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Home is Solid by admin

"Mommy, where are we going when we come home from St. Louis?" Tanya asks me tonight as I'm washing dishes. 
"Where are we going? " I assume she means when are we coming home. "We are going tomorrow and we will be back next Wednesday. 7 more days. "
"NO, Mommy," she insists. "WHERE are we going when we come home from St. Louis?"
I study her face. I have learned that when Tanya asks a question, she has a really good critique, observation, or point, that is hidden behind her 3 year old inability to bring it out. 
"Where are we going?..... " 
Suddenly I understand. Last time we took a trip, we were back for a few days before everything went haywire and we were forced out of our apartment, apartment hopping for two months until finally finding a home. I realize that with all the Pesach cleaning and me putting most of her toys away in a closet, she might think the same thing is happening again. The ground is shaky. 
"We're coming HERE!" I exclaim. "This is our HOME! We're not moving again, silly!"
She laughs, and with a bright grin of relief, runs away to play.

Mitzvah Tanks by admin

My first time at the Children's Rally for the Rebbe's birthday. I come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be taken to great heights. I sit with Tanya next to me, Naomi on my lap, feeding them potato fries every so often to keep them content. There's nothing like some food in the purse to keep a mother feeling like Everything Is Going To Be A-Okay. There's nothing like potato chips shaped like fries to capture children's attention. 
The excitement soon descends into mild enthusiasm. The roll-calling of all those young children who have done amazing feats of memorizing Tanya and Mishnayos ( of which I could only imagine, and I do start to, and start to realize that my daughter could be doing this one day) nevertheless starts to drag on me. The promise of prizes for their achievements has me crinkling my nose a little, just a little. I mean, c'mon, it IS amazing. But where's the fire? Where's the heart? Where's the love of Torah beyond what it can give to me? Where is the singing?The objective, the man at the microphone states, is to reach 300, 000 something lines memorized from Chabad schools throughout the world, some multiplication of something Rebbe-related that falls from my memory. As they roll-call through all the schools, of all those hundreds and thousands of lines of Tanya and Mishnayos these children have learned BY HEART (what?!) , I watch the three girls in front of me reacting to the numbers applauding and giggling with each other. "50 THOUSAND?!" they mouth to each other, and then "12?" when it inevitably comes up to a probably smaller school. And then one girl, the middle one, about eight years old per my guesstimatation, in this super fashionable short haircut most women get when they are 20 years older than her and certainly not in frum circles, grabs their hands and stops them, abruptly but cheerfully. "You guys, it's not a COMPETITION! We're in this TOGETHER! We're trying to win TOGETHER!" And there you have it. That's life. That's Jewish life. In a sea of people trying to do the right thing and somehow clumsily celebrate and reach truth and find the fire, there are the lamplighters. The girls and boys and men and women who stop others short of their judgements and bring them to the higher perspective. We're in it together. Let the mitzvah tanks roll. I'm sure the Rebbe would be proud.

When Gd Needs To Stop by admin

When You arranged for the kidnapping of three Israeli youth, hitchhiking for a ride home, I walked around in a cloudy haze praying for their rescue, and was crushed when it was found to be impossible. When You allowed the shooting of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, killed simply because they were Jews, I was terrified.

When You took away the life of a dedicated Yeshiva bochur, who suddenly couldn't wake on Purim day, to the shock of his study partners and friends, I was saddened and confused.

When You took away the life of a upstanding father of four, who was celebrating at his son's siddur party, I was deeply pained and scared.

But when You created a fire, from the very hot plate that was used to ensure no cooking happened on the Sabbath just like Your Torah commanded, from a frum woman who dedicated her life to raising eight Yiddishe children, and as the flames erupted and the mother jumped out the window with one child, standing, yelling for her children's rescue as the screams of "Mommy, help me!" rang through the night, I could not take it.

When we fight against enemies and we lose our best and brightest, there is pain. When random things happen to good Jews, there is also great pain.

But when a mother, who toils her entire life to raise her children, spoon by spoon, word by word, loses those children, to witness her children screaming for her when she can't save them, a mother's greatest nightmare, the deepest void within our hearts screams in unbearable anguish.

Gd, it needs to stop. Tell us what we need to do, very clearly. We are willing and able to change our lives, to ensure tragedy doesn't befall us again. Show us the revelation immediately, for the sake of us and the sake of the dear, poor parents, of why this happened, like you did with the Israeli youth, from whose lost lives we revealed the sinister plan of Hamas's underground tunnels intended to infiltrate the Israeli kibbutzim. Let us see the revelation and the deep, meaning. Concealed good may be the deepest kind, but it's time for the unveiling to begin. Put us in motion, tie our hearts together, move our feet forward in the right path, and heal the world from this tragedy.

Baruch Dayan HaEmes 16-year-old Eliane, 11-year-old Rivkah 6-year-old Sara 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Yeshua, 8-year-old Moshe 5-year-old Yaakob

May your memory be a blessing.

Our Vows by admin

I doDo you promise to accept me, when I talk out of turn, when I embarrass you in front of your friends? Do you promise to remember the person I could be, when it seems I have abandoned myself for another? Will you remember that I do my best, even when things are a chaotic mess? Will you reserve your critiques for another time, when my undulating heart settles in? Will you remind me on repeat of good qualities and merits, so when I look in the mirror that’s what I see? Will you stick up for me against all accusations, both internal and external, even if your own irritation at my actions has you throwing daggers as well ? Can you remember to laugh and laugh with me, so that our home becomes light and strong? Will I be the last thought on your mind before your head hits the pillow, the first image that crosses your mind when you sit down at your desk? Will you build with me, invisible and true, the fortress of our souls and home? Do you promise that our home will be a safe dwelling place in which things in this reverberating world finally come to rest and the Shechina rejoices? Will you work on these vows every moment of our lives, revising and reworking them in our hearts? I do. For all of these and more, I do.

