I have often been asked in my life, “At what age did you realize that your parents and grandparents were holocaust survivors?”
I can’t really respond because I have no idea. We grew up and this was our identity from the cradle. It was never about being survivors; my parents never even used that word. It was always about making a difference, thriving not simply surviving. I knew from my earliest days that we have a choice. When you go through choshech you can either become stuck in the darkness or you can kindle a light and illuminate the world. After going through tragic loss my family found a spiritual holocaust when they arrived to these shores. They could not remain silent. My grandparents and parents rebuilt their lives and with sweat and tears tried to bring every Jew they met home to Torah.
I share this with you because we are feeling choshech. How do we not lose ourselves in the darkness? What is the ingredient needed to keep our inner flame burning?
We need hope. We can’t control much of what is happening but we can choose to walk with hope. As Yermiyahu describes Hashem attempting to comfort Mama Rachel when she wept bitter tears: “Ki Yesh Tikvah” – because there is hope. Don’t give up.
Here are 4 steps to help us plug into hope:
Shift Your Thinking
It’s easy to ‘awfulize’ situations. Don’t write the worst possible scenarios. Get rid of toxic expressions from your vocabulary like “I can’t take this anymore” or “I’m losing my mind.”
Instead of saying “I can’t” say “It’s hard but I can.” Use positive words like “It will be o.k.” or “We will get through this.”
Be a source of hope not only to yourself but the people around you. Your mood is catchy – perhaps even more than this virus.
Discover Small Pockets of Peace
We have had to alter a lot of plans in our lives. Moments we’ve taken for granted like Shabbos with family, or ‘get togethers’ with friends; vacations and trips to Eretz Yisrael were put on hold. I, myself, always had a dream of taking the women I teach to Israel and bringing our classes to life. The group was maxed, we were set to go. Our itinerary was beyond anything I could’ve hoped for. And then corona hit.
Maybe we can’t do all that we’ve wished for but we can find little ‘pockets of peace’ to help us find calm. A walk outside, FaceTiming a friend, sitting down with a good read and hot cappuccino, or listening to an inspiring Torah shiur are all ways for us to re-energize.
Discover the Good
Don’t limit your lens to only seeing the darkness. In every situation there is light. We just have to work hard on our vision.
I haven’t seen my children who live out of the U.S. for months. It is hard to feel so far away. Perhaps we have taken hugs and time together for granted. But each night my children call. We FaceTime and laugh. We share stories and sing the Shema together. I know that we are creating tender memories for life. Moments to be cherished that perhaps we would not have had previously.
Remember Times of Triumph
We are a nation of miracles. We have traveled through the four corners of this earth. We have gone through every type of persecution. We were told that we would be vanquished, thrown into the sea. The world has been ready to proclaim Kaddish on us over and over again and yet here we are. “Ki lo yitosh Hashem es Amo” – Hashem will never abandon His people. We are beloved by our G-d above. We must never forget it.
This time shall pass. And when it does we must ask ourselves: Am I the same person I was when all this began? Whose life did I touch? What spark of light did I discover within?
Every time I left my mother’s home she gave me a bracha. I’d walk a few steps and she’d place her hands on my head and give another bracha.” But Mommy, you gave me a bracha.” “Never say no to a bracha.” And I’d receive another blessing. I believe that when we walk in darkness it is the brachos of our bubbies and zadies, our Avos and Emahos, that are sustaining us. We do not walk alone.