Gut Shabbes! (Shemos)

One of my favourite quotes ever goes something like, “The bravest thing I ever did was carry on living when I wanted to give up”. It’s a sentiment I can relate to on both a personal and a spiritual level- it applies not only to my whole life but also to my Jewish journey. For me, Shabbes was always the hardest mitzvah. It seems restrictive. In today’s world, turning on a light is a convenience, not work, says a voice in my head. Why does it matter if you flip a light switch, or tear a packet?

But the biggest challenge is when you’re alone, spending Shabbes with a family directly opposed to your frumkeit, or in a shul where you’re treated like an outsider, and you go home to stare at the four walls of your house and count the minutes until Shabbes goes out. It’s isolating, painful, heartbreaking even. I know quite a few people in this situation, whom I do my utmost to help. Having been there myself, I try to offer them both physical and emotional support. This week, as I kindle the Shabbes lights and remember those who are ill, I also remember those who are spending the Holy day all alone…

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:49 in London, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 5:06 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna and Rivka Miriam bas Tsivia Bina. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Vayigash)

“I am a stranger and a resident amongst you” (said Avrohom to Ephron the Hittite, Genesis 23:4). The Jew is a “resident” in the world, for the Torah instructs us not escape the physical reality but to inhabit it and elevate it. At the same time, the Jew feels himself a “stranger” in the material world — his true home is the world of spirituality, holiness and G-dliness from which his soul has been exiled and to which it yearns to return. Indeed, it is only because we remain a “stranger” that we can maintain the spiritual vision and integrity required to reside in the world and sanctify it as a “dwelling for G-d.”

–The Lubavitcher Rebbe

This quote from the Rebbe, which I found on today, seems timely. For six days, we toil and worry, and carry the burdens of the corporeal world- the world which the Rebbe describes in the above quote- and it is our duty to elevate this world, and make it into a place of Kedushah. But on Shabbes, we do not work. We find ourselves in an entirely different “world”- one where everything we do to mark and celebrate the day- to remember and keep it- is an act of elevation and Holiness. This week, may we all merit to enjoy the Holiness of Shabbes, and elevate it to further heights through mitzvos and Torah study!

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:36 PM, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 4:53 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Chashachana bas Bryna and Rivka Miriam bas Tsivia Bina. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Chayei Sarah)

Today, I received an email about Sarah Imeinu, drawing inspiration from her strength throughout life’s difficulties, and reminding us of her decision to be proactive and influential- a decision which we, too, can make in our daily lives. As I read the email I was reminded of a beautiful quote, often attributed to the Rebbe zt”l. I think of this quote often, and would like to share it with others who might be similarly inspired by it. I know all too well that life isn’t smooth sailing; we suffer from heartbreaks as well as successes, but our mindset is all important in helping us deal with these challenges.

“Imagine you could open your eyes to see only the good in every person, the positive in every circumstance, and the opportunity in every challenge.”

With this in mind, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Shabbes- may we merit to have only revealed blessings and happiness! In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 4 PM this evening, and Shabbes ends at 5:10 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Shmuel Yossef ben Soroh Malka, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chaya bas Perel. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Searching for G-d

“Why did G‑d show Himself to our father Avraham – but He does not show Himself to us?”.
“When a tzadik decides at the age of ninety-nine years that he should be circumcised, he deserves that G‑d appear to him.”

– The Hayom Yom

This Hayom Yom tells us about looking for G-d. We spend our whole lives looking for Him, with mixed results, and many times we forget that He is right there, before us. How many times have we begged G-d to help us, without realising that He is up there, helping us, and we just can’t see it? And how many times have we explored different faiths and sects before coming back to our roots and realising that G-d was there all along?

My faith has evolved a lot over the past few months. I feel like a different person has replaced the woman I used to be: mostly because of the hardships I faced. Hardships which left me feeling like I wouldn’t come out the other side- but I always did, of course.

It took years for me to realise that perhaps the secret to finding G-d was to stop searching and start looking at what was in front of me. G-d is everywhere, in the happy times and in the hardships. Nowadays, I still sometimes overreact to perceived crises. I don’t always respond the way I should. But I’ve stopped crying out and asking G-d where He is, and why He’s abandoned me: instead, I try to understand that He’s there, but hidden, and if only I’d look I would see him.

Sincerity and Uncertainty

There’s a concept in Judaism known as hashgocha protis. I suppose it translates roughly as “Divine providence”, or, as one of my friends beautifully defined it “being in the right place at the right time”. Yesterday, I wrote about doubts. About my own struggles on the journey of Torah observance. About the choices I’d made, and the regrets I had. And today, when I clicked on, I was greeted by the following quote from the Rebbe, adapted by Tzvi Freeman.

No matter how much you distrust your own sincerity or question your motives, there is no trace of doubt that at your core lives a divine soul, pure and sincere.

You provide the actions and the deed—just do what is good.

She needs no more than a pinhole through which to break out and fill those deeds with divine power.

I re-read the first paragraph, slightly awestruck. The words spoke to me, from a place of doubt and uncertainty. As I had presented my dilemma of religious observance and doubt, a number of friends had told me to ignore those who had abandoned me over the issue, reminding me that my actions were governed by my neshomo, even if I didn’t realise it.

And as I read the quote from the Rebbe, I realised it couldn’t have come at a better time. No matter how much doubt I felt as I kept the “difficult” mitzvos and navigated the orthodox community, my soul knew that I was doing the right thing. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.