Goodbye

I’ll be honest. I had no idea how to start this post.

How do you say goodbye to something that has been a huge part of your life for the past year and a half?

How do you explain to hundreds of followers that for your own sake, you’re taking a break which you wish you didn’t have to take?

How do you tell the world in general that you’re not giving up on your dreams, but you just need to put this particular one on hold?

There’s no easy way. Jewish Thoughts has been a massive part of my identity since I started blogging in summer 2016. As I’ve explored my faith, this blog has been by my side constantly, and I feel that it has grown with me, becoming home to my eclectic and often imperfect thoughts and feelings. This website and its followers have been with me as I’ve experienced highs, lows, and somewhere in-betweens, navigating the loss, heartbreak, opportunities and blessings of my life.

I am a writer and always will be. I am in no way stopping writing- I might as well stop breathing. But in the meantime, I am taking a break from Jewish Thoughts. As many of my friends probably know, the past six months or so have been especially trying for me, and there have been many times when I’ve felt unable to carry on. I feel that I’ve been lacking in motivation and that the quality of my posts has decreased lately. Not only is this a writer’s worst nightmare, but I am dealing with a number of issues right now which require my full attention and for this reason I made the difficult decision to leave this website.

There’s a part of me which can’t quite believe I’m stepping away from this website. In many ways, it feels like a failure, but I want to reiterate that I’m not giving up and never will. In the meantime, I still intend to submit occasional articles to magazines and websites, because my writing genuinely is everything for me and I hope to eventually make a career out of it. I may also post periodically, or return to regular posts when I feel ready to do so, and I sincerely hope that this break will be an exceedingly short one.

I’m eternally thankful to the person who inspired me to begin blogging, and to the one who encouraged me to keep writing when I needed that support the most. I’m also grateful for all the amazing people I have met through this website and am convinced that I have the nicest, kindest followers in the world, who made blogging such a joy for me. Additionally, I would like to thank the fascinating and inspiring people I have interviewed for this website over the years. Finally, I want to say thank you to my friends who have kept up with this blog via email and Facebook. There are way too many of you to name individually, but you made it all worthwhile.

While I take some time away from the world of blogging in order to put my life back together, please do reach out if you wish to keep in touch. It’s truly been an amazing journey.

How I Found Hope

There are few things more exhilarating than getting an article published, and as such, I’d like to share with my readers this article, published in Jewess magazine by Kylie Ora Lobell. It isn’t anything like the articles I normally post here, but I hope that you all enjoy it nonetheless.

https://jewessmag.com/2018/01/18/found-hope-awful-breakup/

Please be in touch with any feedback, and feel free to take a look at the other amazing articles published by Jewess magazine!

This Past Year

As this year draws to a close,
And I count the days, the hours, the minutes,
Til we enter 5778,
I’m reminded of this past year;
The laughter shared,
The memories made,
The tears which fell,
And the smiles which lasted,
Gracing our faces as we enjoyed the summer,
Days which have now become memories,
Bittersweet and tinged with longing.
And I think of you:
You who I have wronged,
You who I have hurt,
You who I have ignored.
You, the one who has shed tears because of me,
You, the one who has hurt because of me,
You, the one who has put up with me.
And I think of he who has left,
He who couldn’t face me,
He who I haven’t spoken to,
He who I didn’t treasure enough.
He who has steppped out into the autumn night,
Out of my life,
Out of my reach,
All because of my sharp tongue.
And I think of she who has loved me,
She who has cared for me,
She who has made me laugh,
She who has made me rejoice.
She who I will always remember,
For she was there when I needed her most,
And we shared an umbrella,
In the storm we call Life.
And I reach out and embrace all three of you,
And I apologise.
For all the times I hurt you.
For all the times I turned away.
For all the times I was indifferent.
For all the times I took you for granted.
And I beg you,
Please forgive me,
Please love me,
Please let’s make amends.
Let’s share 5778 in good health,
In happiness,
In wealth,
In success,
Together.

