Tag Archives: inspiration

Rosh Hashana – The Ultimate #TBT

21 Sep

Happy Arm-aversary friends and foes (I see you, Citibike riders).

Quick story: 

When I was 18 at my seminary in Bet Shemesh Israel, a lovely Canadian classmate of mine, during the first month or so of school celebrated the 5 year-“birthday” of her belly-button ring. I think she even passed a card around for people to sign it.

“What a ridiculous thing to do,” I thought. “I must be her friend.” Which I did. But still thought it was odd to have a birthday for a piercing. But why not? We commemorate a lot of weird things during our year.

It is kind of strange that humans are mildly obsessed with remembering and celebrating specific dates. We have birthdays and anniversaries, Pearl Harbor day, Independence Day, Waffle Day and our own personal celebration days (I happen to celebrate July 13th – the day I got my license and January 23rd – a special friendaversary day) We love “Throwback Thursdays,” TimeHop and that thing Facebook does every New Years where it gives you an overview on all the posts you made that got the most likes.  (Most) millennials partake in “instant nostalgia” (“Lemme see the photos from the 5k we ran 20 min ago!”)  so celebrating a whole year or more seems like forever.

And no one does long-term Throwback Thursdays like Jews. That time our temple burned down 2,100 years ago? Let’s think about that every July. That time we dropped the mic and waltzed out of Egypt 3,100 years ago? Let’s reminisce about those days for TWO consecutive seders/parties in a row.

And especially Rosh Hashana – the world’s birthday. The anniversary of Adam and Eve 5,774 years ago – the ultimate #TBT.

As Judaism’s main agenda is about fixing/reparing the world (Tikun Olam), despite all the issues it gets sidetracked on, it’s helpful to look back over your year and think “Have I done anything worthwhile with my 365 days? Am I smarter? Harder better faster stronger?  Or did I watch Netflix every night and Tweet mean things about people?” If you’re like me it’s probably a little from column A and B (although I seriously doubt I am any faster this year).

The cool thing about remembering something (and not just what you wore to brunch in those selfies from earlier this week) is comparing present You with past You. Looking at photos from middle school you can think “I was so much more comfortable in my skin back then,” or “I am much better at making friends today” or “Why did ANYONE let me out of the house with  my hair like that?!”

We are meant to look at our past and ask, did we change ourselves? Did we change others and did we change the world? Because it starts with the first question. A better world starts with us looking back to ourselves just a year ago and track our growth (or failures, because progress isn’t just moving upwards it’s also learning from our mistakes or learning to forgive ourselves for our mistakes.)

Example: Two years ago I was in a really bad accident (did I mention that?) That day I was completely stressed out because of a rough class with major deadlines and more pressure I’ve ever felt for a class. I was also in a new relationship, was having roommate issues and trying to balance school work and Jewish holidays. As I crossed the street that Friday, my last thought (before the thought, “I could cross before that bike gets here!”) was “My life cannot get any more stressful.”

Cut to three days later when I had the same stresses plus a broken arm and battered face.

From then on, whenever I think “Ahhh this is the absolute worst – nothing can be as bad as  ___enter situation here___” I remember “Oh wait, yes it can. I could be doing this *and* have a broken arm, I could be doing this *and* be attacked by raccoons, I could be doing this *and* have an unfortunate case of tick bites on my face’. Not that the main lesson here is never be stressed because hypothetical situations are always worse. Your pressures are totally valid bro I get that. The lesson here is learn from your experiences. Learn from others’ experience. Just never stop learning.

So make resolutions, break them, learn some new things, fail horribly, make friends, read books, cook new recipes, watch that documentary on Netflix, give to charity, cheer up someone’s day.

Two quotes that keep me motivated on marginal change throughout the year are:

“Someone once told me the definition of hell: The last day on Earth, the person you became meets the person you could have become” ~ Unknown

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. – Erma Bombeck.

I hope they’re inspiring to you too.

And I pray next Rosh Hashana we can all look back and say, “Yeah, I think I repaired the world just a tiny little bit.”

Other Rosh Hashana posts: https://avivawoolf.com/2013/09/01/the-god-network-renews-you-for-another-season-a-rosh-hashanah-post/


I have a little Dreidle, I made it out of Turkeys

21 Nov

Hello friends!