It's All About You by admin

It's All About You

One thing I absolutely love about Chabad ( besides children screaming pesukim, which is my slice of I've-Died- and-Gone-to-Frum-Heaven) is it's ideological focus of getting beyond oneself.
I'll never forget my interview for Mayanot Yeshiva. I went expecting to do what I always do at interviews: pretend to be super-confident and interesting, say quirky, thought-provoking statements that reveal my intelligence and sense of humor, and impress them with my fabulousness, while knowing in the back of my mind that once accepted, I couldn't keep up that all-star facade forever. But that's what interviews are, right? Right?
Except that this rabbi who was interviewing me, wasn't getting impressed. "Why do you look so... so.. wary of me?" I finally trembled at the end of the interviewing process. It actually seemed like I wasn't going to get in! Into a baal teshuva seminary! Was that possible?
He smiled in a wary way that wasn't comforting at all. "I'm not wary... " he replied, showing me the way out.
I left. And yes, I went into a back alleyway and cried in confusion. What was going on? How did my impressive shtick that always landed me jobs not work?
I ended up emailing him that day, mumbling something about how I was so tired and that's why I was acting strange, and BEGGING him to let me in. I received no personal reply, but a formal acceptance letter.
Later on, I understood. He saw through me. His whole religious outlook was about getting beyond the ego. My ego was on fire and dancing before him and he called it like he saw it.
That was my first experience at Chabad-seeing-through-and-looking-down-at-egos. So contrary to my societal upbringing.
As I went to the seminary, I started to appreciate it more. "Get beyond yourself!" the Rabbi would thunder, explaining methods and reasons for doing so, beginning with the reality of Gd and his beyondness and how we could know Him in that way, and I would feel this beautiful feeling of weight being taken off of my being. Davening become delightful.
"Imagine Gd beyond the world," the rabbi demanded one day. and I asked him- how? How do I imagine Gd beyond this world? I think of Gd and I think of this world, that's all I know. How do I think of that which I have never seen? How do I think of that beyond me?
"Think of your mother without thinking of yourself," he replied, and I protested:" But I can't! By default when I think of my mother I think of myself by extension. She gave birth to me..."
" Oh no, " he interrupted, amused in a way that bespoke deeper knowledge of the psychological and existential underpinings of my intellectual quandry. " Your mother has a whole life that has nothing to do with you... so too with Gd. He has this whole life that has nothing to do with the world, nothing to do with you..."
I was blown away.
Chabad's focus on getting beyond oneself, letting go of "yeshus" of "sense of self" , of "sense of disconnection from the great oneness of  Gd that is Everything ( for aren't we all but rays of the sun, and within the sun itself, you are not even aware of the light but in reality, there, in the sun,  it is at it's strongest, and aren't we all trying to realize in our perceptions how truly we are all already connected and part of this greater Being, and isn't that the greatest inheritance of all) is essential. Essential for Yiddishkeit, essential for simcha. Essential for moshiach.
But I think sometimes, when that message of beyondness is given over, we forget about ourselves as well. We start to think that a sense of self is not important. A sense of internal weight, inner voice and direction. We start to throw out self-nurture and self-discovery because it doesn't seem holy enough. We don't know how or if to care about ourselves, and our "separate existence".
Yesterday I was listening to a shuir by David Sacks, former writer for the Simpsons. He was asking, what's the deal with us learning Torah and forgetting it in the womb? Weren't we all already at Mt. Sinai? Didn't we already experience all of the Torah there too? Why again? and Why to forget?  He explained from other sources that there are two redemptions, two truths we have within us- a communal one, and a personal one. The Torah we learned at Sinai is our communal one, that we can all collectively relearn over our lives, that is our part of our deep heritage. The Torah we learned in the womb is our personal story of our personal shluchus, how we can become that powerful soldier, that radiating ray of light, in the world ( my words of his). We have two destinies intertwined; and the struggle to fulfill and live both of them is the challenge of life: how to be the greatest Jew in our society in going beyond oneself and connecting with the communal Truth, and how to be the greatest me-Jew, how to relearn who I am and what I'm meant to do in this world. How to be the most- me. How to go the most beyond-me. What a predicament. I am reminded of the dual- relationship once again now of motherhood, myself in the position. How to have a life devoted to my family. How to have simultaneously a life that has nothing to do with my family.
And that is very confusing. I think it's very confused in the frum world:
Example: I live in a place without an eruv. While this may be okay for some mamas, I go batty. So I asked a very special, spiritual woman advice on how to enjoy Shabbos so that I would give over to my children the sense that Shabbos is actually enjoyable and not a day of dread. I explained to her that growing up, I would walk every Shabbos 2.5 miles to shul, by myself, in silence, and I loved it. I need that silence, that space, I told her. To be within four walls, going in circles with two little ones.... "Listen," she responded, trying to be kind and gevurahdik at the same time, " You're not 16 years old anymore. You need a grown up relationship with Gd. It's not about you. It's about Him. It's His day. Focus on that, and even if you don't enjoy it, you're doing the mitzvah. And you can get pleasure from that mitzvah. That's the greatest pleasure, getting pleasure from giving someone else pleasure. Like calling your parents and getting pleasure from the fact that it gives them pleasure."
You know what, she's right. But she's also wrong.
While I think that that approach is right on and should be our avodah, and to try to meditate on the greatness of what we are doing beyond ourselves is crucial, but we also need to recognize that we are a human being. And to just negate our feelings and desires, seems dangerous to me. What I wish she would have added in was the element of myself. For I am 16 years old still, within me. For I  found some very easy solutions to satisfying that younger child within me that craves solitude to just stare at the sky and walk slowly in her own way without thinking about anyone else for an hour a day. Like hiring a babysitter for an hour every Shabbos so that I can take care of me. That way I can meditate on what the day truly is about and try to get beyond myself and give Hashem pleasure, but also come to the table feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, full.
Another example: I'm very into Julia Cameron's artist way. She has two absolute necessities for artistic self nurture: morning pages and an artist date. An artist date is hard for anyone and especially hard for those schooled in the frum-get-beyond-yourself mentality. Because an artist date is about becoming a child again. It's about learning how to play again. It's about doing something seemingly crazy on a whim without purpose ( may I remind you however, that "farbreng" does mean "to waste time", which highlights the actual feeling Chabad feels about the importance of just being and embracing the fullness of ourselves and not just the doing or the forced "bittul"). My artist dates usually consist of me buying really ridiculous candy corn bags and walking around munching on them and going into stores and staring at all the different clothes, toys, or whatever I could buy one day. I start to get ideas of different types of things I want to do, make. I start remembering my desire to be a fashionista. I start daydreaming and  feeling light and imagine people doing synrochnized dancing down the streets of Brooklyn to the tune of Lion King melodies .Many times I go to a quiet spot I know and stare at the trees for an hour, phone off.
These types of "purposeless" activities are very confusing for frum women to take on. "Can I go to a shuir?" was my greatest response when I formed an art program that mandated artist dates. I very much doubt the child within us desires to do something crazyily whimsical and playful like sit in on a shuir, though shuirs are wonderful and rejuvenating too. For our adult selves. But the thing is that if you give yourself an hour of wandering-candy-corn fun or whatever is that floats your boat at the moment, then you can return and dress  up in your adult suit as well to take on the world.  It seems it is hard for us frum people to figure out how to balance living a meaningful, dedicated life, and relaxing, of inhaling, of taking in, and then exhaling. Again and again. It is hard to come to terms with the complex reality that we are also a child. Because we are. We are also children. And that's okay. It's just about learning how to nourish, embrace, and also direct our inner child.
We want to be soldiers. We want to fight for a higher cause. But we can't fight unless we know that we too also exist and have worth. We have needs and wants and desires. No, it's not all about you. It's also not not about you. It's about you and it's not about you. And when we embrace the fullness of ourselves and the fullness and depth of Gd and take care of ourselves in all ways, when we can self-nurture ourselves and have real, honest to goodness  fun as well as pushing beyond ourselves to the Greater Truth, the Greater Sun that we are part of, then we can become the best Soldiers of Hashem this world has ever seen.

