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Inspired by Starlight focuses on events and people who help light up the darkness of galus (exile). We are not attempting to make galus feel ok – it isn’t, and no amount of positive thoughts and dreaming can make it so. Galus is hard… even if Moshiach comes tomorrow, we still carry yesterday’s scars. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that the Geulah can come, when the world is so bleak.

But we do have the power to hasten the Geluah. To bring Moshiach sooner and with less pain. We just need to believe in ourselves, and in each other – we are all better than we realize. So when the world seems dark and the light within you feels faint, come here and read, and realize that we are closer to the geulah than it seems.

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Yidden are here, Yidden are there…

Today it was officially confirmed that I have a face that broadcasts ‘Bais Yaakov girl’ to other Jews. It’s happened before, but this is proof.

Ok, on to the proper post. I was walking towards a fairly busy urban bus stop, and I see a woman who seems to be talking to someone as I approach. It turns out, she was talking to me. Over the wind, I didn’t hear her at first, but when I was safe and warm(er) in the shelter, she repeated herself.

“How was your Shabbat?”

And so a conversation began. It wasn’t always easy to hear, but I discovered that she was an adult participant in one of the special needs programs the local frum community runs. We talked about Shabbat, Chanukah, stir fry (yes, really,) and, while on the topic of food, some of my best memories from my last visits to my grandparents abroad – chicken soup was high on the list.

This may be surprising, but I’m not actually good at talking when put on the spot. But if you’d been there, you too, likely, wouldn’t have felt you could end the conversation. So the whole time, I was just focused on trying to understand what she was saying, and to reply in kind. (Thank you, Imma, for all the times you’ve dragged me to talk to absolute strangers for the sake of a mitzvah!)

Once I was sitting on the bus, snug in the rear-most seat for the long ride home, I had a chance to think about what G-d wanted me to learn from this, my latest question about everything. Why was this opportunity given to me? And why did this woman start talking to an absolute stranger, just because I looked Jewish, as though we were friends? I want to be all philosophical, and say it’s a universal connection between all Yidden, everywhere. And maybe it is.

But what formed that connection? I think it can only have been past experiences. If this woman thought that she would enjoy talking to me and was totally comfortable giving it a try, there must have been other Bais Yakkov girls in the past – girls who started the conversations, and then girls who responded to her greetings with warmth and genuine interest. I can’t have been the first person she talked to like this – especially not spontaneously, outside the framework of a program. So she knew that I would be nice and she could talk to me. I don’t know who all these other young women are, but I’m proud to be associated with them.

It makes me look back at some other moments I’ve had over the past month. A woman at a local Jewish bookstore who asked if I knew where she might find a headcovering shop. (I actually found that conversation very heartwarming. She was invited for Shabbat to a chassidish family, and she wanted to cover her head properly out of respect for them. I gave directions to a local store that sells hats and snoods, and would have gone with her if I didn’t have class in five minutes. I knew she would be in good hands there.)

Two bochurim taking the same late-evening bus I was, and who, while talking to each other, missed an announcement over the intercom abut a delay in the route. They were too shy to ask anyone around what the message had been, and I could relate enough to put aside my own shyness and repeat the message for them.

All this newfound voice came in bits and pieces, but a major turning point was Chol Hamoed Sukkot – I was walking to an appointment with offices housed inside a hospital. I was running late, and my mother dropped me off by the main doors and told me to rush, but not panic. Then she spotted and elderly gentleman waiting outside the doors in a wheelchair, carrying a lulav bag. She told me to go wish him a Moed Tov, and, so surprised at the change of priorities, I obeyed without question, stamping my shyness down inside. The man’s face lit up once I plucked up the courage to speak loud enough to be heard, and we began a short conversation about the chag in my badly accented Hebrew (with English when I got desperate.) I wasn’t late for my appointment, and the whole discussion warmed my heart in a way I so badly needed that day.

Reflecting, I’m very grateful I’ve had a chance to strengthen this bond between all Yidden, this feeling that you can trust the Jew beside you. People talk about unfriendliness, but I see that mostly (still rarely) happening in groups. Without the peer pressure, and without the thoughts that someone else could do a better job, we are all more ready to act on our feelings of responsibility for each other. On the road, amid the rest of the world, I’ve seen so much kindness regardless of religion, age, or background, but I’ve also seen the way Jews are ready to speak to each other and care.

A little bit of change

I was taking public transit home after spending some time with friends, a good hour’s journey direct from home. To return, I needed to take two buses, and due to a mishap at the first bus stop (the station that actually didn’t exist, and was also two intersections away from where the schedule said it was,) I didn’t have the exact change I would need to get on the second bus.

After confirming that only exact change would get me a ticket, I asked the kind-looking woman sitting opposite me if she had change to exchange for a small bill. She said she didn’t, apologized, and then began to look in every pocket of her bag on the off chance that she did after all.

There was an elderly couple sitting in front of her, who overheard the discussion. The gentleman passed me a handful of small change, and asked if it would help. I explained that I was just trying to get smaller change, and showed him the bill. He and the wonderful woman beside him insisted that I just take the money, as it wasn’t very much, and not to worry that they didn’t have enough change to make an exchange. It made a huge difference to me, and I conveyed my appreciation as much as possible.

***

The trip was meant to just be three friends hanging out together and enjoying the vast nature surrounding us, and it was peaceful, gorgeous, and a chance to get to know everyone a little better and make a stronger connection. And those 24 hours were all that, and more. The friend who was the host is a holy lady, and while we were eating breakfast together on the front porch, she mentions that she was about to do her daily Tanya study. Knowing that I’m usually interested in whatever she’s learning, she offered to read it aloud. Given that, while I was interested in learning Tanya but knew almost nothing, and the ‘cycle’ of lessons is currently near the end, she had to explain a few concepts to me as we learned. One of them was how our world is made up of G-d’s holy light, contracted and ‘scrunched up’ many, many times, and that the world we see is the barest fraction of the true power and glory of the Almighty. (It sounds much better in her words, or in the original Hebrew.)

