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Mirror, Mirror

Living “b’kivun el atzmo” ensures that the things I overhear and oversee become opportunities for growth

Mirror, Mirror
Overheard and Overseen // Mrs. Elana Moskowitz


ccording to the Baal Shem Tov, the encounters we unwittingly observe are Heavenly ordained. Hashem deposits us in the precise time and place to observe these incidents.

If I see a passenger lose it when the driver skips his stop, rage against the driver, the bus company, and the public transportation industry, what’s my reaction? “He really needs to practice anger management! I wonder if he’s like this at home with his wife and kids?”

I may be justified in responding this way, but if I’m living what Rav Shlomo Wolbe calls “focused inward — b’kivun el atzmo” and see encounters like these as mirrors Hashem holds up for my own spiritual evaluation, my response will be different.

Rav Wolbe advises that instead of projecting judgment outward, we focus inward and ask, “Where do I see a whisper of this reaction in myself?” Instead of instinctively condemning the perpetrator, search for the places where your reactions are inappropriately outsized, where you react with rancor instead of acceptance.

Rav Wolbe explains that it works in the inverse as well. The unremarkable episodes I notice aren’t only tools to unearth my weaknesses, they’re also meant to inspire me to live higher. When I see someone behave in a particularly elevated way, this, too, reminds me of the spiritual goals I’m capable of meeting.

Living “b’kivun el atzmo” ensures that the things I overhear and oversee become opportunities for growth.


Six Days till Shabbos
The Seventh Day // Rabbi Menachem Nissel

IN Eretz Yisrael we don’t do Sundays.

Nor does the Aseres Hadibros, where Hashem declares, “Six days you shall work and do all your melachos, but the seventh is Shabbos to Hashem your G-d” (Shemos 20:9).

Many NCSY shabbatons have a delightful custom. The moment they conclude Havdalah, they explode into the raucous, “Six More Days till Shabbos” song. It sets the tone for the week: that everything we do is a preparation for Shabbos.

The melachos we do during the week aren’t just for survival. We look for ways to elevate the physical world. After doing that for six days, we can then enter a world beyond melachos and be together with Hashem in the exalted world of Shabbos.

What Shabbos offers in time, Eretz Yisrael offers in space. It’s the place where toiling in its physicality reaps the highest spiritual rewards (Bava Basra 158b). This is found in the essential DNA of the land. Its earth is harsh (Shabbos 73b) and its fruits are spectacularly sweet.

There’s a third part of the puzzle. Tasting the sweetness of Torah can only be achieved through ameilus — toil and exertion (Avos 6:4). Rabi Shimon bar Yochai connects these three pillars: “Hashem gave three gifts to Yisrael and they are only given through yissurim. They are (1) Torah, (2) Eretz Yisrael, and (3) Olam Haba" (Berachos 5a).

Yissurim are the meaningful challenges on the road to earning the gifts Hashem has to offer. It’s hard not to notice that the tragic events of October 7 happened at a fusion of these three gifts: In Eretz Yisrael, on Shabbos, during Simchas Torah. May this be the final hazorim b’dimah — planting seeds with tears, bringing the harvest with joy — b’rinah yiktzoru, of our Geulah.


He’s the Provider
Stories that Uplift // Tova Spira

Snce we’d gone from being fresh baalei teshuvah to fully-fledged members of the community, my husband had been begging me to wear a wig. It wasn’t like I didn’t wear something on my head; I always had a kerchief or a beanie on. But I knew I couldn’t cover my hair fully unless I did so with a sheitel. I needed it to be something I’d feel comfortable in, something similar to my natural hair in style or color.

It was my mitzvah, and that’s why my husband only put very subtle pressure on me. But I knew how dear it would be to him if I changed. So I told myself, one day, someday, when I’d be ready, I’d cover my hair fully and start wearing a sheitel.

And the day came. I knew I had to jump in headfirst before I regretted my decision. My husband’s face when I told him I contacted the sheitel salon made it all worth it.  His face when I told him the price, less so.  He was shocked that it would cost a few thousand pounds.

We didn’t want to accept tzedakah, but we didn’t have enough in our savings account to pay for one. We were in a quandary.

“Hashem will send,” was my husband’s final decision.

So off I went to the salon. We agreed I’d pay for the wig in installments, and every penny we owned went to pay for the first of them. I chose the perfect wig and had it cut to suit my face shape and style.

I went home with a light heart, despite the financial burden we’d just taken on. “Hashem will send,” I whispered to the rustling trees. And I knew He would.

I’m a grant writer by profession, and it took less than a week from my appointment at the salon until a local organization contacted me. Their grant writer had to take emergency leave and they needed a writer. They liked my work, and asked if I could do another job a week later.

I now had enough money to complete the payments for the wig.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 880)

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