I missed you! I’ve missed this. I’ve missed writing for the sake of writing and not for a grade or to fulfill a requirement (as important as that is for my life right now). But I’m glad I have a second to sit here and blog for the time being.

I hope you’ve had a productive past couple of months. I think the last time I wrote it was almost Rosh Hashana and now it’s coming up on “Thanksgivvakah” (BTW, I’m so happy I’m not going to be around in 77,000 years because if I see one more “Recipes that combine Hannukah and Thanksgiving!” or “DIY hacks for your Thankgivakkah party!” I might lead a Turkey rebellion (see what I did there? I combined the rebellion of Hannukah and the fact that turkeys don’t want to be eaten for Thanksgiving – get it?! BECAUSE ITS A COMBO DAY!)

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

If anything, I’m bummed we combine them this year. It’s like having your birthday fall on well, Hannukah. But it’s fine, we’ll spin the wishbone, light string beans in your Menorahs and talk about how Pocahantas got Holofernes drunk and then cut off his head. It’ll be great.

I’m extra excited for Hannukah this year. And not because the Maccabeats just put out a new video. Which I’ve watched about 47,000 times. But because I’m seeing the holiday in a new light (HA! MORE JOKES!) this year.

We all know Hannukah is about miracles. It’s about the righteous beating the wicked. It’s about a tiny jug of oil burning for 7 extra days. It’s about bringing light into into the darkness that is the winter – and our spiritual winter.

But it’s also about the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash. Compared to the other stuff, the rededication almost seems like an afterthought. I mean, there’s nothing supernatural about cleaning up our holy temple and getting our stuff back together. Even though the name of the holiday alludes to the rededication, *clearly* the other stuff we celebrate is so much cooler! I never thought that the rededication was that exciting. It’s definitely not the main plot of the Rugrats Hannukah special.

Obviously the lesson of that movie was "It's OK to let babies light candles"

Obviously the lesson of that movie was “It’s OK to let babies light candles”

But in fact, it could be the biggest miracle of the holiday. When the Beit Hamikdash was new. It was a novelty, it was exciting. People were jazzed. People were talking about it. I’m sure they wrote all about it the Jerusalem Post.

But that’s to be expected. When things are new, people are gonna get behind it. The fact that the Temple was destroyed and people got jazzed *again* is an even bigger deal than when the Temple was dedicated the first time.

It is SO hard to get back up when something you’re used to gets demolished. It’s SO hard to bounce back from destruction and rebuild. If I was there during those times and saw that the Greeks had graffitied “GOD SUCKS – ZEUS RULES!” on the Aron, I might’ve been like “Ugh, guess we’re just going to have find some other way to serve God. I’m not spending my Sunday squeeging this place. Instead of a Temple, maybe we’ll make like a circus tent. A collapsable one. So if anyone tries to mess with us again, we’ll just fold it up and paint ourselves to match the forest Peeta-style until they can’t find us.”

The only logical conclusion.

The only logical conclusion.

But the Jews didn’t do that. They sighed and got back to work. When life knocks you down (or shifty Greeks) you get back up.

You get back up.

These past few weeks have been really hard for me, you guys. Something bad has happened in my brain. The pressures of school, internship, the wedding combined with a terrible night of combining alcoholic drinks, along with some chemical imbalance and hormonal imbalance has caused some sort of volcano that triggered a panic disorder.

It hasn’t been fun. I have had no experience with mental imbalance. For a while it seemed like my head a very dark place. I was scared to be alone in it. If you know what it’s like to not be able to trust your own mind, you might know what that’s like. For a while i felt hopeless that anything was going to change. That I may be stuck with these thoughts forever.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little better after getting help. I’m on a very weird journey right now. It’s hard to explain. It feels like this whole scary experience has been sort of a wake-up call for me. But i’m not sure what it means yet.

All I know for sure is that every bad experience you go through makes you more empathetic. Every scary thing you go through makes it easier to endure the next one. Every fear you live through is another opportunity to laugh at it.

When life knocks you down, you don’t give up.

Whether it’s Greeks, grades, accidents, weather or your own brain.

You get back up. You clean up. You light a match.

And most importantly, you don’t forget. You don’t forget your struggle because struggles make us stronger.

Be a Maccabee, be strong.

Six more days until Hannukah!



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