My Baby Wanted To Cry It Out by admin

rivka baby After you give birth to your first child, make sure that you've prearranged with an older experienced mother ( preferably in her 50's or above, before society condemned anything less than nursing and rocking a child to sleep for all time) who is trained in a simple method:

"Just put your baby down, while they are fed, nappy cleaned, and drowsy, in a dark room, but awake. She might make a little squeak, and then she will just go to sleep."
Sounds crazy to us rockers and nursers, right? But time and time again, I'll meet these women who are convinced that this is how they taught their children to go to sleep on their own and their children barely cried at all . 
I also have a conspiracy theory that as things started to get easier for mothers in recent history ( read: dishwashers and being allowed to climb in the work world, two great inventions of our time), we made up some extra things to make it super hard for mothers (read: making women feel like they should be able to juggle all of these roles at once without extra extra help and convincing women that their babies would be traumatized if they cried at all without their mama around to reassure them).
When my first angel was born, I couldn't bring myself to hear any cries. A slight squeak and my body went into fight or flight, knees and feet hitting the floor, arms swinging wildly to get to her crib in time. And at night, at night. She liked to cryyyyy. I came up with a special method- I would hold her and shush her in complete darkness, singing song after song, while she would cry and cry and cry. On my shoulder. Sometimes, half way through, my husband and I would switch off.  It took usually around three hours every night.  And usually an hour before each day nap. Without exaggeration. It got to be a little meditative, actually.
My girl was AWAKE the minute she was born and was not the type to fall asleep in the stroller. I would stare longingly at all of the Yerushalmite mamas with their babies dozing in the carriage, and everyday, hope that Today Is the Day that Tanya would stop staring enchantedly at the world, and just close her precious eyes so I didn't have to do another shushing episode that day.
I tried methods. I read books.  I tried to be home precisely when she would get drowsy, I would see all the signs and.... sometimes I could get it down to 20 minutes shushing during the day but at night..... at night.... my three hour minimum dark singing marathons.
It got to be a full time job, literally. I shushed Tanya for 5 hours a day minimum, seven days a week. 35 hours of dark shushing. My shushing to prevent any crying-without-mama. It was, without saying, a nightmare. Add in being in a foreign country with a husband gone from 530 am to 9 at night and no close friends around and... a recipe for disaster.
We ended up moving back to America. Once we are settled, we kept on chanting, we will do cry-it-out. We just need to be fair to her. I tried patting and pick-up-put-down. To no avail.
Finally, when she was nine months old, it was officially Too Much. My full-time shushing job just was too heavy of a load. The night had come.
I put her down. I left the room. She wailed. I stood outside the door, disturbed, frozen. My husband, nodded, himself a little shaken but determined to see this through.  We sat there, together at the dining room table, staring at the door from which behind our precious child was first encountering abandonment.
Suddenly, the terror peaked within me, rising. "Maybe she's caught under the sheets!" I shrieked to my husband.  " I need to go, I need to make sure."
He raised his eyebrows. " It's just going to make it worse..."
" I  need to. "
I went in. She was not caught under the sheets. She was standing with her face streaming in tears, her nose running. I  took a sharp breath and started to turn around.
She, overcome in frustration and confusion, threw up.
Luckily, as traumatic as it felt, I was prepared for this. " If your child throws up", a CIO booklet had taught me , " Just clean it up and continue on with the plan."
I cleaned it up, and left. She wailed bloody murder for an hour and half, while I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling.
After an hour and a half, my husband and I glanced at each other, in silence. It was silent.  The deal was done. She had, for the first time in her life, gone to sleep on her own.
I lay in bed for a long time afterwards, my body still shaking with nerves. I didn't know what to do with myself, with my free time.
The next day, she cried, just a little, maybe twenty minutes, and that was it. I would just put in her bed, and at night, instead of crying for three hours straight, we would hear her talking to herself, laughing, for an hour and half, before the beauty of children-sleeping silence would fill the home.
Her sleep improved tremendously. She would sleep through the whole night 12 hours, waking up once, and take 2 2 hour naps a day.
Now, knowing and understanding her, it's pretty clear. Those night- time battles and day- resistance were also against us, to us trying to force her to do something. Tanya, our strong-willed, adventurous, independent child, just wanted to be left alone. In the end, crying it out was her wish.
So find that woman, who knows about the whole put-the-child-in-the-dark-when-drowsy method and skip all other steps. I say we've shushed enough in this generation to tikkun the world three times over.

Be Careful Who You Invite To Your Judgement Parties by admin

party-dog-balloonsLittle kids got it. When some other child  offends or hurts them, they stick up their emotional wall and declare: "You're not my friend anymore !" 

