge smile spread across my face. As he passed me, he said, “Have a good day, now!” Did this man just say good morning to me just to make me smile?! Some random stranger just walking along the street, and he wants me to smile? I heard him continue the routine as he walked by until I rounded the corner.

I was amazed by this. But why should I have been? We should all be taking time out of our day to make sure that those around us are also happy. Why? Because I want my world to have happy people in it and to continue to make everyone we come into contact with happy, also.

In this past week’s parsha (Torah portion), parshas Noach, Noach’s name is said twice. The Torah is short on words and concise, meaning that it never repeats or says anything for no apparent reason. Down to each letter, everything has meaning in the Torah. So why was Noach’s name said twice? Plainly, because every name that is said twice (i.e. “Noach, Noach” “Avraham, Avraham” etc.) is repeated to denote that they are a tzaddik, a righteous person. Kabbalistically, his name is repeated to denote that Noach – and all of his descendents – are supposed to have an effect on two spheres: one between each person and the other with the spiritual realm.

This means that we are supposed to promote peace and tranquility around us, even by just saying “Good morning!” to another fellow human being walking down the street. Not only do we affect the person we are interacting with, but we also affect the environment around us. When one mitzvah is done, it begets another. When one person smiles, it encourages the next person to smile. When we have this occurring in the environment that we live in, the tension starts to subside and a feeling of calm begins to take over. When we affect our environment, we therefore make an impact on the spiritual realms above. Our Sages taught, “Whenever a person’s fellowmen derive satisfaction from him, G-d derives satisfaction from him.” (Derived from Keeping in Touch, based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s talks, Vol. 1 parshas Noach, read the whole thing here.)

When this man did this simple act of saying good morning to me, he not only affected me and my day and the people I came into contact with that day, but he also made waves in the spiritual realms. The Sages didn’t teach that when a Jew derives satisfaction from a fellow Jew, rather they said man derives satisfaction from his fellowman, as G-d derives satisfaction from all of His creations, regardless of their religion. In fact, Noach was not a Jew but was still indeed a tzaddik. He was so important that he was given an entire parsha that bears his name. The important task of building a teiva was given to him, to begin to rebuild the world by saving G-d’s creations that he deemed fit to continue after the flood.

Ever since that man said good morning to me, I’ve been much more conscious of how I relate to other people. And after taking a lesson from Noah, I try to not only makes waves in the spiritual realm, but to also affect my fellow human down here in the physical realm, and to encourage this physical realm to be a dwelling place for G-d.

 

7 Noahide Laws (and my cute interpretations)

1. Do not worship idols. (Worship G-d.)
2. Do not murder. (Hug your friends!)
3. Do not steal. (Donate books!)
4. Do not be sexually immoral. (Take pride in yourself and your sexuality.)
5. Do not partake in blasphemy. (“How are you today?” “Thank G-d! I’m doing well.”)
6. Do not eat an animal while it’s still alive. (Hug kittens!)
7. Make a court to provide legal recourse. (Hold yourself and others accountable.)

Reconnecting Through Meditation

B”H

As I prepare for Yom Kippur (and similar with preparations to the recently-passed holiday Rosh Hashanah), I look back and see where I need to do some teshuvah, repentence, for behavior, actions, thought, speech, etc., that could have been done differently. A lot of the time I can get stuck in a rut, saying “I can’t believe I did that,” and “I’m so dumb.” I really like to engage in self-deprecating speech, thoughts and action. It’s almost as if the more I dislike myself and act this way toward myself, the more comfortable I get because I don’t have to have any decent standards, because I’m not decent. No, it’s not “it’s almost as if,” it is!

Contrary to my popular belief, the goal of evaluating my life and doing proper teshuvah is not in order to devalue myself, but rather to find ways to value myself even more than before and for others to find value in what I can bring to the world.

A few days ago, I was talking to my married neighbor who has two children. She said to me how she is in awe of what I do as a mother who is also in school and also an employee. She said she doesn’t know how I can do it all by myself. The first thought that popped into my mind was that she was saying this just to be nice. But what would have forced her to say this?! Absolutely nothing, that’s what. She was actually being sincere! Once I understood this, a smile took over my face. I began to see what I am doing right and the positive things about being the person I am today, single mother and all.

