Updated: Sep 25, 2020
This time of year is hard for me. I assume it will be like this for the rest of my life.
Two years ago on Rosh Hashanah my mother entered the ICU and never came home. Two years ago and it is still so fresh in my mind...
People try to comfort me saying "it gets better with time," but I find those words extremely annoying. Not to mention it has not gotten easier with time, so thank you very much.
However, this Rosh Hashanah, I had so much to think about. I had a new prospective.
I happen to hate when people make the pitch "just change your perspective." You can't just change your perspective. Your prospective has come to be based on hundreds of factors; where you grew up, your family size, your family’s history, your natural personality, your natural tendencies, etc. Changing your prospective isn't a "just do it" type of thing.
I often feel a deep sense of guilt.
I can analyze and over-analyze where this comes from, but not for this blog. I've noticed something interesting though. The clients I attract are the clients who share many of the same struggles as I do. We can chalk this up to the law of attraction or the concept of "what you put out is what you get." It doesn't really matter. I feel like this business has been one of the most rewarding, positive, life changing opportunities I have been given.
I reached out to many of my Jewish clients prior to Rosh Hashanah, thanking them for the opportunity to let me into their lives, sharing their pain and struggles with me. It is a huge privilege to be a part of their growth process.
I think that becoming someone who counsels others is a big part of my new prospective. Maybe that wasn't my intent when I started this journey, but it has been an incredible bonus gift I've been given.
I hear the word "guilt" many times throughout the day.
Whether it's in my own head, coming from my clients or other people in my life, I don't like this word. I don't like this abstract concept. I don't want it in my life anymore. I believe that some people may be motivated by guilt, but I am not one of those people.
When I daven (pray), I have a genuine desire to connect to Hashem (G-d). He needs nothing from me - so when I am davening, I am davening for myself. I've heard people pose the question - "Can davening really change the outcome of a situation?" The answer I like is that when you daven, you change yourself, and you, as a new person, may now merit something you did not merit before.
I was interviewed on Yael Trusch's podcast Jewish Latin Princess, and she asked me "What's one thing you wish you knew about Judaism growing up?" I said, "I wish I knew that davening was talking to Hashem." Somehow, I never knew that's what it was. I never had any sense of a relationship with Hashem. I think maybe that had to do with how much guilt I associated with my actions or lack of actions.
Sarah Rivkah Kohn and her husband, Shmuel, went Live on Instagram to discuss "Tefillah, Trauma and Perspectives on the Yomim Noraim". Shmuel reminded me of a great metaphor when it comes to davening. "Davening is not like a vending machine. The words we say are not the coins inserted into the machine. We don't get to push that bag of "happy life" and watch it so effortlessly fall to the bottom of the machine and yank it out with glee. That's not how Tefillah works nor is it how our relationship with Hashem works.”
I found this metaphor to be comical because it transported me back to my high school days. I dragged my feet to davening each day. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Mindy Eisenman, saying "One day, you will wish you had 45 minutes carved out of your day to daven." Oh please I scoffed, I'd do anything rather than daven. And in that room where we davened, we also had our vending machines. I remember the vending machines more than I remember my siddur. I even remember the bathroom where I used to hide more than my siddur. I could pretty much remember anything more than my siddur.
And now, 15 years past high school, I still struggle to daven.
Yes, I am busier, I have more responsibilities, I even have the excuse that I now have to tend to my children, but that's not keeping me from my siddur... if I’m going to be truly honest with myself.
About 2 years ago, I heard Rav Gav give a shiur (class) here in Woodmere. It was 6 weeks after my mother died. I went over to him afterward with a question but suddenly found myself in tears. "How could Hashem do this to me? To my father? Most married couples hate each other at the empty nest stage. My parents loved each other, grew closer, and needed each other! How could my 90 year old grandfather, who lost his father at 10 and lost his wife in his 50's now have to bury his daughter? I'm sorry, I just am really mad at Hashem. Can I say that?”
Do you know what he said? He said yes. Yes, you can say that to Hashem (maybe don't chant that in front of your kids), but that is a completely appropriate conversation to have with Hashem. I am still carrying that shiur and concept with me today.
As Shmuel said, "a wife giving the husband the silent treatment is also a form of communicating". And just like in a marriage when the silence is broken, we may start our conversation with "I know I haven't spoken to you in a while, I've been hurt and upset, I really needed space to clear my head," we too can do that with Hashem.
No more guilt.
No more threats.
No more fear.
Just unadulterated connection.
I don't think I'm ready to call it love, but I'll say connection.
My therapist pointed out that an angry teenager, who's really just hurting, may say they hate their parents, but that is only because of the deep love they feel. The hurt that occurs when love is so strong is tremendous. We can't understand our own emotions, let alone articulate them to someone outside of ourselves.
A parent can intuit some of what a child is actually feeling or trying to say. Like my mentor, Perl Abramowitz, has said in her parenting classes, when a child says "I hate you," we should respond "It sounds like you're really upset. Can you try communicating what you really mean in a less hurtful way? Let's start again."
I actually had this conversation with one of my children this week. I said, "It hurts my feelings when you say I hate you, did you mean something else?" and my child responded “Yes - I really meant I hate when you leave me with the babysitter.”
I've recently decided to share many of my feelings and struggles openly. I know whatever I struggle with, other people struggle with as well. In my newest podcast with Shevi Samet we discussed how as children, we get this visual of Rosh Hashanah as scales with good deeds on one side and bad on the other. Many of us carry that visual into adulthood, yet, our Judaism must mature as we mature. We can't stay in that kindergarten mindset of Judaism. We must allow ourselves to evolve. We must be real with ourselves. We must embrace our actual prospective, not one that has been shoved down our throats.
When I hear of others struggling with religion, whether it's someone who appears to be struggling or someone who I’d never suspect, I think about this new perspective that helped me throw away my guilt. Gone. The same way in tashlich I throw away my "averios" into the water.
Religion isn't static.
Religion isn't only how you look externally. Religion is a process. Religion has ups and downs. Religion isn't black and white. People use religion to manipulate others (which is not OK). Religion is about being true to yourself. To your prospective.
I read Daniel Glatstein's column in "The Jewish Home" recently . He explained how symbolic the rams horn is. The bottom part is so small, and the top part is so much bigger. He pointed out how it's similar to the Midrash in Shir Hashirim (5:2) that says:
"פתחו לי פתח אחד של תשובה כחודה של מחט ואני פותח לכם פתחים שיהיו עגלות וקרניות נכנסות בו"
“Open up for me one opening like the eye of a sharp needle, and in turn I will enlarge it for you to be an opening through which chariots can go through.”
If we open even the smallest bit of effort, just the size of a needle, Hashem opens up the world for us. I find this hard to believe, yet at the same time, I also find it refreshing.
It reminds me of how much of my life I have lived with the burden of unnecessary guilt and how grateful I feel to have developed a new outlook of hope.
This is empowering.
This is positive.
Hashem gave us life and now it's our choice to develop and grow closer to Him, regularly evaluate our perspective and to channel it all (like our jobs our family our goals) for our own good - NOT for someone else's good or to make them accept you.
Nobody knows how religious you are by your appearance. Someone who looks super religious can be completely disconnected and another might not appear to be religious at all but they keep trying hard to connect to G-d, grow, strive and evolve.
Wishing you all a year of happiness, health, wealth, shalom bayis, nachas, and a new perspective.