~A gut gebencht yohr~

My Strive For Perfection During Rosh Hashanah

I am very happy to announce that my article on Rosh Hashono has been published by Jewess magazine, a brand new online publication for Jewish women, created by an amazing writer named Kylie Ora Lobell. Seeing my articles published always thrills me, and I am exceedingly grateful to Kylie, for her talent, as well as my friends and rabbi for their ongoing support.

I hope that you find my article inspiring. If you can, take a minute to check out the other articles on this fantastic website, and take the time to let us know what you think.

Please check out my article by following this link!

Faith, Justice and the Merciful King

Sometimes, there’s nothing like chizuk from the Torah or Tanya to brighten up a difficult week. And so, when I started reading the beginning of this beautiful and moving article, I knew that I would be able to relate to it, and, if not to all the details, then to the sentiment. I hope some of you will also be able to relate to it, and, as always, all credit goes to Safek!

“It’s been a strange week here in Alaska. The sun has been retreating more and more. A friend’s son committed suicide. The Shabbat RV continues to have electrical issues that kept us stranded at home for Shabbos. The weather has not cooperated for a planned hiking trip to climb Flattop Mountain. All this on top of the rush of school beginning and all our ups and downs with the conversion process had me feeling run down heading into my weekly Tanya class this morning.

As usual, the class brought exactly what I needed.

We’ve been studying Elul and the nature of this season and how it differs from the High Holidays. In the High Holidays, Jews are filled with awe. We meet Hashem in all his glory, as the King of the Universe, upon his throne, ruling with justice and judgment. Now, though, is the time when Hashem is most accessible to all. He is still the King, but He’s left behind His royal garb for common clothes and He comes to meet us in the field, where we are. Like a parent who knows that His child has something serious on their mind, He clears His schedule, gives us His attention and comes to us, to help us feel safe and comfortable to meet Him.

Before Shabbos, we took food to the couple whose son had died. She is Jewish, but he is not and the child is his from a previous marriage. So, it’s a complex situation to begin with. I sat with the man while my husband talked with his wife. I think he wanted someone to listen and was more comfortable with me seeing his tears. He had found his son as he died and the trauma was fresh in his mind. He needed to talk about what he’d witnessed as well as his regrets. He’d tried to help his troubled son and rushed to his side the moment he received his son’s suicide note…a group text to his family.

There are no words for this kind of pain, nothing that could be said to make it any less. It was all that I could do just to listen, to be witness to this man’s pain. As I did, I was reminded of the time of year, that the King is in the field. I wondered if this might also be true for this man, although a non-Jew and probably some form of Christian. When we returned home and I lit Shabbos candles, I included their family in my davening, asking that Hashem be close to them now, to offer them what comfort can be had.

“Does faith make times like these easier?” He had asked.

I thought a moment and finally answered, “Yes, maybe, and also harder, too.”

It didn’t seem right to be anything but bluntly honest with someone who has faced something so awful. His eyes told me he understood. Faith means that yes, I believe that things all have some reason for happening, some goodness that is hidden, sometimes so deep that our human minds just can’t comprehend it. It also means that I have to face the reality that this also comes from Hashem. The merciful King in the field allows a young man the free will to take His own life and this too, somehow, is part of some larger plan.

This morning, we learned about the face of Hashem, that He greets His people in Elul with a pleasant countenance and when we come to Him in teshuva, He laughs with joy.

My mind swirled with thoughts of mercy versus justice, with kindness versus judgment.

I glanced at the weather forecast and saw that tomorrow should be a good day to climb a mountain and I thanked Hashem for this mercy. I think a change in altitude is exactly what we need to clear out some of this clutter within. I am seeking the King in the Field and I am so ready to do teshuva and be closer to Him.”

Until Moshiach Is Here

I am no stranger to criticism.