That's pretty clear cut. Rather than take it in, and let the criticism or betrayal or rejection crush into their insides, they keep it outside, at their former bestest friend, and draw a line in the sand.
While this approach may not work for relationships above the age of three, it gives us adults some guidance on how to deal with our inner bullies, whether they are disguised as our friends or not.  And some friend-outting and weeding-out of the internal scale has got to occur.
Recently, I returned home from a big project I had worked on, after showcasing it, feeling fairly dejected about my performance. But I had little time to swarm obsessively over feelings of self-pity for perceived failure before I had to cuddle my little 14 month old as her chest heaved from difficulty breathing during croupe. There's nothing quite like a sick child of your own that does wonders for perspective- readjusting. I wouldn't recommend having one just for that reason, but if it does occur, savor that humbling process.
For as I held her, praying for her recovery, hurting as she hurt, I realized that all of these voices inside of my head knocking down my performance were coming from mutated forms of people I knew. But these people I knew had taken up and migrated to my mind and were sneering and folding their hands in contempt and given me well-meaning and debilitating feedback.
And as I held my most precious, I realized we could not all live in the same mental space together. What's more, I started to look around and question who I had invited to my Judgement Party. Of all the people in the room, the only opinion I cared about was my little girl's. And being a 14 month old, I was pretty sure she was saying - " Mommy mommy! Mommy mommy!" (which I translate as "Mommy, I'm so proud of you!".  I also realized that there were so many people missing from my judgement party. Like my husband who undoubtedly was giving me the thumbs up sign and shouting- "You did  it!" and my real friends, who were waving to me from outside of the Judgement Party windows mouthing- "Way to go Rivka!!". Why did I invite all of the people I thought did not truly get me or support me to my Judgement Party?"
I reflected on each one of the mirages of the inner bullies, realizing I did not truly care, deep down, what they thought of me. They did not know me or embrace me fully. "You're not my friend anymore!" I finally put my foot down.
As the long night wore on, I psychologically shooed them all out, one by one, those people whose unholistic and uncompromising opinions of me brought my inner forces down. And instead, I opened up the door to  a small select group of true friends, and my family, who all gathered around on comfortable couches and raises their glasses for my accomplishment. Not even caring about the product, but about me, about my guts, my attempt, my process.
And through that wholeness, I nursed my daughter and myself back to health.

Rule of Thumb: Choose Dignity Over Convenience by admin

dignity  

Convenience beckons and tempts us with thoughts of future pleasure, of relaxation and contentment. Of the universe being in sync with our plan in life.

And yet, on a more subtle scale, waving quietly in the background, is our actual need and desire, for dignity.

We run after convenience but we inwardly thirst for dignity.

In our last apartment, it got to the point that with two little kids running around, I felt like I could practically stretch out my arms on both sides and touch opposite walls. I was a monster in a tiny room, running around in little toddler-shaped circles. The list of why this place was a disaster could go on for a long time, but I will refrain from going over every single ridiculous thing that happened there and the fact that it felt like we were living on top of a garbage landfill. I will just briefly mention that I always felt this sensation of being watched( I remember discussing this at a Shabbos table at our home, which first received some laughter around the table, then as I continually exclaimed- " Don't you feel it? ! Don't you feel like someone is always watching you here ? Like you're not really alone? Don't you feel like you're on stage?!" the guffaws slowly faded into worried grimaces, glancing at one another. The subject was shortly changed.)

But it was so convenient to feel like we were on some Big Brother Landfill of Brooklyn, because we were one block away from not one but two produce stores, all the kosher and Jewish shopping you could dream of, a trendy flower shop, two blocks from the Subway, two and a half blocks from 770. I mean we were in Prime Real Estate. That was one of the big reasons why we took the place, and the main response we got when we told people where we lived :" Great location!" It was a great location. It was so convenient. Yes, it was kind of Very City, but with the cost of moving, we couldn't move, could we? We couldn't find a better location than this, could we? So we stayed, surfing the landfills in DisasterLand. I never felt alone or completely calm a day in the almost three years we lived there.

By the Hand of God, we were plucked out of Big Brother Apartment, and pushed to the streets. Through a diligent search, that ended with Gd selecting our current location despite us, we signed a lease for our current home.

Let me tell you something, sit down New Yorkers if you're prone to anxiety: We live FIFTEEN long minutes away from my daughter's school. That's right. We have to walk 15 minutes to get to her school EVERY DAY ( New Yorkers seem to find these types of times and distances excessively alarming). However, it's true, this location is not as convenient as our last place, and it's true that with the sidewalks only slightly paved in the middles, and 3 degree weather, going back and forth is not that pleasant. Honestly, during the snowy winter, it takes me half an hour each way. Which can add up to two hours a day if I take her both ways. It's good you're sitting down. It's true, our new home is not as convenient. It's true, it's harder. It's true, it's not easy.

But dignity-wise? I feel like a normal, breathing human being. I feel like I can walk around in my own home. When I close my door at night and sit down to write, I feel beautifully, gracefully alone. I feel like I have gone from walking on all fours to heaving myself upwards and joining the human race. And it's all worth it.

Similarly, I have begun to question my decision to stick it out financially and not buy trendy but comfortable footwear , and just wear my super sassy neon colored sneakers. Back where I came from, wearing sneakers and pajama pants was acceptable. You could make pjs cool. People would go out to the store in their workout clothes before a long run. Or after. Or during. You do not do these things in New York.

So, in the name of convenience, I strut around The Block in my workout shoes and basically a neon sign that says : I Am Not From Here. M'Karev Me.

Yet our clothing, our homes, speak to us. It gets inside our head. "C'mon", it smirks, as I neon-strut, " How much better would you feel with nice shoes? Is it worth it? "

There is nothing convenient about a lack of dignity. It eats us up. The things we own, own us. They worm into our sense of integrity, our inner malchus, and began to erode our center, our foundation. We lose critical energy trying to fend off and argue with its attacks, its destabilization attempts.

Choose dignity over convenience I to try repeat to myself, a physical/spiritual mantra.

Just last night, I complained to my husband about a recent fairly terrible doctor appointment I just had. " You have to find a new doctor," he wisely advised.        "But it's so conven-" I clamped my mouth shut.

Convenience is a tricky creature. Be advised and stay on guard. And invite some dignity in for a cup of tea. She's quiet, but she's so so worth it.

Seperating B/w Me and You by admin

I would always stare at the way the girls in class's hair would lie, stick straight. No static. Once, at Allison's, her mom brushed my hair with what seemed like a very fancy brush that poofed in the middle, and I looked so great. I was convinced it was the brush, and tried to get a similar one. But that one broke apart, and that original hair-day effect seemed to be a fluke, or something that only Allison's mom could pull off. I was always looking at other girls, trying to be neater, cleaner, straighter. I didn't even see who I was, what beauty graced my own face, I just saw what I wasn't.