Recently, I read that mediation is for yourself and that prayer is for G-d. I know, prayer and meditation seem to be awfully similar, and sometimes I can even use these terms interchangeably. Some define meditation as something Buddhist monks spend a great deal of their time doing. Others define it as time to focus on a specific tefilah, prayer. Others just focus solely on the individual letters making up a tefilah. All of these answers are correct, and it depends on what helps you attain the end goal of meditation.

To compliment this statement that I read, I was privy to a discussion about meditation last night. The more I listened, the more I realized how true this statement is. For each person – who all meditate in a non-prescribed way – felt better connected to G-d afterward and were able to communicate straight to Him as they finished with the tefilot of their choice.

Meditation helps me to prepare to connect with G-d. It allows me to be in a state of bittul, self-nullification, and to carry out acts that G-d would like it if I would do. This includes praying to Him with the utmost respect, concentration and kavanah, intention. Beyond readying myself for prayer, meditation also helps to nullify myself in order to be G-d’s messenger, and to carry His message to the world, rather than the message that I see important and fit for the day. We are all G-d’s messenger, we just have to seize this opportunity and listen to what His message is in order to carry it forth to all of His creations.

When I focus on what needs to be done, I can make positive choices for my family and my surrounding community. However, before meditation, it is hard for me to see outside of my personal struggles and all I want to do is propagate the misery I’m feeling when I can’t see out of this hole. Always striving to be able to do the next right thing seems like it should be easy, but many times I allow myself to get in the way and I need to find a way to kick myself out of the way! I’ve found that meditation accomplishes this in the most painless way.

During Rosh Hashanah services, I felt that my davening was taken to a different level than it normally is. I felt this true connection, this nonstop direct flight to G-d from me in my chair in the women’s section. I felt the true power of these words that are so eloquently picked to be in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, special siddur for the High Holidays. Why was this davening so special to me? Why did it take on such a different vibe than during normal times of tefilah? I had meditated for the entire month of Elul (and continue to do so more intensely than normal during aseres yemei hateshuvah, the ten Days of Repentance) and was finally ready to do some serious tefilah for G-d. Not for myself, but for G-d.

G-d doesn’t need me to daven with such kavanah, but He wants me to, and I want to be able to do what He wants of me. Hour after hour of High Holiday services, I’m telling Hashem simply this – how I want to right what I’ve done wrong and to continue to cleave to Him as He has directed the Jewish people. It feels really good when my daughter apologizes to me after doing something I repeatedly told her not to do. This is so basic and on such a low level compared to each Yid’s connection to G-d. I can only imagine how special it makes G-d feel to have more than just an apology, more than just a few tears when I realize how bad I’ve been, more than “bad to good.” This is all just more. This is so much more it’s on a level I can’t comprehend, one that is full of spiritual juju and powerful vibes to elicit this innate connection Yidden have to their neshama, and in turn to G-d.

To put it more simply: I felt a physical and spiritual change when I realized that this davening is not for me, but in fact for G-d. While G-d doesn’t need anything, He appreciates when we walk in His ways and it helps to strengthen that finite-infinite bond that we have with Him.

Now I’m re-evaluating my year. I see the positive in it, and I also see missed opportunities to connect with G-d. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t do right, say right, think right, etc., I’m focusing on how I can change these missed opportunities into taken opportunities. Even though the events are still the same (I’m not a time-traveler!), the way I approach them are different when I realize that I’m doing life not for my benefit, but for the benefit of G-d and to ultimately create this world into His dwelling place.

Keeping in mind that I am constantly working toward creating this world into His dwelling place seems easy at first, but with a second glance it’s easy to see how life can get in the way of this thought. When I can realize I’m not going down the path I need to be in terms of thought, speech or action, the best thing I can do is to recognize it. Once I recognize this, then I can take steps to correct it, such as meditating and subsequently strengthening that ability to connect with G-d. All within a split second.

When I get into this rut of “I’m not good enough,” I can recognize it, stop, breathe, meditate, and continue to connect with G-d. As I heard a wise person say, if I feel that G-d is far away, it’s me that’s moving because He is always there. Meditation is one way to move back toward G-d.

May we receive many brachos this year, grow closer to G-d and may merit the coming of Moshiach NOW!

G’mar chasima toivah! May you finally be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Letting Out the Refined Radical

There this urge inside of me to let my wild, rebellious, anti-the-man, live-off-the-grid personality run free. But yet there is this influence of calm, a sense of modest personality and “refinement” that is also tugging at the coattails of my persona. Who am I really? Can I be both?