In my life, I have encountered countless remarks objecting to my lifestyle, my actions or my words. Some of these have been constructive; others have been purely malicious and hurtful; flung at me in a fit of rage, or repeated to crush my self esteem. But I have persevered and over the past year or so, I have attempted to distill my experience as a baalas teshuva in words, in the articles found on this website, and to share my knowledge with those around me, through divrei Torah, study groups, and chizuk. My intentions have always been pure: I am not motivated by fame or fortune, but instead I want to give back to the world in general, and to share what I have learned.

But recently, I have been subjected to disturbing and cruel comments and letters as a result of my desire to learn, write, and teach.

Online harrassment is nothing new to me. Cyber abuse and stalking have always plagued the time I spend online, and despite my attempt to guarantee privacy for myself and my family, a number of unsavoury characters have slipped “under the radar” and harassed me for days or months until I found the courage to report them. But targeting my website is something new, something I’m not used to, especially when it is done anonymously.

I want to share with you an email I received today. It began with my name- unsettling in itself, as my name is not mentioned anywhere on this website;

Dear (Name)

I just want to let you know I am not the real moshiach. My teacings are fake. Please don’t spread them anymore. You will have to accept that I have been dead for over 23 years now. I am no longer The Rebbe. I will be contacting all my chasidim personally to advise them the same. Please Do not quote me any more. I can’t rest in peace when people keep quoting me.

Peace be with you

Menachem M. Schneerson.

Never in the history of my running this website have I ever claimed that the Rebbe is Moshiach. Nor have I suggested that he was still alive, or will be resurrected. I know that physically, he has passed on, but I also know that his spirit still lives on; through the shluchim and shluchos around the world, through the Torah scholars and rabbonim, and, yes, through me.

When I advocate doing mitzvos and bringing Moshiach, when I teach others, and when I give to charity, I keep the Rebbe’s spirit alive. I am continuing his work, and no amount of disturbing anonymous letters are going to stop me. Whoever this person is, they live near me, and know my identity. And I don’t care. Because I’m telling them that I will continue spreading these teachings, quoting the Rebbe, and passing on my knowledge, until Moshiach is here-

May he come speedily and in our days.

Doing the Right Thing

I read the following Daily Thought, courtesy of Chabad.org, and it spoke to me in an indescribable way;

“No person can know his own inner motives.
He may be kind because kindness brings him pleasure.
He may be wise because wisdom is music to his soul.
He may become a martyr burned in fire because his heart burns with defiance.
How can you know that your motives are sincere? What is the test?
The test will be when doing the right thing cuts against the grain.
Torah Ohr 19b; Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, pp. 76, 306–307.”

Thank you to Chabad.org for providing not only this, but millions of other sources of inspiration, to me and others across the world.

Prayer On A Fast Train

Listening to the rattling of carriages,
I watch as we rush through tunnels.
Drawing into a station, the clamour surrounds me;
Shouts and calls and laughter; bells ringing and lights flashing.
Then another tunnel, the train roaring and swaying.
I’m underground but I cleave to the heavens.
My body is below the busy streets, but my soul ascends higher-
As I daven.
The metallic noises jar me; the shouting people upset me: but I am elsewhere.
Lips moving silently, I pray to G-d.
Sorrow and illness and more sorrow: poverty and misfortune and hope.
And hope turning to joy, joy turning to blessings, as I think of all I have.
We pull into another station.
I cover my eyes.
And I say:
Shema Yisroel, Hashem Eloyhaynu, Hashem Echod.

The Power of Words

There’s a famous proverb which says that actions speak louder than words. It’s one of the most common English sayings, heralded as common sense and found in countless places, from motivational quotes to relationship books. But is it really true? As religious Jews, can we claim that actions speak louder than words, when it was through words- those of G-d- that the world came into being?

Just as G-d created the world ex nihilo through His speech, our speech has the power to create amazing things. We can share knowledge, we can instill confidence, we can make someone’s day. But we can also destroy with words. We can ruin lives, break up relationships, and crush one’s self-esteem. Like any tool, speech needs to be used carefully. It has immense potential to do good, but also the power to cause irreparable damage.