So dropping you off at school, though only 3, I do the same. I check out all the other girls, with their bows exactly in place ( one day I'll buy you headband bows) and fur vests and I glance at you, \ballet slippers getting muddy, hair in pigtails that never seem to align ( how do people align things anyways?), and my eyes crinkle in disdain at the dainty judgement of preschool city, as I try to emotionally wrap my arms around you and protect you from ever feeling the pain of not measuring up.
But it's me who's not measuring up again, now isn't it? Me who's worried I'm not doing enough. Me who thinks you can't handle it.
But you, you stride in there with a smile so wide, and a defiant attitude. You who is unassumingly friendly to everyone you meet; you've been that way since day one, since month 6 when the flight attendents gathered you in their arms and cooed with you for hours in the backroom, since year 2 when you hugged every single one of your school friends goodbye each day.
That's not to say you don't feel it. I see the way you emotionally start to grasp the complexity of relationships, friendships. You do cry after all.
But you're resilent, Israeli -born, your heart sings with gratitude'-Wow, thanks Mom! -you exclaim at everything I buy you.
You can handle this. And you'll take me with you. Protected by your inner strength we will take on the world.

 

Why You Should Paint by admin

baby  

Saying you don't draw because " all you can draw is stick figures" is like saying you don't blog because " you don't know how to use pronouns and adverbs correctly". It's like you saying you don't dance at weddings because you never took any professional dancing lessons. 

People. Since when has art become this elite thing that one can only enjoy once has gotten to a certain level?
Before we learned to crochet and cook and play golf and watch movies, we drew. We painted. As little children, our parents all probably set us down with some clumsy paintbrush and junky brightly colored paints, and we just splashed color this way and that and were happy. So happy. Why? Why were we happy? Because painting is fun.
I don't paint because I consider myself "good" ( though valuing one's own work does have its time and place and is an important, compassionate avodah ). I paint because when my mind excitedly chooses which color to use next, a little happy bomb goes off in my head. And then another. And another. "Yes! I love this magenta!" my head screams. "Ahhhhh this light shade of turquoise green" , I whisper joyously to myself. "Yellow! Yellow! Use that yellow!" And so on. It's like this whole happy dance party in my head.
I could probably take some more classes and learn different techniques, and that would be good too. But besides the point.
Brush aside any notions that you must be in order to do painting. You don't have to be anything other than a person. Tonight, when your kids are asleep, steal into their art drawer and whip up a little something, enjoying the process and not the product. And if you're super- ambitious, you could enjoy the product as well.
Blogging has become a way for the everyday person to express their inner selves. Painting could become that way too, if only we would let go of those elitist notions. We all have something beautiful to share with the painted-life. What's more, we all have something to gain just from enjoying painting. Let those happy color bombs go off tonight. Let those creative fireworks fly.

American Jew, Stay Strong by admin

The  American Jew
is a neurotic mess
he cannot help it.
His mind is in constant battle with the filth of his surroundings
He  gets caugbt in the billboards of insanity      that surround him.

The American Jew
Stuck in the strenches
Has even his own heart and mind as potential enemies
He spies them out and knows their evil ways, if he tries to decipher himself


The Israeli Jew
has an element the American Jew,in his enslaved state, has never yet reached.
The Israeli walks around as if without a care pressing down upon his shoulders
      although in truth,the entire world is watching and judging him,weighing his constant merits/sins
He is light in his step and firm in his faith,
he knows for whom the bell tolls,
he knows he receives everything form Him.
He can laugh deeply,without constantly worrying about where to scurry next (the American Jew,scurrying is his second nature)
He is the product of a Jew born free in his own land.

Fear not,American Jew, you are caught in useless battles and insignificant nuerotic messes and superficial worries
but you are a mighty foot soldier
with so much up against you

Hold on tight
Let go of those physical "lifesavers" and "lifeboats", they are filled with lead to anchor you down
castigate all worries as trivial nuisances fabricated as giants 
Grab onto the real stuff,the real lifesavers, the Israelis,their faith,the Truth
let it pull you up
it's the only way for you to get out Alive.

Poor American soul,caught in the thick of it,
no one hands out medals of honor or purple hearts because noone can understand his battle and triumph.

Oneday,you will reach Israeli soil.
Oneday,you will reach Israeli spirit.
Until then,until you can breathe fully,
hang on. 

You're our foot soldier.

Maternal Perfection by admin

a delicate balance act is the life of a mother
for years,a singlet, what disd i eat? scurrying from one activity to the next,fufilling my purpose or crowning  some achievement or just trying, i rushed around
years later, my husband would be the one to teach me how to make a salad and cook chicken (put it in the oven he would instruct, just throw some sauce on top)
how did i not know this? how did i physically live? i do not know, but i was ambitoius,and driven,and life progressed
at a certain point,however, i realized this could no longer be
all this rushing around, without concern for my physical health,would take a toll on  my family,my child,my pregnant self
"but what about my career? " i would inwardly wail, whata bout accomplishments?
what about perfection? i was really asking. when will i  be perfect,complete? when will I have Made it?
and as pregnancy descends,and the kicking beccomes closer and stronger
and a life rests upon my  physical decsions,my choices to take care of myself, i make a decision,resolute, almost subconcious.
bowing down to the Perfecton that already exists wthin
seeing it for the first time in clear light,as I waddle around.

and so I allow 
others to"pass me by"
i allow my accomplishments to come slower and with more space in between
and i focus on that which receives no glory but is Glory itself
the continuation of existance
the blossoming of reality
for letting go of my own stride for achievement lets me see that just in being,in breathng, he and I and we 
are Perfect already
a heavenly body
a heavenly sphere
keter,chocma,bina,tiferes,hod,sod,netzach,yesod,malchus
Perfect.

How To Be A Jewish Artist by admin

how to become a jewish artist
begets the question
how does one be a jew
how does one be an artist
what is art
and all of these questions that seemingly have been discussed for ages, and have never been properly dissected and rearranged for our understanding. 

art is a flow
a flow of ideas, of inspiration, that comes from a superior place, like chochma, above the intellect, in the deep recesses of our soul, nestled between our inner will and our taanug, our desire, there is a kernel of an idea that wants to fly, and become a spring chicken, but it needs us. it needs us as the conduit, using our mind and our cerebral cortexes, not to mention our spinal cord, and soaring through our nervous system, it produces a rapid heartbeat as we start to feel something deeply within us, we start to have the urge to say something, and our fingers twitch and our mind becomes restless, unable to focus on the external conversation, on thepleasantries to our neighbors, as we have one task before us. quick! it sends signals to our brain. focus! find that piece of paper, jot this down! before your forget! and we scramble nervously around, bumping into things, knowcking things over, repeating things under our breath, unaware of the curious looks from pasperbys as we find at last! that piece of paper and the flow is still there and its coming, and as we write, as we paint, as we dance, that little kernel, inplanted within us, begins to sing, and we hold on tight and let it rip. 
that is the process of art and that is the role of the artist. essentially, a conduit. 
so let's all get off our high horses, fellow awesome artists, and admit the truth- it's not really us that's making that art, it's that Higher Power, that's sprinkling those kernels that become implanted within our souls and our nervous systems and our furious fingertips that are banging out our latest prose with all the gusto we can muster. 


