Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As we exit the Succah and simchas Yom Tov, how do we hold onto the joy and the process of teshuvah that Elul and Tishrei brought? We cannot simply leave the inspiration behind. We want to change. We want to be better, kinder, more passionate about our lives, and all that is important. Where do we begin?

Spiritual growth is hard. How are we supposed to gather the strength and transform ourselves?

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What makes change lasting in life?

Sometimes it takes a child to nudge us out of complacency. A young soul whose innocence screams out and begs us to listen.

In the weeks before Yom Kippur I gave a Zoom talk about the Yamim Noraim, the High Holidays. That evening I received an email from a participant that made me stop and think. I would like to share some of this mother’s words with you so that we may all take a moment and contemplate the gift of life we have been given.

“Today, 22 Elul, is the 6th yahrzeit of Kayla Rus bas Bunim Tuvia, a”h, who was diagnosed at the age of 14 with a very rare and aggressive cancer. As a little girl, Kayla Rus loved to make everyone laugh and was always dancing. After she was diagnosed she became the epitome of a Bas Melech, always tzanua, always carried herself with the knowledge that she was a special daughter of Hashem…. She always thanked everyone with whom she came into contact, even wishing the doorman at the lab to ‘have a nice day.’ She never lost her emunah and faith, and when she found out that there was nothing more the doctors could do, she said “If Hashem wants to take me, He can take me, but I think I want just one more Shabbos.” She loved Shabbos and we, as a family, took on Tosefes Shabbos after she turned 18 and heard Rebbetzin Kolodetsky speak. Her last word was ‘Amen’ to her brother’s Asher Yatzar bracha. Our Rav, Moshe Meir Weiss, noted that the gematriah of Amen is 91, as is the word ‘malach,’ and that at her levaya, the thermometer registered 91 degrees. She is now truly our malach, and will be dancing iy”H with us at her older sister’s wedding this Wednesday night. I am sure she somehow arranged it so that her sister would get married during her yahrzeit week.”

Here is a young girl whose final wish before she leaves this world is “Just one more Shabbos.”

Her final whisper that filled the atmosphere is “Amen.”

As we approach this time of reflection, let us think about this young girl’s desire to have just one more Shabbos. Let us think about the ability we have to transform every moment through our words. Let us think about the gift of time, of family, and of life.

If these past 18 months taught us anything it is that no one knows what the day holds. We are not in control. Whether a global pandemic or the tragic collapse of a building, there is much that is not in our hands. But we do have the ability to make each day count. Every week brings incredible potential. And every Shabbos allows us to soar above the mundane and plug into the spiritual.

After a class, I asked a listener if she thinks the people around her have changed since Covid hit. “At first, for sure. We all changed. Scary stories made us appreciate every breath. We were more grateful for our families and for time together. But when all this became the new normal, we forgot. We moved on and stopped appreciating each other. We’re back to the same old petty arguments and losing it over the little things. It’s sad but true.”

As we approach this year of 5782 let us take a few moments of quiet, no devices pinging.

Let us think about creating a life filled with purpose. Let us contemplate building bridges of love with our words. Let us ask ourselves how we can make each day count. And let us take the words of one young girl into our hearts so that when we begin each morning with “Modeh Ani” we pause and say “This year I will try to live higher. G-d please bless me with the gift of life.”

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Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and the author of “Raising A Child With Soul.” She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S., Canada, and South Africa. She can be reached at sloviehineni@gmail.com.