The power of our words can last a lifetime. Unlike physical scars which fade, the scars of painful words remain in our hearts and minds and stop us from achieving things which are actually in our reach. In all likelihood, your actions to this day are affected by those around you. Your perception of yourself, your talents, even the lifestyle you choose; these are all the result of not only your own strengths and weaknesses but of those imparted upon you by those around you.

Next time we open our mouths to speak, let’s remember this. Let’s remember the power we have to do good with our words, and the responsibility we have not to hurt others. When we realise this, we can help others in ways we thought unimaginable, and we can build bridges rather than burning one. Let us resolve now to try and speak only words of positivity, and help others through the gift of speech.

This article is a part of the Green Speech Campaign

Award Nomination!

B”H

I am exceedingly grateful to Mozer, the creator of an amazing blog named Hasidic for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Through poetry and musings Mozer has brought a number of fascinating discussions and questions to the forefront of my mind, and I would recommend his fantastic blog to all of my followers. Here are the rules of the award;

1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 11 blogs.
5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Mozer asked me the following questions;

1. What are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid of many things, from losing someone I love to being killed in a fire, but I suppose I am most afraid of change.

2. What are you most proud about yourself?
I’m not a proud person, but I am proud of what I’ve achieved over the past year or so, given the circumstances I’ve been living with.

3. If you can change something significant in your life, what would it be?
I would want to rid myself of the depression which has blighted my life for the past decade.

4.What was he silliest thing you’ve done?
Attempting to ice skate last year. It was one of the most painful and embarrassing things ever.

5. You eat heavy breakfasts?
No, I don’t.

6. If you need to do with less food or sleep which would you rather give up?
I would definitely give up the food. I want to lose weight and I need a lot of sleep to function.

7. If you can meet anyone that’s alive today, who would it be?
The person I love, who I haven’t seen for a few weeks and whom I already miss.

8. Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Definitely an introvert.

9. What is you best post (in your opinion) and why?
‘The Gift of Life’- later renamed ‘The Power of Saying Thanks’- because it was published by my favourite website, Chabad.org!

10. Do you get drunk ever?
Only if there’s a whisky kiddush at shul…

11. What inspires you?
The people around me who have kept going despite their hardships, and who have made me want to keep going, too.

Now for the eleven random facts about myself, which- believe me- I’d rather not share!

1. I want to get paid to write for a Jewish magazine or website.
2. I prefer being with a small group of people I trust than in a large crowd.
3. I only listen to Jewish music.
4. I study the Tanya every day but don’t feel I understand it.
5. I’ve changed my mind about marriage and want to get married soon.
6. I’m definitely addicted to Facebook.
7. I love going to shul on Shabbes.
8. My friends accuse me of acting like a stereotypical Jewish mother.
9. Have lived in the same house all my life.
10. I spend most of my time indoors.
11. I believe that prayer is a very powerful tool.

I would like to nominate another 11 blogs for the Liebster award so that they can take part, too.

1. Safek
2. Cooking For The Time Challenged
3. Kool Kosher Kitchen
4. Meir Weiss
5. Beauty Beyond Bones
6. Code In Fig
7. Vika Herbs
8. Coming Out Of The Exodus
9. Jewish Books Are Awesome
10. Rebecca Radish
11. Alicia

And finally, here are eleven questions for you to answer;

1. When did you start blogging?
2. Why do you write?
3. What is your favourite holiday or festival?
4. What is your greatest ambition?
5. If you could have any one thing what would it be?
6. What was the best day of your life?
7. What is your favourite season?
8. Do you enjoy reading?
9. What is your job?
10. What is your favourite recipe?
11. What makes you want to wake up each morning?

Thanks once again to Mozer for his nomination, thank you to all of my readers, and thank you to those who have inspired me to keep writing.