Rosality - Reflections on Life from a Different Perspective
2015 Rosh Hashana 5776, 2015 Rosh Hashana 5775, 2014 Sivan 5774, Iyyar 5774 2011 Rosh Hashana 2010 Rosh Hashana, February, January, 2009 December(2), December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January, 2008. 2007. 2006
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Leap of Faith
In the 1990s, there was a popular show on television called Quantum Leap. A quantum physicist, Sam Beckett, creates a time machine that allows him to travel within his own lifetime. But the project is overtaken by God who sends Sam leaping into the lives of other people and assuming their identities in order to put right what once went wrong. Once he does that, he leaps into another person living at another time, always hoping his next leap will be the leap home. His guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear and who is aided behind the scenes by another scientist on the project and a computer with a mastermind and masterego, named Ziggy who all help Sam with his assignments.
Although the creator and head writer of this series are not Jewish, the whole concept and premise of the series is a like a page out of a Kabbalistic text (l'havdil).
All of us leap in this world from incarnation to incarnation and within each lifetime from situation to situation to do what is called Tikun Olam, a rectification of the world or in layman's terms - to fix what once went wrong.
At the beginning of each episode of QL, when Al joins Sam wherever his current leap has taken him, and after they have exchanged some friendly banter, Sam's typical line is, "Okay Al what am I here to do?" If you write Al in Hebrew, you get aleph lamed, one of the names of God. So if you translated the phrase into Hebrew you would get, "Okay, God, what am I here to do?"
The essence of our lives as Jews is to constantly be asking ourselves this question. The character of life in the Western world presupposes the question, "What is life here to do for me?" How can I get the most out of it? But the question a Jew is supposed to ask him or herself at any given time is "What is my role? What does God want from me? What am I supposed to be doing to fix the world and make it a better place?" And on this journey we have the guidance of Rabbis and Sages and the Torah containing (like a master computer, again, l'havdil) all the knowledge of the history of the world with instructions on how to fix it.
Historically, the Jewish people have lived up to their mission bringing concepts of ethics and justice to civilization and contributing to society (more than any other nation)in terms of charity and scientific and medical technology. History has borne out the role of the Jewish nation engaged in Tikkun Olam. But we each have to do this on an individual level, as well, never shirking this responsibility even for a moment.
In the interest of high ratings, with the exception of the pilot, Sam doesn't just leap into someone's life and get a feel for his life circumstances before performing whatever task he discovers he was sent to do. He leaps in at a critical moment (in the middle of a race, a television broadcast, a flight in crisis, a medical emergency) and he has to think fast to get a feel for the situation. Then he has a matter of hours or days to act in order to change history for the better.
We are given a very limited lifetime to do our job in this world. But we waste a lot of time and energy trying to change our life circumstances for our own benefit instead of using them to do what we have been sent here to do. Whenever we have a change in plans or find ourselves suddenly in an unexpected situation, we often look at it as a frustrating detour. Instead we can ask ourselves, "Why am I here in this place at this given moment? What am I meant to do?"
No situation is happenstance, everything is being directed from Above. Every day we are faced with circumstances which beg the question, "What does God want me to do about this?"
Without meaning to, Quantum Leap provided the template for living a meaningful Jewish life.
1. Assess the situation quickly
The Talmud (Mashechet Sanhedrin) says that everyone must live by the dictum, "The World was created only for me." One interpretation is that we are here to make use of the world for our own benefit and enjoy every aspect of it since it was created for our pleasure. The other interpretation is that the whole world is dependent on us to make it right.
As we pray to God to grant us another year in the days that follow and make a new and stronger commitment to serving Him and living up to our potential, the most effective step that we could take in this direction is to come into every situation with the desire to help and look for ways to do so by asking ourselves, "What am I here (now, in this situation with these people) to do?
We are each given a unique mission that only we can accomplish and no one, including ourselves, is completely aware of how much depends on us fulfilling it.
We just need to take a leap of faith.
Wishing us all a year in which all are prayers are answered for the good and blessings of every kind are showered upon us, and the wisdom to recognize that this is so.
Shana Tova, Metuka, u'mivorachat!
