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.

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

Now, if you help bring it…

Every year for the past few years, I’ve written a post that I firmly believe Moshiach can, and will, come this year, and that we’ve just seen the last Tisha B’Av. The first ones were in my journal, and more recent ones are shared here.

And in spite of being wrong, every year, I still believe. I believe that the upcoming Tisha B’Av might be the promised day of celebration, and even if that doesn’t happen, I will believe the same of next year. But I’m coming to realize that it isn’t so simple.

We aren’t waiting for G-d to ‘spontaneously’ decide that now is the time for Moshiach. WE HAVE THE POWER TO BRING MOSHIACH EVERY DAY! WE HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO TRY TO BRING MOSHIACH EVERY DAY!

(Sorry for yelling but that was really therapeutic.) Let me explain. G-d can bring the Moshiach at any time. But He is waiting for us to be ready, waiting for us to receive the Moshiach with open arms as one united people. Learning this made me realize that it’s not that I believe that G-d can bring the Moshiach, because of course He can. It’s ‘do I believe that my fellow Jews have the ability to bring the Moshiach?’ And the answer is yes.

So, why isn’t the Moshiach here yet? Good question. As much as I believe we are each responsible for bringing Moshiach, the only person I have control over is myself. So the question is – ‘If I believe that everyone has the potential to bring Moshiach, and I trust that everyone is doing their own personal best, then what more can I do to bring Moshiach?’

That’s what the Three weeks, and the Nine days, are meant to make us think about. We’re meant to truly appreciate the depth of what we have lost, of what we are missing in our lives each day.  It’s not meant to drag us down into hopeless misery, but to motivate us to do better, to try harder, since we have the potential to bring back, not only what we have lost, but a whole new bright future.

So, do your best. Try a little bit harder. Embrace the pain and sadness and use it to remind yourself that no one else should ever hurt like that because of you. Examine yourself and see where you have room to improve, and if you think you’re doing your best (as I have faith you all are,) you are welcome to climb aboard here and help others improve.

EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU HAS THE POWER TO BRING MOSHIACH TODAY! REMEMBER THAT! YOU ARE AMAZING! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

Lashon Harah Deterrent

This is one, that I, unfortunately, realized too late.

“Did I really just speak about one of G-d’s children like that?”

It works best if you can remember it before you speak.

But honestly, I’m hoping that the public admission of guilt will help be a kapprah for me. What I said wasn’t terrible, but still… I don’t thing G-d liked it very much. It could have been said in a much more ‘It’s not them, it’s me,’ sort of way.

A thank you to everyone

I want to express a quick, but heartfelt thank you to everyone who works on and contributes to this blog.

It makes my day to open everything up and find nicely written posts just waiting to be tagged and published. No edits, no proofing, no begging for a submission, they’re where I need them, when I need them.

I can’t express my peace of mind for knowing that all the technicalities are being managed smoothly without my needing to worry. Running a website is not easy, but my job has been halved with all the help on this aspect.

Though they’ll never appear in print, everyone who has encouraged me to keep going and given advice has a huge role here. You know who you are, and I most certainly do.

Above all, a thank you to everyone who is mentioned in the stories here –  for being people who add light to the world, and for being people who appreciate the good in their lives and cannot help but share it. I cannot wait to hear more from you.

You all have my respect and appreciation, and I hope your light only shines brighter.

Compassionate Convenience

My sister and I were walking home from the bus stop and preparing to go our usual route home. However, the route we normally took was obstructed. The only way to get to my street was to walk all the way to the end of the street and around. That’s a lot of walking.

As my sister and I looked around, stewing over what to do, a construction worker noticed our hesitance.

“Are you trying to get across?” he yelled from the road.

“Yeah,” we shouted back.

“Okay, then I’ll stop traffic for you,” he said calmly, as if it was nothing at all.

My sister and I looked at each other in disbelief and expressed our utmost thanks to the man.

“No problem,” he said, and we crossed without mishap.

 

Thanks are in order to all those compassionate construction workers out there!

Speaking from the heart

Note from Lucky: My apologies for how few posts have gone up recently, owing to technical difficulties such as having only 24 hours in a day, among other things. We hope to stop having to make these apologies soon, by actually posting at least twice a week.

One of, in my opinion, the most inspiring type of speeches are the ones with personal stories. The person sharing their story serves as a living mashal of the idea they teach. And the more deeply personal and ‘real’ the story is, the more emotion and life the speaker conveys, the better the audience can absorb it.

What I realized tonight is that these stories aren’t always easy to tell. What it means for most speakers is reaching into your deepest, often most personal memories, evoking strong emotions, and sharing those private thoughts in a clear, coherent manner. That gift they give over is what makes the speech so powerful, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Try to imagine doing it yourself for a moment…

And now you know why speakers so appreciate our thanks and appreciation. The more you show it, the more they can keep on giving, knowing it was worth the effort.