Pre-ba’alat teshvah, I would say I was a rebellious, who-cares-what-they-think, let-me-run-this-show type of woman. I am going to fight for every right I believe I deserve and do it at all costs. I was going to educate my daughter on everything that I wasn’t, she was going to be the most political-minded little girl I ever knew. She was going to understand that the world was only evil if you looked at it that way, but it was hard to not look at it that way. She was going to see that everything really is rainbows and ponies, you just have to believe it and they will follow.

Then I started becoming religious. I backed off of swearing, I started dressing more modestly, when before I prided myself in the freeness of my skin. Certain garments were deemed torture devices and weren’t worn at every moment possible. Now I get upset when I buy a shell and it doesn’t cover all the way up to my neck. Even a shred of skin showing past my neck is unacceptable, in my eyes. I also refuse to wear the sheer nylons. I wore them for a while, and then I decided I wasn’t happy with the covering that they do. My daughter would ask me why I wasn’t wearing tights. I then showed her I was, but I realized that they were a poor excuse of “covering,” once again, in my eyes.

I only listen to religious Jewish music, and I’m pretty picky about what I will accept (sometimes). I won’t even walk in to a non-kosher restaurant (that’s Halacha – Jewish law). I read only Jewish themed books, mainly written by religious authors.

So where did this wild, rebellious, anti-the-man, live-off-the-grid girl go? Did I smother her with religion and she couldn’t breathe and now her corpse, h”vs, is forgotten about in the corner somewhere?

This sometimes now-seeming mythical girl is still inside of me. She’s thriving off of the Chassidus I’ve been learning. She’s been becoming stronger, smarter and faster and has started to reappear in the past month. She also has lost some of her “refinement” due to outside influences, i.e. work. The swear words have returned, but I realized and I’ve began to muffle them again.

It wasn’t unusual for someone to tell me I put a sailor to shame. And now I find it appalling when others swear. So why is it coming back? What happened to all of this “positive change?”

I don’t think I ever left the I’m-changing-the-world-NOW part of myself behind. I’ve become an activist within observant Judaism. And, recently, I’ve started to see me make choices as a renegade woman turned mother. I want to instill truth in my daughter and push age off to the side. I want her to know what life is really like and how to make it amazing and to prevent bad things from happening. I want to do this by education of history and the horrible things that have happened. I want her to be far more educated than her friends in terms of politics (or at least in the parts of it that I care about). I want her to care about the greater goodness of the world.

Have I forgotten in this whole charade that she is in fact a child? And that possibly living with childhood innocence isn’t always a bad thing?

I was stripped of my innocence as a child. I was bullied for as long as I can remember. And then beyond that, I was graced with middle-child syndrome, which has always described my relationship within my family. How I raise my daughter, or think about raising her, is based on my current personality, likes, cares, etc. and also about what I didn’t like about my upbringing. Am I mad that I was sheltered as a child to such an extreme I was unready for the “real world?” Yes, but thankfully I was resourceful as a child and I introduced myself to the “real world” at a very young age and became street smart very quickly. But I also forgot that I didn’t like having my innocence stolen at such a young age due to the unhappiness felt deep inside of me.

Now I have a dilemma that I believe many ba’alei teshavah have at one point in their life. Based on my past personality and what I am working toward at the moment, how do I act? The answer seems simple but in actuality is a bit more complicated. It becomes complicated because you’re in a space of transition and the real you is still being molded ever so slightly.

My answer to myself at the moment is to not stifle everything. Yes, I will put the kabash on things that don’t feel right, things that make me feel yucky afterward. But in terms of radicalness, I can still be radical. Maybe not in the ways I would have been before, but I can still be radical. I just need to search for the right about of tone that I want to be displayed to others. After all, a part of observance to me is also the essence of refinement. This doesn’t mean that I need to speak only when spoken to, but rather to be able to monitor what I am displaying to others. Of course, I want people to know that I’m serious about topics I have vested interest. But I don’t need to go off on the deep end when sharing this passion. I need to find a way to share my enthusiasm without it becoming categorical into me deeming everything else as bad. Rather than focusing on the negatives, I need to focus on the positives and find a way to display enthusiasm as positive for what I believe is right.