The Tipping Point
Israel is a country you can cross in about 8 hours, less now with Route 6, so most busses are intercity in that they traverse many cities on their routes. So when you get on a bus, you have to say where youíre going so you pay the right fare. As I was coming back from work one day in June, I got on the bus whose end destination is Ariel. I was talking on my cellphone to my son so I didnít state a destination and the driver automatically took NIS9.50 instead of 6.50. When I pointed this out to him, he said it was my fault, I had been talking on my cellphone and didnít say I wanted Petach Tikvah. Okay, so I told him to just change my ticket and he refused. Now, he could have easily given me another ticket and given my ticket to the person behind me or at the next stop but he didnít. He had an "I'm angry at the world" look on his face. I got indignant and told him I would report him to the bus company and heíd be fined. He didnít care. So after yelling at him a bit more, I made my way down the aisle and called the number on the headboard at the back of his seat. It wasnít the right number. And then I thought. "What am I doing?" There's a 3 shekel (less than a dollar) difference. Why am I getting so agitated? And look how we're treating each other! I went back to the driver and said, "You know what, I'm not going to report you. This is a time we have to be nice to each other. Iím letting it go and let this be a merit for the boys to come home."
This happened during the second week of the captivity of yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel, a period where almost every moment people were doing something to help get the boys back Ė praying, sponsoring rallies and special evening devoted to learning, delivering food to the soldiers searching, helping the families directly, writing articles, crying. In my 30 years in Israel I had never before seen such unity and I often thought how overwhelmed the boys will be when they come back Bezrat Hashem to see how much they had inspired Ė how much chesed, how many prayers, how much unity of every sector in Israeli society. I was convinced Mashiach himself would lead them home. And you never knew which one action, one compromise, one caring act, one extra prayer was going to tip the scales in their favor.
The driver didnít say anything but something in his face changed. There are two interesting matters of hashgachah here. First of all, I saw the next day that I had called the wrong number. The customer service number was printed somewhere else and had I seen it, I might have gotten through. The other thing is this driver was Jewish. This is a line (Israel has about 700 bus companies) that usually is driven by an Arab. But I could see that this guy was Jewish. The boys didnít come home again. And Mashiach didnít come. But if anything could have brought him it was the love and unity at the funeral of these three young heroes who had united the entire nation - first in hope, prayer and kindness and then in mourning.
Every year, we spend 40 days preparing for our day of judgment. And the same thing can be said of this period as of the 18 days in June. We never know what small thought, word or deed is going to tip the scales in our favor. And so from Elul to Yom Kippur we work overtime to pile the merits and mitzvoth on the scale so that we receive a favorable judgment and gain reprieve from any punishments coming to us. We usually do this on a personal level. But in June I saw it on a national level and that unity, that family devotion to one another is what God wants. That unity, tips the scale for everyone.
Tragically, devastatingly, the boys did not come home. They watched from their very special place in Heaven how hard we tried. And they, in their special place watched while yeshivah students and soldiers, the secular and religious, politicians and rabbis, brothers and sisters sang and wept as they said goodbye. They werenít surprised because while we still struggle to understand, they no longer needed to.
Let us not lose the momentum that was created only three months ago, that spiritual momentum that the mothers of the boys inspired, with their faith, their gratitude, their nobility, their courage when we all rose to the challenge of unprecedented kindness and unity.
These three wonderful boys Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel did something miraculous - They united us in an unprecedented ways.
Let us continue to be one in the memory of these heroes, Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal. May their memory be for a blessing and let us make them proud of us.
Shanah Tovah Umevorechet! Gmar Chatimah Tovah! An easy and meaningful fast! Every Blessing in the New Year and Yeshuot and Geula for all of us!
Rosality and Unity
This morning, as I was taking the bus to work, an Arab woman sat down beside me. She was wearing layers of black clothing with a large scarf around her dark complexioned face. I was not comfortable, not least of all because of the terrible tension being caused with the boys' kidnapping and the mounting attacks by Arabs. But also because it was very squishy. It's not that the woman was fat but because of all the layers of clothing she was wearing. I couldn't understand why she sat down beside me. Usually people take seats alone until they have no choice. I moved closer to the window.I did not want to be sitting next to this woman. Then the woman took out a siddur and started to pray. I did a double take. She was Jewish and religious and praying! What was she doing wearing something closer to a burka than normal clothes religious Jewish women wear?! I wanted to tell her she looked like an Arab, what was she dressing like that for? How could she do that? I almost did. But she was praying. And I was wondering, Why did God put her there beside me when there were so many empty seats? This was a defining moment. And it called for a defining action. I reached into my bag and pulled out the prayer written by the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi HaGaon Rav Amar pleading with God to free the hostages. I was with a group of women reciting Tehillim last night and it was given out. I had a few left over. I gave her one. As she didn't want to interrupt her prayer to speak, she nodded her head in thanks and gestured to ask if she can keep it. Yes, I told her it's for her.
