With a new year approaching I find myself reflecting on how far I’ve come or how different things became from the previous year. I reflect on my relationships with family & friends. I reflect on my schooling and finances. I reflect on my choices that impact my physical and mental health.
This time is vulnerable. It’s the time I center myself and really try to feel. What truly impacted me in the last year? What impacted me personally? What impacted my marriage? What impacted my education? What impacted my friendships? How did those experiences make me feel in the moment? And how do I currently feel while reflecting on them? Do they still make me smile? Do they still sting?
I make a list of what still stings. It sounds weird but I sit there going through that list and try to work through it with myself. My goal isn’t to bring any negativity with me into the new year. I want to bring gratitude and good vibes into the new year. I want to explore what may have hurt me and find the lesson in those moments.
I would say in the past year, like any year, I experienced my fair share of hardships and celebrations.
Some changes I made for myself that have truly impacted my year are the following:
Shana Tova. I hope this year is wonderful for all of you.
It's the fifth night of Chanukah as I sit here writing this post, a holiday known for it's theme of light. A holiday known for the miracle of a tiny amount of oil lasting EIGHT nights! A tiny amount of oil, which from how I was told the story seems like it wouldn't be enough to fry a single latka, lasted eight nights!! I don't know about you, but miracles like that always send chills down my spine. What's even more insane to me was how My Husband was standing beside me lighting Chaunkah candles every night. I know to many people this sounds very normal and mundane but it's really not! In 1936 massive flags with the Nazi swastika hung from the Brandenburg gate in Berlin, Germany. During the time of the Holocaust my Husband's maternal Grandparent's A''H were tortured in concentration camps. Baruch Hashem, both of his Grandmother and Grandfather survived the Holocaust. Mo's maternal Grandparents down the line got married, had 3 children. From there they married off all three of their children and were blessed with 6 grandchildren. One of the six grandchildren is my Husband. THIS CHANUKAH at the Brandenburg gate the President of Germany light a massive MENORAH. If you don't have chills from that, read it again! THE PRESIDENT OF GERMANY LIGHT A MASSIVE MENORAH WHERE HUGE FLAGS WITH SWASTIKAS ONCE HUNG!! Woah. THAT was this year's Chanukah miracle for the Jewish nation. I stood next to my Husband in awe as we light our Menorah. A ton of years ago a tiny amount of oil lasted eight nights. Chills. Fast forward, times were pretty dark for the Jewish people once again, but thankfully (even though it was no where near enough) many of our people survived. Chills. Fast forward until this Chanukah, We stand with our loved ones lighting our Menorahs across the globes. We egnite our little flames and watch them shine bright for eight nights where our nation has experienced heavy darkness. Chills. Internalize all of that!!
I follow a brand I adore on Instagram called Mimumaxi. Mimi and Mushky, the incredibly inspiring ladies behind the brand, started a unique giveaway for Chanukah. To enter the giveaway you had to answer 1 out of 9 questions on your story with the #mimulights. The questions they asked, to name a few, were the following: "How do YOU shine your light?" "How do you show your Jewish pride?" "How will you advocate for Jewish people or be an ally for Jewish people?". The goal of these questions was to light up their stories with an abundance of inspiration from all types of incredible people. I read each entry they shared and saw all the different ways Women express their Jewish pride, love for Jewish people, how they shine their own light and more. I literally had chills the entire time and many of the entries has me tearing up from happiness.
When Chanukah is over how will we spread our light? The world today, once again, seems like a dark and scary place for the Jewish people. How do we take our little Chanukah flame and make it last until next year? How do we at least make it last week to week until we light our Shabbat candles? I used to think my personal answer was to dress modestly, cover my hair, bake Challah etc. I think the answer really is to be more accepting of those around me. The world is already dark and gloomy, but from experience getting compliments, hearing I'm doing a good job, receiving random acts of kindness brightens my mood for hours! The same thing happens when I do those things for other people. I've noticed that so many people (including Me & you reading this) are busy pointing out all the things other individuals do wrong. Sometimes we do it without even realizing it. Pointing that stuff out just makes the darkness feel so much heavier. It's okay if someone isn't as "frum" as you. It's okay if someone sins differently than you do. It's okay if you can't understand why they do it. It's not okay to put someone down because of that. It's not okay to add to the darkness.
My mother always would say "Rachel, chessed (charity) starts at home." The same thing applied to us as a nation. Kindness, love and unity starts within us, as a nation. We can't expect people who have always disapproved of us to change their hearts, when we can't change our own. This year, with G-d's help, I'll be trying my best to spread my own personal light. As we have seen from history, a little light has the power to push out a lot of darkness.
Happy Chanukah to all My Jewish readers!!!
To the rest, Happy Holidays :)
It's become an unfortunate reality that more and more people are showing violence and hatred toward the Jewish people. After the terrible attack that happened in Pittsburgh, a flood of hateful antisemites committing antisemitic acts has invaded our streets, schools, Shuls, and homes. Our hearts have recently been broken time and time again as we hear of each new sighting of a spray-painted swastika, each brother and sister they stole from us, each antisemitic comment on a Jew's social media page. We're facing a time that makes some hesitate to attend Shul on Shabbos. We're facing a time where some people feel stronger as a Jew than ever before. I'm so proud to be a Jew and will be damned before I hide my identity in fear of being hated. However, the reality is that some days it is scary when you don't know who are your allies and who are your enemies. I'm not looking for enemies. No Jewish person is seeking out enemies. We're seeking support and love. We're asking people to be brave enough to stand against antisemitism with us. We're asking for people to stop attacking us when we're merely trying to mind our own business. We're asking people to educate themselves on the facts and not listen to made up stereotypes. We're asking people not just to start accepting Jews, but to start receiving & respecting everyone. Nobody has to agree with another religion's views to see them as a human being. We're all human first and foremost. We all just want to make it home to hug our loved ones again. We all just want to be able to walk the streets without having to look over our shoulder. The rise of antisemitism in America is terrifying, that's a fact. I'm proud to be a Jew, that's a fact. The rise of people standing against antisemitism will increase tremendously by 2019, I hope that will be a fact.