okay. 
but, how do we connect to that flow?


there are two flows going on in our system- one that begins in the heart. no surprises there. it is from this flow that much of the "art" in this world  is produced.   the heart wants and it pleads and it feels and the mind, a dutiful servant, is pulled on after it, creating elaborate intellectual treaties that explain in progressive, persuasive academic style that would please any college professor, the rationalized reasons for its activities. this is our natural flow, that happens automatically within our system, for our heart has a huge hunger and the loudest voice out of any of ours. this is how all of the shmutz in the artworld evolves, from a heart that desires blindly, deeply, and a mind that explains after it "see, this is important that this is said, because..."even if it never should have been said in the first place. 

and the other flow, the meeker, more humble, sturdy voice and mouth, begins in our intellect. this one takes our own effort to initiate. but if we do,  if we allow our intellect to lead with thoughts that engage our mind with invigorating thoughts on emes that calm our hearts and reinforce our sense of purpose and create a clearer picture of the Torah way, this superior flow then channels down into the heart, and the heart beats after it. it is that latter that we must harness, preparing our minds before creating art with a Torah perspective, going at the art with a Jewish mind. 


this is why a jewish artist must first concentrate on being   Jewish. not just doing jewish, but being. preparing  one mind, one's spirit, and connecting to that flow. that is who we really are. 
the problem is that jewish artists feel they must DO Jewish art. there is the being that comes out of doing ( I do, therefore I am) or the doing that comes out of being ( I am, therefore I do). and that funny thing is, is that once one connects to that flow, that Gdly flow, it's easy. the art, is easy. because you're just a conduit and it comes from you. you don't have to think or push after that.  

the former (Jewish art-doer) feels with a heavy heart they must take that Jewish concept and apply it to their art, as if they were two seperate entities. it becomes laborous, seperate from oneself, and, as we all mourn, boring. and above all, a burden. art should never be a burden. it may be intense or scary or confusing, but underlying its energy must always come from a place of grand liberation. of having something important to say. but for those poor Jewish souls who feel they must take about this or that, or they must create, they are as enslaved as the rest of us, their art is just another box on their to do list. sigh. 

but if you are situated in the right place, with your head in the right place, energized, heart pumping from , feeling calm and determined and connected and in love with the Source of Life, that art, that Jewish art, is just going to flow. and it's going to be fantastic. and you're going to look heavenward, and inward, and all around, and know, with that inner knowing that speaks with absolute certainty, that Gd wanted you to say this and He wanted you to say it with all of your personality and wisdom and bright colors and hilarious humor. and with that feeling of inner connection, inner certainty, unstoppable fervor, and a busting smile on your face, His Will has become your will and His desires, your desires, and flowing, and going, and flowing somemore, you will add to the powerful collection that He keeps in His Private Art Collection,that He dances to in His spare time, that He muses over. For there is nothing He wants more from you or that the Jewish people could ask for you than good, true, quality Jewish Art. 

Hatzlacha.

Reflections on Shindler's List, Tisha Baav and BEyond by admin



Face in shocked fright, scurrying to and fro,
Dark hair,pale skin, worried yet pious, here and yet somewhere else,higher and deeper,
normal yet different
These are my people.
Real,yet caricatures,I find myself amongst them
I feel my bones start to shake,
Terror and mass 


This is my story.
It has been beaten into my blood,
It is the fabric and makeup of the bones the push against my fat,skin, and nerves to propel me forwards
My mother's mother walked these roads
Saw these sights
my mother's mother was shaved,pushed,commanded,
stood shaking,obediant, never knowing tomorrow,
My mother's father too
This is my blood
these are my people
To know my story you must know this.

I reflect on the bond I feel with these black and white imaged people, family of thousands,millions,
as I step out in the still huid air, sunlight on my face,
as they pass me on the street, 
60 +years later.
They look the same, I look the same,
yet we are free.

And the Israeli youth,
with their golden skin,shining proud eyes and soul,
suddenly I feel they cannot relate
Them in Geula, me in Golus
They are of a different bone, a different legion,
they from freedom, us from elslavement.

And yet, 
sometimes,
when I see the relgious soul on the street,here in America,
pale,dark skin, 
bound in chains and clothes and furtive, unsure steps,
or with too strong dogmatic resolutions,
uncertainty resting on their shoulders,
pressure and fear chaining them down,
lilke we were chained long ago,
I look at them discerningly from a distance of 50 ft and 20 years:
Who are thee people? I am not one of them.

And the ISraeli youth,with their embracing arms and warm thoughts,
this is my Truth I realize as I join their side, this is my Life, this is who I really Am.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The truth-
I am part Golus
I am partially Geula
Golus,is my past (Geula my past before I had a past)
but it is also the greatest impetus for my future
My Golus grinds against my  Geula, 
its fierce,stubbled nicks shaving my own personal redemption (and our redemption) into stronger and stronger metal powerhouses, more focused,certain vision
I am half Israeli
I am partially European
I am a war hero, a battered but still standing survivor,  
I have seen it all and I am also untouched,
pure virgin spirit with shining eyes and a good,clear heart
I  am Golus
I am Geula
Yes,
These are both my people.

We Get Better by admin

for each of my two pregnancies, I had a naggy uncomfortable though wagging in the back of my brain : is this, this pregnancy, this birth, this baby going to weigh me down sot that i wont be able to advance in my career goals and dreams? i shared this fear with few, as it's implications seemed drastically selfish: was i really weighing bringing another being into the world with a few minutes of glory and name recognition ( as well as an inner feeling of accomplishment and progress of course?) the thought did not drag me down immensely, and eventually would disapate slightly throughout  the 10 months in which the fetuz grew and took on a life of its own. in addition, both times i would use all excess energy i had to push myself to advance as quick as i could in my painterly and artistic pursuits until the Day Came. 