Since this whole tragic and frightening situation started a week ago, there has been tremendous unity. Perhaps social media has made it easier than in previous situations like this for us all to unite in hope and prayer, in anger and outcry. Or perhaps, we're just getting better at it. We've had 2,000 years of practice after all.
I almost made a terrible mistake and missed an opportunity to unite with a fellow Jew to help bring our boys home.
May Hashem protect and bring back our boys soon: Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim and Eyal ben Iris Teshurah
Our Brotherís Inspiration
I was having a long talk with a close friend and we were discussing why she had taken a detour in her path to becoming more religious. The conversation was getting a bit sticky when I changed tacks and asked well, what had prompted her to begin becoming more religious in the first place and she said it was my Rosalities.
That sort of stopped me in my tracks (well not literally, we were driving). Here I was challenging her about her reduced level of observance while she was indirectly hinting it had something to do with the stop in flow of inspiration I was providing. This was bemusing as one of the reasons I had stopped writing them was (aside from the onus of being originally inspiring every month) was the feeling that I wasnít really inspiring anyone. I mean, a couple of people expressed sincere appreciation but as I know I tend to be judgmental and preachy (a characteristic that has depleted my friend bank on occasion though I like to think of it more as being Quixotic and idealistic), I didnít think they would be that sorely missed.
In any event, this sort of fit in nicely with my previous argument in our conversation. You see, in my friendís quest for religious advancement, she was influencing everyone in her environs in spite of themselves, to honor her by being more religious themselves. Her mother took her on modest clothing shopping sprees, her father made Kiddush, her husband started doing things she asked him for Shabbat, and I had posited, that she would be held accountable for all the mitzvoth these people werenít doing because of the mitzvoth she wasnít doing.
When I cross the street, I try not to cross against the light because you never know whoís watching. I donít mean the police, Iím thinking more in terms of little kids. If little kids (or big kids) see you crossing on a red light, theyíre more likely to imitate you (I saw a middle aged religious lady crossing against the light, so why canít I?) If you notice people in general will cross against the light as soon as they see someone else doing it. If God forbid, a child every gets hurt because they once saw me crossing against the light and they consequently do the same, Iím culpable for that.
Iím sure youíve seen charity telethons or the new charity fashion, Chinese auctions. People are spurred on to give more than they intended because other people give. Itís contagious. Most behavior is imitable.
I remember once a friend was visiting from Canada with who was then her boyfriend. It was one of the minor fasts and at the time, I was not keeping minor fasts as diligently as I should have and I made us something to eat. I didnít offer him because he was fasting but I guess watching us eat was too much temptation and he ate something as well. I often recall that with a pang of guilt. He broke his fast because of me. Perhaps he never fasted on that fast again. He later broke up with my friend and was a jerk about it so I donít feel so bad, but maybe I should.
When we have crossed lifeís finish line at 120 and find ourselves in Heavenís projection room viewing the movie of our lives, sans popcorn, we will not only see all we did and all we could have done for better or for worse, we will also see all the things everyone else did Ė friends, relatives and complete strangers - influenced and inspired, unbeknownst to us, by what we ourselves did. Endless parallel universes of possibility will stretch out before us and we will doubtless feel overwhelmed with inconceivable amounts of both gratitude and remorse. Think about it, there is a limit, defined by time and space of what we can do alone, but there is no limit of how our actions and words, or lack thereof, influence the rest of the universe. Our lack of inaction, when we should have taken it, our words unspoken will come back to haunt us for eternity.
Thatís a pretty heavy concept to consider.
So does this mean Iím going back to writing Rosalitys once a month? Not necessarily. If I do does that mean my friend will pick up the religious gauntlet and run with it? Not necessarily. Everyone, when everything is said and done, is responsible for his or her own choices and actions. But, when we see how easily and significantly our own choices and actions influence those of others and how far-reaching that can be, itís mind-boggling! Often we hear from someone how something we did or said impacted them. But we will never hear how what they said or did as a result impacted others.
