| Spirit and Sparks |

Kindling Love

Is shame the root of your baseless hatred?


Kindling Love

For almost 2,000 Tishah B’Avs, we’ve tried to fix the reason we are in galus. And yet we’ve found ourselves heading to Elul still in exile. Why can’t we get our act together and fix the mistake of sinas chinam? What’s the root of baseless hatred?

We often find ourselves hating others because of shame. There’s the shame of imperfection, as others remind us of our character weakness; shame of inadequacy, as others succeed where we don’t; and the shame of being diminished by another’s insult.

Shame is uncomfortable, and we often don’t want to admit that this is what we are feeling. It’s much easier to hate and blame, to return the shame and accuse.

As we start shifting focus toward Yom Kippur, when atonement is achieved only through achdus, it helps to work through the barriers to love by asking “Where is the shame here?” Once we can own our shame, despite the pain it brings, we can begin processing it.

Through teshuvah, we heal the shame that comes from having done something wrong. We defuse unwarranted shame that comes from thinking we are inadequate by accepting that we are good enough. We remedy the pain of a put-down by empathizing with our hurt selves and accepting the insult as kapparah.

Once we master this, we can turn outward and see this truth: Our friends are also struggling with these concepts, trying to live according to Torah values. They may not always get it right — we all stumble sometimes — but at the core, they mean well.

Adapted from astillsmallvoice.com.

Quenching Chaos

How do you create space within the chaos?

When my prison pen-pals shared how noisy and loud a prison cell is, I wondered, “How do they manage?” Their answers contain tips for anyone feeling overwhelmed by chaos.

Amalya Libya Carrasco: I create space around myself by listening to Jewish music or teachings, focusing on Torah study, looking at pictures of Israel and imagining myself there, or thinking of our ancestors and what they endured. If things become too loud to think, I close my eyes and ask Hashem to hold me. Then I get peace, if only for a moment. It’s enough to get me back on track.

Yuliya Kuznetz: I find peace in G-d, Torah, helping people, studying, and looking toward the future. I did not think I could ever cope with prison. But G-d has been carrying me through, directing me to intellectual work.

I completed numerous self-initiated life-skills correspondence courses for which I earned certificates, and I am burying myself in many different Jewish studies in a little corner in my cell, my mini Eretz Yisrael. When my brain feels fried, I take a break, and try to be kind to those around me. I know that one day I will be free.

When He Comes: Part IV

Question: What if Mashiach comes before I’m ready?

Answer: The time of Mashiach will not be the world’s final stage — Olam Haba is the era of perfection, and Mashiach is the preparatory phase immediately preceding this. With his coming, we will transfer from growing through blood, sweat, and toil, to growing through joy. Still, we do need to be ready.

As we wait and wait in galus, each of us tries to develop more consciousness of Hashem in our lives; again and again, we try to choose His will. Slowly, Rav Dessler explains, our individual efforts are pooling in the neshamah klalis that all of Klal Yisrael shares.

Suddenly, we will reach a tipping point. Enough Hashem-consciousness will have been reached, and we will all be ready for Mashiach at once.

In our next and final installment, we’ll focus on how to develop an active yearning for Mashiach.

Hint: The avodah of Tishrei holds a key.

Crowned with Kindness

All the shopping bag contained was a snood. A hunter-green piece of chenille fabric, strands loosely woven together. Chana handed the bag to me at the door, whispering softly so as not to disturb the sleeping occupants of the hospital room. I tugged my battle-scarred sheitel off my weary head, sighing deeply as I fitted the snood over my ears.

My day had begun with a 6 a.m. humdrum Lakewood-Port Authority work commute and had ended in emergency surgery for my seven-month-old son at 4 a.m. the next day. There was copious vomit, X-rays, and ultrasounds, and endless waiting in the dimly lit surgery lounge, trying to keep the fear at bay with Tehillim. Finally, rubber-clad footsteps heralded the surgeon’s arrival, and his broad smile eased our worries.

The light outside was the misty gray of predawn as we ensconced ourselves in a tiny hospital room, resigned to remaining for the 24-hour observation period. My husband slumbered the sleep of the weary, curled atop a white sheet on the laminate floor. The baby was finally asleep, his gentle snores punctuating the silence.

I was tired, so tired that I felt bits and pieces of my fuzzy mind blinking on and off. Yet my sheitel had been on my head for 24 hours, and was the only head-covering I had; sleep seemed unattainable.

My phone buzzed. A text from cousin Chana, en route to her nursing shift in the Emergency Department: Is there anything you need?

All I need is a snood, was my swift response. And here she was, shopping bag in hand. As I eased the snood onto my head, the relief was immediate.

My clothes remained musty, my limbs stiff from tension, yet my snood-clad head could finally rest comfortably on the cramped loveseat headrest.

Outside our little room, the hospital was slowly stirring to life. On our cozy island, peace reigned. One woman’s thoughtfulness gave me the gift of blessed sleep.

 —Batya S.


“Telling a poor person to ‘have bitachon’ instead of giving him tzedakah is pure apikorsus.”

— Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 807)

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