 when the Day Came and another life spewed from me, I found myself in an avalanche of activity, desperately trying to find my footing.
but the fear did not come to frution. instead, several things happened.
I found that my sense of fufillment expanded to the success of my family. As my husband's career progressed, I felt in a certain sense that my life was progressing and advancing as well. that I, through him, together with him, was advancing, was advnacing the purpose of the world. As my daughters grew and changed, I saw significance and meaning and accomplishment in my own life.
But the clincher lies in what happened when I actually did carve out some time for myself to paint or write: though the moments were few, what I did crank out had a quality and an integrity far beyond what I had done pre-child. For I was better. Thus my work was better. And while it may take me much, much longer to accomplish those dreams (say 10 years more than had I been childless), the product that I do produce will say a lot more, will affect people a lot more. And even if that artwork is hung up in the hallway of my child's school instead of the Guggenheim, its impact may be far deeper and better.
I have come to hypothesize that there is no loss of self with having children. There is certainly an additions of frustrations, additions of desperately trying to find time for yourself. but as the sense of "I" struggles and fights with the great waves of activitiy that threaten to bring it down, it find something there. Another way to gain it's footing. Another way to relate to itself and its purpose. And through that health of being, the self expands ten fold and comes to a greater, more accomplished peace and production than it ever had previously.
We do not lose ourselves when we have children. We gain ourselves; if we tap into it, the opportunity to have better,more interesting things to say and do and be. More fire in order to accomplish the impossible, to revolutionze the world. To be a mother is to advance in all senses of the word. Never fear pregnant mamas, overburdened immas, it is through our children that we become who we want to be. Just with more spit up stains to launder out.

Take Back the Bath! by admin

  bath-tub-shower-450x480

There are two types of people in the world; boiled down- those who take showers and those who take baths. There are, of course, those who take neither, those who cannot or will not clean themselves. So we will create a third category, as of now. There are three types of people in the world. 

Let's start again.
Common to the proclamation against baths is the belief that "you sit in your own filth". And yet, don't we do that all the time, regardless of our position? Horizontal or vertical? Aren't we constantly surrounded by our own shortcomings, confusion, concerns? Do we become more or less saturated and obsessed with such filth whilst bathing or showering?
How often in our life do we have the opportunity to be horizontal? Very few. So often, we are vertical, standing, running, jogging, walking, waiting.
The bath is an opportunity to submerge, into another world. Where time stops, and stands on its head. The bath is where we regress into childhood and yet progress into advanced years. We are everywhere and nowhere, within a bubble, and just sitting in the stillness. Surrounded.
The shower is a fairly recent advancement in the history of mankind. But is it progress? Must be graduate once we hit teenagehood to the vertical cleansing position? Do we have no other option?
The choice is ours.
Choose baths in 2015.

College Women, Buckle Your SeatBelts by admin

college

Walking around a Midwestern college campus, a couple of thoughts roll through my brain:

#1: Dear Lord, all of these women are so fit!
and
#2: Just wait, honey.
It's like, even in the dress-down style that exists nowhere else in America, where sweatpants are To Be Expected, here college women seem to Have It All: intelligence, a future, toned bodies, and the relaxed-I-Want-To-Have-Fun-Embrace-The-Day mentality.
The perfect woman, right?
Except I see in their superpower their descent as well,  and it's not as impressive. It's better, but less glamorous.
A person I once dated remarked to me, "My dad says that once women get married, they change."
At the time, I was thinking, "Man, your parents must not have a happy relationship. "
Now, I'm thinking: Well, yes. Uh huh . Of course, dude!
I mean, wouldn't you change if you took a thousand more responsibilities, two thousand more details to manage daily, and none of these to do with your own personal, physical, or professional advancement? The world of Taking Care of One's Self and Taking Care of Others are dramatically different.
And I haven't even started to get to the Baby Phase, where female bodies bend and buckle and waddle as they bring new life into this world. And then once that life has entered, Dear Lord and Thank the Lord and Lord have Mercy, you better believe your body is going to change.
To address the change in attitude, to say I become 100% more neurotic and 100% more balanced and focused would be an understatement. And these are only two 100% of all the changes and upswings and downswings.
Honey, there will be swings.
So I propose a class, online maybe to reach the masses, to educate young men and women frolicking around in body-flattering sweats and toe-revealing sandals and breathing in long satisfied breaths of self- advancement.
The class will be called: They Will Change, and it's about how students and parents are two dramatically different species, and that we should all expect all these changes, expect that college-looks and self-assured attitudes will not Be For All Time.
The class will end every session with a "It gets better, folks. It all get harder, but it all gets better."
And then men and women will know, at the very least, that the person they met in college will not  be the same person after the chuppah and the baby carriage.  They will change, but with your support, they can be even better.
Buckle your seat belts.

Take This Down by admin

poet

Gd likes to send me words, sentences, and paragraphs. Sometimes He will send me a whole article, from start to finish,complete with details, punctuation, and concluding remarks. Sometimes He has me writing it in my head the entire day; while I pick up my daughter from school, while I shove food hurriedly into the oven, and while I am singing them to sleep at night.
When the lights are off and the door is closed ( slightly ajar), the husband is fed and the calm has decended, I rip open the laptop and try to jot it all down. Usually, I find it's better as it comes out. It's like Gd is fanning the fire as my fingers click-clack across the keyboard, elucidating and adding adverbs as we go, together. And I finish the last few clickety clacks, and breathe, stepping back, a feeling of appreciation and satisfcation. A joint partnership of creativity.
But sometimes, He sends me all the right messages, and all the right stories, but I tell Him: Just Wait. Wait until tomorrow. Wait until the next day. Wait until the bills are paid and the clothes are washed. Wait until I find time to put You and Your ideas in my busy life.
And I find that when I tell Him to wait, He stops sending. I stop receiving ideas or insights. My mind starts to bore me and tells me nothing is new, nothing is new again. Nothing is interesting. What's to write down?
And the bills are never paid, and the clothes are never finished, but still my mind waits. Waits for the inspiration to come, the electricity to fire.
So I reach out.
"I'm ready," I say. " I won't bug you off this time. I won't insist I don't have ten minutes to jot down Your latest poem, Your latest impassioned plea for humanity through my fingertips. I'll do it. Please, just give me it back. The words, the thoughts. The inspiration."
It usually takes a day or two, of waiting, of asking, of being receptive and willing to be the conduit.
And then it comes. And throughout the day, I'm being run. I'm being pumped. Of ideas, of thoughts, of inspiration.
And when the lights go out, and the door is closed ( slightly ajar) and the husband is fed, but the bills aren't yet paid, and the clothes aren't yet washed, I know what to do. I close my door, I open that computer, and I get to work. Because some things can't wait.

Believe in Me by admin

art student On an average day for a painting student, the teacher beckoned me to the other room, for a quick chat. It was the middle of class, and everyone was silently working, or staring at their work, or praying for their work to somehow start forming into something significant.