Even if we donít publish, perform, hold public office or teach, we are always, always in the public eye. We are always setting an example and changing the world around us with every move we make and every step we take (or donít).
The Talmud says that the world was created for us. Thatís usually interpreted as the world is our oyster (only figuratively, oysters arenít kosher) but basically everything in the world is here to personally serve us in some way. But it can also mean, the world was created for us to have an influence, to make a difference, to change the world for the better as only we, alone, can change it.
So, taking all this into account, (and without causing this to paralyze us into inaction) should we really consider the ramifications to the entire universe of every single thing we do or donít do every minute of our lives?
I leave that up to you for consideration. I wouldnít want to be too judgmental and preachy.
A friend of mine was visiting from Montreal and near the end of her visit, we spent the day in Jerusalem. We found parking down the hill from the Kotel. The only problem was that it was on a meter and had a limit of three hours. No problem, we figured we’d go to the Wall, do some shopping in the Rova, have something to eat and then come back, feed the meter in its turn and go to the City of David to walk through the water tunnel.
As we planned, so we did. We came back to the car and I put 16 shekels into the meter. But it didn’t register. So we said, you know what, the meter’s broken, hopefully the police officer will see it and not give us a ticket. We came back four hours later (the meter was broken after all) and there was of course a ticket on the windshield. We then tried to video putting the money in the meter and its not registering as proof to fight the ticket. But the first time, the video didn’t catch it and the second time, the meter worked.
I tried calling the traffic police the next day, but after a run around was told I’d have to submit a letter in writing. My friend said she’d try to deal with it from Montreal.
Two days later, I’m waiting outside the bank. A woman pulls into a handicapped spot on the street in front of the bank and runs out to use the bank machine. Behind her a vehicle with a handicapped sticker is honking at her to move. Someone mentions this to her and she says, “He can wait two minutes.” People were muttering about her chutzpah. I said to her as calmly as I could, “You’ve parked in a handicapped parking spot and there’s someone who wants to park there and you don’t have a problem with that?” She basically told me to mind my own business. She finished hers, returned to her car, made an illegal three-point turn and drove off.
This happened about 80 meters from the Petach Tikva police station. There was not a cop in sight.
A policeman gives a parking ticket to a rental car (obviously containing tourists) to two middle-aged religious women visiting Jerusalem who in fact put money in the broken meter. A policeman doesn’t give a ticket to a woman who usurps a parking place that is illegal for her to park in and commits any number of traffic violations, in addition, for good measure.
Is there no justice? The answer is there is but we aren’t privy to the inner workings of it. The Israel police is limited in their dispensation of justice in ways that God isn’t. One can be sure that justice is ultimately served and everything that happens, happens for the good, with perfect justice, taking every mitigating circumstance into account.
Another thought crossed my mind, pondering this. Both events were basically the result of stress. Who knows what compelling reason this woman had for doing what she did. As my friend mentioned, she wasn’t completely off, she had to have a handicapped mind to do this. I could tell by the look on her face when she told me to mind my own business that she wasn’t proud of what she had done, she just justified it to herself for whatever reason. And my friend and I were anxious to do the things on our list (well, I was at least) and we didn’t want to have to deal with finding another parking spot in one of the most difficult places in the world to do so.
My friend’s a very easygoing, go-with-the flow person. I am not. Spending so much time with her, made me more aware of how stressed and tied to a schedule I am. Which only made me feel more stressed. As we shared an idyllic row on the Jordan River, up North, I realized how far from inner and outer peace I am. Every year, I resolve to live a calmer life, a less scheduled life, a slower-paced life. But in the world of myriad responsibilities, nano-second technology and multitasking as a constant goal, besides everything else going on in the world, this has never been harder to do. I’m sure if you had asked this woman, while drinking coffee with her in her living room if she would ever park in a handicapped parking spot, she would have said no. But stress causes people to act under pressure and this puts everybody else under pressure.
And finally, it brought home to me the fact that every small thing we do counts, is being observed and has ramifications. I wonder how this person would feel knowing that her inconsiderate choice would be scrutinized and splayed all over the Internet. No doubt, there were others in the crowd who mentioned the chutzpah of this woman to someone else that day. Our actions don’t stop with us and we’re responsible for everything that ensues because of them.