Refinement. It seems like such an archaic word, but yet something that I’m striving toward so hard that I almost am missing it even though it’s within my reach. I’m not sure if I will ever reach that moment of “Okay, I’m completely where I need to be with no changes to be made!” Changes are applicable to everyone at every moment. Only one Being is perfect, and it’s the One Above. I’m just striving for enough refinement today to make myself happy, to make Him pleased, and to be able to be of most service to others. All while not shunning my past, but rather welcoming the positive aspects of it with open arms. I am a product of who I am now and who I have always been.

What 8 Days of Freedom Taught Me

I’m asking myself this question that I’m sure many of you want to ask me as well. Why am I posting a blog after an 8 day holiday where I have a lot of clean up afterward (turning the kitchen over…) and a lot of studying for finals to be doing?! It’s because I learned so much this very, very long chag (holiday) and am very grateful for so many things, even though they may have gotten the best of me at the moment.

It all started in the kosher market before Pesach even started. My daughter and I were shopping for food, and we came to the frozen meat case. On top of it were cans of macaroons. Even though we don’t eat processed food on Pesach, I really have a thing for macaroons! I thought, okay, we’ll buy two cans, for before and after the chag. I was pointing to each can and telling my daughter what kind they were. At one point, a woman was just staring at us. This store is packed – the only kosher market for a whole tri-county area, if not larger. I assumed she wanted to get by. So I asked her if we could move for her, she said that she was just admiring what was going on between me and my daughter.

I didn’t know at the moment how powerful that was going to be, but after eight days of no chametz, a deflated ego, a tired child and mommy, as I’m sitting here eating said macaroons, I realize that I’m not the worst mother and that no person is perfect. For me to expect my child to be perfect is definitely a stretch, but most of the time she is an angel. Other times when she isn’t being on her best behavior, it’s not because she’s a bad kid, but rather because she’s a kid and a human. If we were all always perfect, what would our purpose be to our Creator? He’s perfect, he doesn’t need a perfect world, but rather one that can make the choice to be as perfect as possible to be able to have a better relationship with Him.

Throughout Pesach, I came closer to my wits end with each day. From my daughter not wanting to listen during Bircat Cohanim to doing the little things that irritate me to just being a kid, by the end of Pesach I just couldn’t handle it any more.

And I sat back and evaluated what was going on. I’ve been actively trying to work on my anger so that, G-d willing, it won’t be something I have any longer.

Pesach is the holiday of freedom. We were redeemed from being slaves in Egypt and were able to begin our journey to the Holy Land and to, G-d willing one day, receive the Torah during the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. This is basically the lease on life. But first, we had to do a few things in order to merit being redeemed. After we took the Egyptians idol into our homes, smeared blood over our doors and ran as our bread was still in the process of rising, we were presented with our next biggest problem. The Yam Suf, Sea of Reeds, was in our way and we thought, Why?! Why, Moshe, did you bring us here? Were there not enough graves in Egypt?

When we decided to have a little bit of faith, we found that Hashem was not going to redeem us from Egypt only to have us killed by the Egyptians who had changed their minds about letting us go. But rather everything was done with importance and reason, during the plan made at the time of creation.

This was not the last time the Jews had to “have belief,” nor was it the first. Religion, in and of itself, is belief. I don’t have to have believe in something that is proven. What is there to have belief in? It’s proven! But G-d, there’s not direct physical proof that I have that a Higher Power exists. I just have to believe that one does exist.

At the moment that my daughter is kicking and screaming during Bircat Cohanim because she doesn’t want to stand up, go under her friend’s Tatty’s talis, or do whatever is being asked of her, I have to have believe that Hashem is allowing this for a reason. And it’s not just to be cruel to me! But rather a learning experience for the both of us, even if I don’t know what that lesson is quite yet. When I can have that belief, freedom is sure to follow. I don’t have the frets in regard to the situation and I can rest easy knowing that this, too, shall pass.

The fact that this woman told me she was admiring how I am with my daughter at a time where I was definitely stressed out, but my daughter wasn’t yet, tells me that I’m not a terrible mother. It tells me that this is a long holiday, and that my daughter is now stressed, tired and over stimulated. And that’s okay! We are allowed to have our better days than others, but we should keep in mind that maybe someone else who is having a good day may have a not so good day on a day we are having a better day. We are all entitled to our feelings, others just need to recognize that. And in recognition of this, we also can see that these feelings are not because we did something to them to make them feel this way, they just do because of their own self-contained system.

Over Pesach, I not only gained freedom from Mitzrayim, but I also gained freedom from parental guilt.

“In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt .” (Pesachim 116b)  B’chol dor vador