I must say that one thing is very comforting to me: something that is a constant in my life, no matter what is happening. No matter how stressed I am or how bored I am or how frustrated I am or even how depressed I am, when Shabbat enters, I have to be ready to rejoice on Shabbat. It is a great discipline! I could be in the worst mood ever but when Shabbat enters but I have to smile and put on a happy face….and then a miracle happens and I actually start to feel happy. Why? Shabbat itself brings joy. We are not allowed to be sad or depressed or to cry on Shabbat. That may sound easy but the emotions of life are not like that. So it is a discipline and a matter of learning to tune in to the spiritual energy of Shabbat, to the peace of Shabbat. Bo Shabbat, bo menucha…comes Shabbat, comes peace…
Shabbat is a constant. It is always there. Every week. No matter what is happening in my life, I have to prepare for Shabbat. As a woman that task falls on my shoulders more than my husband’s. I have to cook, clean, bake, set the table, fix the candles…it all has to be done on time. But it is a constant in my life.
So even if some weeks are “boring” by my standards, nevertheless there is always Shabbat to keep my busy and hopeful and optimistic.
Of course when my kids grow up and go away from home, Shabbat feels lonelier. I miss not having my grandchildren around. We used to live near our married daughter and her kids were constantly in our house. I miss that so much! I love my grandchildren. I see now why the Torah says grandchildren are the crown of their grandparents! But since it was G-d’s will that we move to another country and we no longer live near our married children or our grandchildren, we have to become more introspective…..Shabbat takes on a more spiritual tone than even previously. It truly becomes an oasis in the middle of the weekday desert…..
I was thinking a lot lately about hashgocha protit, Divine Providence. Nothing in the world happens by chance. Nothing. Every single aspect of our lives is controlled and guided by the Almighty. Even the weather is a great example of Divine Providence. Lately there are hurricanes, tsuanims, torandos, earthquakes…all kinds of things that look as if they are merely a part of “nature”. But nature too is Divine. And G-d controls everything. Those natural catastrophes are part of the Divine plan to awaken people to realize there is a G-d in the world, an all powerful force. It is a way of bringing people to repent of their wrong ways. It is a means to awaken in people a desire to pray to the Almighty! Prayer is so powerful.
There was once a couple on an island who wanted to observe the great mitzvah of taharat hamishpocha, family purity. Using the ocean as a mikvah was difficult so they decided to build a proper mikvah. They brought a rabbi and went ahead to construct the mikvah. Then it was a matter of rain…..but there was a problem. This particular island was a desert climate and it almost never rained! But when it comes to doing a mitzvah, to doing a commandment from G-d Himself, surely one has to pray and G-d can certainly provide the rain. And that is what happened: This couple prayed and miraculously the skies clouded over and it rained for three days in a row! Not only did the mikvah fill up with water, it even overflowed with blessings. This was a clear miracle. So even weather is affected by our prayers. Because ultimately weather is also a G-dly act…weather is controlled by G-d like every other aspect of life.
People spend their lives in the pursuit of vanity. But inside every soul, every human being, is a need to find meaning. A need to find purpose in life. The Lubavitcher Rebbe in fact said that is one of the deepest drives a person has.
G-d created the world to have a dwelling place down here. We create that dwelling by doing deeds of goodness and kindness, by doing Torah and mitzvot….this is in fact what will bring the ultimate redemption of mankind from the darkness of galut, of exile. This is what will usher in the Messianic era (the coming of Moshiach). So the idea is to constantly add in light.
We just celebrated Chanukah: as I watched my husband light the menorah each night, I thought to myself that G-d is lighting our souls each night as well. We are G-d’s candles! And our job is to shine light, to light up the world, to inspire others, to help others….
Society emphasizes “me”, selfishness. Society emphasizes separation. The Chanukah menorah teaches us to shine light, to help and inspire another, and the candles have to be united, together , to emphasize unity. Unity and not separation is what brings blessings.
I see it in the way people live. Those who are very together and close, are happier. Sephardic Jews are very united, are very together. They know how to rejoice in each other’s happiness and to share in each other’s sorrows. But society tends to separate people, be an individual, go on your own…this is not the way to achieve blessing. WE have to practice focusing on others, doing for others, not being self centered.
This is something children need to be taught. Children focus on themselves, on their needs, wants…a child below the age of 12 or 13 are all about selfishness. It says in Tanya a child below bar or bat mitzvah is all yetzer hara. The true nefesh Elokit, G-dly soul, enters at bar or bat mitzvah so before that children are naturally self oriented. They have to be taught to be giving, to share, to help, to think of others, to be considerate. And that is a very big responsibility. As parents we have to train our children when they are young so at they grow older it is already a habit with them. Many teenagers are also self centered. The idea is to get rid of the “me” and to think about another.