| A Better You |

Coated with Kindness

While nisyonos, like medication, are inherently for our benefit, Hashem also coats them in a capsule of kindness

Coated with Kindness
Dina Schoonmaker

The expression “a bitter pill to swallow” has its roots in the literal experience of taking medicine that doesn’t taste good, but is often used idiomatically to refer to difficult experiences. If you think about IT, there’s a deep, albeit subtle message behind this metaphor. Just like medicine may be bitter but is ultimately for our benefit, whatever challenges we go through also have a healing purpose. Pill-taking, in the conventional sense, became easier with the advent of the capsule.

Surrounding the medicine with a coating allowed patients to take the medicine without the bitterness.

To continue our metaphor, while nisyonos, like medication, are inherently for our benefit, Hashem also coats them in a capsule of kindness to make challenges more palatable.

The Chofetz Chaim teaches that this is how we can understand the pasuk in Tehillim 32: “Rabim machovim larasha, v’haboteiach baHashem chesed y’sovevenu — The wicked experience many painful ailments but the one who trusts Hashem is surrounded by kindness.” Even when we endure challenges and painful times, let our mantra be, “Chesed y’sovevenu.” I am surrounded by His kindness, engulfed in His love. Even, and specifically when, I am going through something difficult.

Sometimes we struggle with a medical issue, and we meet the kindest doctors along the way. Sometimes our child is experiencing difficulty, but he/she has a loyal friend whose dedication and love is so rare and uplifting. Sometimes we are confused and seek counsel, and the person we consult with provides inspiration that makes our heart soar. And then there is the cleaning lady who showed up, the child who is being uncharacteristically helpful, the delicious dinner sent by a thoughtful friend, the community support, the cheerful volunteer. The song that moves you, the closeness to your spouse or parent as you bond as a team facing the challenge, the most wonderful shlichim who greet you as you journey on the road you never planned to travel.

Succos is a time of bitachon, which goes hand in hand with simchah. The physical embrace of the succah reminds us that we are always in His Hands. But just as we can sit in the succah and remain oblivious to its message, it’s possible to go through a nisayon and not notice the kindness that Hashem is sprinkling all around us to mitigate the bitterness.

As we sit in our succahs this year, let’s each try to feel the joy that comes from knowing that our lives are surrounded by His kindness, even and especially when we are facing a challenge.

May we be zocheh to be mindful of all the beauty in our lives and feel true simchah in the chag of emunah.

Dina Schoonmaker has been teaching in Michlalah Jerusalem College for over 30 years. She gives women’s vaadim and lectures internationally on topics of personal development.


Set Up for Success
Hadassah Eventsur

Esti can feel her pulse quicken as she glances at the calendar. There’s only one week left until Yom Tov starts, and she’ll be hosting guests for three out of four meals. She sits down with pen and paper, determined to make a shopping list, but after a few minutes, she drops the pen on the empty paper in frustration and flips through a circular instead.

If you’re neurodivergent, you can probably relate to this. You were probably labeled unmotivated or even lazy. In reality, brain scans show that the neurodivergent brain has more activity and works harder than the neurotypical brain. But oftentimes, the results do not match the efforts invested.

While motivation or lack of it is often thought of as a behavioral issue, it actually has more to do with brain chemistry. People with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that affects learning, focus and motivation. If you have low dopamine levels, you may feel restless, which is actually your brain attempting to get you stimulated, which would release more dopamine. Often, the mundane tasks of life don’t provide the dopamine release that the ADHD brain craves.

If you find yourself avoiding these kind of necessary but boring chores, you can facilitate more opportunities for dopamine release during or after their completion. Consider using a timer to challenge yourself to finish a task within a certain timeframe, or giving yourself small rewards upon completing a job. You can also try listening to an interesting podcast or music as a way of spicing things up.

Bottom line: Instead of admonishing yourself for your brain chemistry, try to work with your brain to create more opportunities for success.

Hadassah Eventsur, MS, OTR/L is a licensed occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience, and a certified life coach in the Baltimore, MD area.


Islands of Competence
Zipora Schuck

After listening to many of his clients, both adults and children, experience feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth, Dr. Robert Brooks, a popular psychologist, felt that there had to be a way to counter this. His clients presented as if they were drowning in an ocean of self-perceived inadequacy, and in response, Brooks coined the term “islands of competence.” He encouraged parents and teachers to help their children identify areas that have potential to be a source of pride and accomplishment, thereby shifting the focus from weakness to strength.

Dr. Brooks also posited that adults might even need to act as explorers searching for these islands of competence and actively work to create as many opportunities as possible to showcase and strengthen these areas.

Often, he’d ask children questions like these:

What are you are you good at?

What would others describe you as good at?

He found that many children had a hard time feeling confident in an ability, expertise, or capacity they had. Often children with learning differences in school or social challenges would see themselves without any redeeming qualities at all. “I feel like I have half a brain, I’m not good at anything, There’s nothing I excel at.”

Well-defined islands of competence help children (and adults) change their negative perception about themselves. Doing something well shifts our concept of self and provides a foundation for doing other things well, too.

Islands of competence extend far beyond doing well in typical school subjects. They can include identifying and highlighting good middos, social strengths, assorted talents and hobbies, knowledge or skills, and the ability to do specific things well. Everyone is good at something.

Zipora Schuck MA. MS. is a NYS school psychologist and educational consultant for many schools in the NY/NJ area. She works with students, teachers, principals, and parents to help children be successful.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 862)

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