Capturing moments of joy gives us the strength to move forward
As the Moadim progress, our relationship with Hashem deepens. On Shavuos we become engaged (eirusin); on Succos we are married (nesuin). What happens on Pesach? On Pesach we catch our first starry-eyed glimpse of our future betrothed.
The purpose of this relationship has yet to be realized — the tree is planted for the sake of its fruit. But the first stirrings of love have the greatest charm, and the blossoms are what are most beautiful. On Pesach we celebrate this excitement of the new and fresh.
There is a lot in us that’s old and dusty, that has to be washed out and away. We have to sprout new buds and blossoms. It’s time to let go of the old, open ourselves up to the new, listen to Hashem’s call: “The winter has passed…. The blossoms are in the land…. Rise up my beloved and come!” (Shir Hashirim 2:11–13)
Let’s begin a new journey together.
Based on shiurim from Rav Wolfson and Rav Mordechai Silber.
Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
International lecturer, full-time faculty member of Neve Yerushalayim, columnist and author.
How do I pass on my deepest values to my children?
Pesach will come, we’ll be sitting by the Seder. Fathers will tell their children that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim so that we could be His nation. But the children will already know that Torah and mitzvos are the purpose of our existence — because they’ve been watching you.
In these hectic days of kashering and covering, we lift ourselves out of Mitzrayim, out of Egypt — and out of the meitzarim, confines, of the physical world where every task is quickly undone, and the pleasures are fleeting. Everything we are doing now is only for the purpose of fulfilling the Torah of Hashem.
At this point in the Pesach prep, we aren’t getting anything material out of our work. Know anybody who cleans the inside of their sink faucets with bleach for cleanliness purposes?
The values we convey before the Yom Tov as we live the Torah go deeper than the minds — and even hearts — that we reach when we teach. It goes into their DNA.
My mantra for getting through the Pesach Season
Step by Step, Moment by Moment.
This mantra actually evolved this past Tishrei, during our Shabbos-Yom Tov-Shabbos-Yom Tov marathon. With a nursing baby, the kids constantly home, and always a series of meals requiring shopping, unpacking, and cooking, I felt like I was splitting apart, even as I kept my standards low, low, low (no FT for me!).
This mantra helped keep me calm enough to be kind. All I have to do this second is what I have to do this second. I will worry about five minutes from now in five minutes from now.
Since then I’ve noticed that this is a good mantra for dealing with life in general. I have such ambitious goals — I dream so high and hard. But today I’m not feeling so well, I’m in a low mood, it’s cloudy outside. So I tell myself, ‘Step-by-step, moment by moment. You don’t have to jump a mile today. Just do right now what you have to do right now.’
When I shared my mantra with my sister, she asked, “Hey, isn’t your mantra ‘calm, cool, collected, organized, and efficient’?” I laughed at the memory. Those days of trying to control my life seem like eons ago! I’ve long given up hope of being in control. Today I just go with the flow.
“We need to start over each day. Sometimes many times a day.”
—Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
By Rachel Atkins
Four years ago, Chani Aksler asked if I could commit to saying Shir Hashirim after candle-lighting, as a merit for a seriously ill person. I didn’t know the choleh personally, but was happy to provide a spiritual merit for him.
Once I said yes, I was Chani Aksler’s. A text would arrive each Friday, with more names of cholim, and most weeks I said yes. I won’t pretend that I did so with unbridled joy. Shir Hashirim requires intense concentration and after candle-lighting and a short prayer, my long-standing tradition is to sink into a comfortable leather armchair and nod off within seconds.
But with Shir Hashirim to say, I would make an enormous effort to stay awake until I’d recited all eight chapters. Therefore, after about three years of battling tiredness, I decided that instead of sinking into an armchair after candle-lighting, I would sit in a less comfortable seat, which would hopefully make it easier for me to stay awake. That’s where I recited Shir Hashirim every week for the next four months.
One week, I had lit candles and was sitting in my upright chair reciting Shir Hashirim, when suddenly there was a loud, explosive BANG! It sounded like someone had thrown a rock through my window. I looked up in alarm, expecting to see shattered glass — but the windows were intact.
Instead I saw that — without any warning — the ceiling on top of my armchair had collapsed, burying the floor in debris. Large pieces of jagged masonry lay on the ground; the floor was an ocean of dust. Virtually every part of the room had been affected by the devastation — except for the far end, where I was sitting.
Frozen in shock, I managed to pull myself together enough to finish reciting Shir Hashirim, after which the rest of the family came home, and stared in horror at the devastation.
“It looks like a bomb hit,” someone commented.
“You had a miracle,” observed someone else.
It took almost a month to clear away the mess, install a new ceiling, and redecorate, and it wasn’t cheap either. Still, any distress caused was minor compared to my overwhelming feeling of gratitude that — unlike the furniture and fixtures — I had emerged entirely unscathed.
Capturing Moments of Joy
Yocheved Rottenberg, Therapeutic Writing Part 1 of 6
Reliving moments of joy is a tremendously powerful experience. It fills us up so that we have strength to move forward.
Take out a pen and paper, and set your timer for five minutes. Bring to mind a joyful experience and start writing your description of the moment in the present tense, as if it’s happening now. Try to include as many details as possible, through each of the five senses.
When your timer rings, stop writing. Read your writing out loud. Allow yourself to internalize the joy.
As you’re preparing for Yom Tov, and as you’re experiencing Pesach, there will be many moments of satisfaction, contentment, and accomplishment. If you don’t focus on them, they will disappear without you even feeling them.
Therefore, whenever such a moment occurs (and you’ll be surprised how often it can be), imagine yourself writing a Captured Moment of Joy. How would you describe it? What are you seeing, smelling, and hearing? Slowly focus on the details and internalize them.
Being mindful of your moments of satisfaction will transform your Yom Tov from one of overwhelm to one of contentment.
A Freilechen Pesach!
Yocheved Rottenberg is the facilitator of international therapeutic writing workshops and the author of an upcoming book, both entitled “Write Your Way Home.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 687)
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