I followed, hesitantly. He set me down. His eyes filled with tears. I braced myself.
"You're good," he said slowly, smiling. "You've got it."
I knew this was his last year as an older teacher, and perhaps the momentousness of this approaching end was too much for him to take. Perhaps he was wishing we could change places; him with more time to run towards his dreams. Or perhaps they were tears of satisfaction. I tried to respond sensitively; I tried to hold together the compliment he was thrusting towards me.
"You don't like to wear shoes do you?" he smiled, eyes crinkling. I smiled with him, shaking my head, both of us amused by my tendency to walk around the studio barefoot. It rooted me, somehow. We both sat there, floating with the possibilities of my future success, active spectators.
I returned to the main classroom. The teacher and I never really spoke again. We hadn't been close to begin with. The compliment, this earnest message, packaged and planned and given to me specifically, with the knowledge hoping to propel me forward, lodged into my consciousness. I carried it around with me, wherever I went.
Years later, a rainy night at a community art opening,  I happened to overhear three women discussing my work. They began by praising my first two paintings. I smiled, and leaned in closer. But the third painting, a new venture into a different type of painting style, received a dreadful response: " It's so ugly!" the same praising woman declared to her friends. "Why would she have this in it?"
A year previously, while in Jerusalem, I had met  a thriving Jewish artist who had one question for me: " Are you willing to continue painting after having 1000 people reject your work? How much stamina do you have? "
I answered him truthfully, instantly:" I can take it. I can take a 1000 people telling me my work is terrible, ugly. I believe in myself."
And I do. Because deep in my consciousness, lodged into a permanent part of my brain, my teacher sits. He sits and he delivers the same compliment again and again. I see his tears welling up all the time, the pain and joy simultaneously in his heart as he tries to delivers what he sees as a valuable message that needs to be heard. I hear it. "You are good." he says. "You got it."
He's what hold me together, keeps me going. When the critics are high and the paintings aren't forming. When colors run together and inspiration crumbles. I go back to that room, with my bare feet sauntering around studio floors, squinting at the canvas, imbued with an environment of confidence and support.
It's been 11 years since he took me into the room and sat me down. Where he is in this world, I don't know. I hope he's healthy and I hope he's painting his heart out. But in my mind, he's certainly alive and well, and he's pushing me forward, constantly.
For the sincere compliments that exit one's mouth and enter another's heart, cannot be forgotten. They are played on repeat. They sustain identities and dreams. They are the fuel that pushes artists forward when the rest of the world raises their eyebrows in mild confusion.
"I don't believe you," a voice pipes up within me when my work is negatively judged, (sometimes by myself). "There's a man in my head, and he says I'm good. He taught for twenty years at as a university arts professor.  He says I've got it."
And at the end of the day, there's no arguing with that.

Growing by admin

us

To say the least, my husband and I don’t have the typical baal teshuva shidduchim story.

On a beach littered by seagulls on the edge of Lake Michigan, I brought sushi to a first date that I had asked him out on ( more on that story another time). I had been Frum for many years, professionally kiruving Jews like nobody’s business. He had just committed to wearing a kippah at an Iowa summer writing residency program four months earlier, after being in yeshiva for a year.  We had known each other for 13 years, and yet not at all. 

I wore a black shell over a long white shirt; he had on the fanciest gray button down he could find and dark blue jeans. 

In the dusk of that magically momentous night, a night that was eerily the most comfortable date I had been on in years, I asked him the question: “ What exactly is  Chassidus, anyways?” And through the night air, I remember how he explained in his answer that Chabad holds that when the Torah says “the hand of Gd”, it also means literally. I listened, totally not getting it, but interested nonetheless. 

He was a gung-ho Chabad-is-the-best. I was a self proclaimed post-denominational Jew, hooked on Rabbi Tatz and Rav Soltoveitchik. 

We had our moments. 

“We need to decide on a derech!” he would proclaim, and I would look at him quizzically, my heart contorting, resistant to this notion so against its nature. 

“ But, why? “ I would squint. 

“For our children! “ he would emphasize in concern, and I would shake my head and try to change the conversation. 

Luckily for us, he had the truly brilliant idea of setting aside our wedding money before it disappeared, for a trip to Israel for 6 weeks to study at Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem. 

Mayanot happens to be one place I now consider to truly “ get” Chabad Chassidus, more than anything I had experienced prior to or since. I fell in love. With Israel. With Chabad Chassidus. (and of course with my new husband) Our 6 week adventure turned into a long, pest-filled, shawarma-stuffed journey of a year and a half, with a beautiful daughter Tanya at the end of it. 

I remember our fight at the Kotel, when he gazed at the men and muttered offhand, “ I would like to get a hat someday”.

“What ?!” I shrieked, disturbed. “Why? “

But slowly, people change, and big things become small things, and small things become natural, and natural becomes enjoyable, and everyone is fine and moving together. 

With our move to Brooklyn, I started to understand the way in which the external world did matter, how our clothes did make statements, and our style of dress shifted. 

There we were, four years after our beach night date,  sheitel-ed, black-hatted, with a painting of the Rebbe on our wall. And that was okay, too. And enjoyable. 

And in this hilarious world, which I find quite comical, my husband started to unexpectedly shift. He started thinking differently, questioning differently, reading differently. He wanted to change, to learn other types of Torah. Which I, coming from a different background, thought was terribly healthy and fine. 

Mostly, the reaction was positive, though just a trifle negative. Just a little bit of the well-worn pressure of: “You need to choose. You can’t flip-flop. You have to decide on a derech. It’s too confusing for the kids.”

Says who? Where are these kids, hiding in alleyways and skulking around the dreary parts of town, messed up because their parents were so enlivened and inspired by different words of Torah at different times in their lives, different sages influencing them at different years? Where are these kids, traumatized because their parents were obsessed with Breslov, and then embracing and diving into Chabad teachings, and later discussing the Rav with intense admiration until 2 in the morning years later? I only see children struggling from the heavy burden of parents who told them too sternly: This. Is. How. It. Is. There. Is. Only. One. Way. Do. It. Or children from emotionally unhealthy frum homes. That is what I have seen. 

I will say it until I am blue in the face; what our children need is for us to be passionate about Torah. Any Torah. Our children need for us to have words of Torah on our lips and in our minds and on our hearts. The Torah beating our hearts forward. Chabad, Modern Orthodox, whatever. If it came from Sinai, it is good and we and they will be fine. More than fine. Alive.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The only thing you need to choose is the decision to keep on growing. 

Am Yisrael Chai.