While we paused to let my brain take all of this in, I was looking around at the trees surrounding the porch, and the clearing that showed so much of the land. I realized that there are billions of trees, and no two are truly identical – and each one is beautiful in some way. After spending some time there, I could appreciate tree differences very well. There are billions of trees in the world, and billions of people, and countless other beautiful and unique beings of all sorts. And this is only a fraction of a fraction of G-d’s power and majesty and creative light? My mind was blown, but in a good way. We finished learning, finished breakfast, and went out to collect mosquito bites (sorry, to see the fields and the butterflies and the garden and the pond,) and this echoed around in the back of my mind. It really changed the way I saw everything.

I’m sorry for rambling – I’m so tired, but I wanted to get this post out before Shabbat. I may edit for clarity soon. Have a wonderful Shabbat, readers!

Tisha b’Av 5777 – 1

I’m reading my way through an introduction to Megilas Eicha, and I’m reading about why the First Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, the sins that brought down the nation.

I just don’t understand… They had everything we dream of today, G-d with them in the Holy Temple. Why did they throw it away?

I want to understand them, to excuse them, to find a reason why this could possibly make sense… And what hope we have of doing better I’m going to keep reading. And crying

Tisha b’Av thought posts forecast

I apologize in advance – it does not seem likely that I will be able to run the usual set of posts that usually are posted over Tisha b’Av. Personal commitments require me elsewhere.

Really, all my thoughts at the moment are the same… why haven’t we learned to get along yet? We Yidden can do almost anything, we can face almost any challenge, we can solve almost every problem. Why haven’t we solved the challenge of Galus? It’s not a punishment, it’s to prepare us for Geulah, which we could be ready for at any moment. But it’s been thousands of years, and we are still not ready for Geulah, still not ready to live together in Israel and serve G-d as one multifaceted but brilliant jewel. We’re too busy splitting ourselves apart.

Every other day of the year is dedicated towards looking forward to Geulah and working towards Geulah, and towards making this world a better place for each other. Today is the day that we look back at the past year, at our past generation, and regret that even if Moshiach comes tomorrow (please!) it will not have come yesterday. Or last week, before the most recent terror attacks. Or last year, before so much other pain. Today is the day to realize that, while we will never give up hope, we need to try harder.

There are countless other resources available to help you feel Tisha b’Av – the pain and yearning and the spark of hope. They’re available online at Chabad.org, Torah Anytime, the Kotel Camera, and many other sites. There may be programming at the local shul. And there is always megillat Eicha.

Wishing you all an easy and meaningful fast…

Shuir recommendation

In these days without music, while we quietly reflect on the destruction of the past, and our hopes for the future, the lack of noise can be a blessing – and a distraction. If you need background noise while you work, a shiur is a good choice. Baruch Hashem, the Torah world is thriving, even online, and there are no end of speeches and lessons and short divrai Torah to listen to.

Aside from the large number of Tisha B’Av related classes, this is also an opportunity to try something new – a recorded parsha class, mussar, hashkafah, or anything else that will help you get through the day. Whether you listen to them intently, or subconsciously soak up the Torah while you work, it has benefits.

I would like to give a special shout-out to the lectures of Ms. Chana Spiro (link to Torah Anytime here) for women and young ladies. I would start with her first speech, the one from 2016, and move forward from there. I listened to that speech live, and then downloaded it. It never fails to make me cry, but it a good way.

Torah Anytime also has so many other recordings for people of all ages and interests, including video recordings and live streams of some classes. If you haven’t looked at it yet, please consider it now. There is something there for everyone.

Listed for Kindness

I asked a classmate if I could put her on my list of people to get notes from when I miss school, since she’s a very bright girl with good writing. Without hesitation, she replied that I could put her on the list for any subject we had together. As I said, she’s a bright girl. She knows how often my health makes me miss school, and how many classes we share, but nevertheless, she immediately offered to do it since it would make my life easier

Donate to help aid a refuah sheleima

We don’t generally promote fundraising campaigns here, whether for organizations or for individuals, for a number of reasons. But out of Hakarat HaTov for the impact reading this man’s interview had on me, and recognizing that he is truly an example of promoting what we stand for, Lucky gave me permission to post this.

The video below gives you all the information you need. If you’re looking for more details, there is a YeshivaWorld article. The link to the video’s homepage is here.

May everyone’s donations, signal-boosts, and additional mitvot bring a refuah Sheleima to Moshe Refael b-n Orah along with all the other cholim of klal Yisrael

A good Shabbat Nachamu to all!

A Good Shabbat Nachamu to everyone! May you be comforted from all your hurts and challenges!

I saw something the other day that I just had to share. I’m signed up to Torah Anytime’s email list, and they sent out their ‘Tisha b’Av stats’

tisha b'av stats

I did the math, and that’s and 162% increase! Kol Ha’Kavod to everyone who learned. You are helping bring Moshiach sooner.

Tisha b’Av reblog

I went searching through the archives for posts from Tisha b’Av in past years, trying to bring back the feelings that were so more intense in past years. (I strongly recommend that, since I don’t know how many new posts will go up today.) This one stood out as it really explains the contrast between the normal, optimistic, Moshiach-awaiting feeling we usually try so hard to bring on the site, and the pain that today is meant to evoke.

In one sentence, I’d sum it up as the flip side of believing we can bring Moshiach every day: If we could have, why is Moshiach not here?