Everything we do, no matter how short-lived or trivial, creates, as I love to say, ripples that resound through eternity and on the final day of Judgment we have to give an accounting for everything we’ve done that we shouldn’t have and everything we could have done that we didn’t.
If we can make our lives as free of stress of possible, we will be able to think clearly and make the decisions, big and small, that we would be happy to have played back to us on the video (sorry, DVD) of our lives. And then we will bring upon ourselves, God willing, the best Divine Judgment for a healthy and happy year.
A year of every blessing in every sphere and peace to everyone!
שנה טובה, בריאה מאושרת, מבורכת ורגועה!
Master of Our Destiny
Rosality - Shanah Tovah!
Although it says very clearly numerous times in the High Holiday liturgy that it's God who decides who shall be born and who shall die, we spend a great deal of time, energy and worry trying to manipulate events in our favor giving the seeming impression that we are masters of our fate.
In the summer of 2001, a family from my neighborhood decided to move to the United States because of the stress of the security situation here in Israel. They were tired of always looking over their shoulders in fear of a terrorist attack. They moved to New York. Imagine how they must have felt only a few weeks after leaving Israel to escape terrorism to find themselves in the middle of one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in history especially in a city not used to dealing with it. They have since moved back.
A friend of mine married at the age of 41 for the first time. She tried to get pregnant but had fertility problems. One "tactful" doctor metaphorically described it as her being a train hurtling 180 miles per hour towards a wall. Her two failed fertility treatments seemed to prove his prognosis. Then, at 43, she gave birth to the most precocious little girl, with no medical intervention, who is currently 10 years old till 120 and whose antics have been the inspiration for a couple of articles of mine.
The most incredible story is one I heard from a co-worker. Several years ago the company I worked for was located in Bnei Brak and employees used to take their coffee break outside overlooking a side street. The following unfolded before their unbelieving eyes. A car was hurtling down the street a bit faster than necessary. It hit a horse that was being driven across street at that moment. The horse was thrown into the air and landed on the roof of the passenger side of the car, dying on impact and killing the passenger in the car. Imagine for a moment the person filling out the form listing the cause of death.
Like the story above illustrates, everything is from Heaven, literally.
There are books full of stories, notably those in the Maggid series by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn among others, that give amazing stories of hashagacha pratit where people's lives were miraculously and incredibly saved sometimes even without their knowledge.
There's a whole book of stories telling of the miraculous rescue, Divine Providence and unfortunate deaths associated with 9/11.
People think they can control their destinies. They think if they do certain things or avoid certain things they'll be spared from death. While it's true that hishtadlut, both physical and spiritual, is important and does awaken Divine mercy, only God decides who will live and who will die and how. Most people do not avoid cars for fear they will be killed by a flying horse.
I was married for seven months. I had gotten pregnant right away and then had a miscarriage. I was told not to get pregnant again for a few months and in the meantime my husband and I decided to divorce so we did our hishtadlut not to get pregnant. After we divorced, I returned to Israel and as soon as my health insurance was reinstated I went to the doctor who confirmed I was pregnant. Baruch Hashem! It didn't matter that I was not "supposed" to be or was trying not to be or that a doctor in New York had told me I wasn't.
Fast forward 13 years and my ex-husband was coming from California for the bar mitzvah. As probably is true in other parts of the world, a bar mitzvah in Israel is more like a sheva brachot with the celebrations spreading over the greater part of the week. My ex-husband decided to eschew the celebration at the Kotel because he was afraid of being in Jerusalem with its periodic terrorist attacks and he joined the festivities a couple of days later.
A year and a half later, he died of a heart attack in his apartment in a California suburb that has never seen a terrorist.
When I was 11 years old I remember playing a game of machanayim (a form of dodge ball) in camp. I was very skinny and agile at 11 but athletic prowess has never been my forte. I remember I was the last one on the team and no matter how they tried, the other team couldn't touch me with the ball. We tend to live our lives like we're playing machanayim with God. If we're agile enough and quick enough and clever enough we can escape our fate by outmaneuvering Him. But that's not how it works. We can take every precaution in the world, but ultimately our destiny is in God's hands. And the converse is also true, doctors don't decide who will be born. I have another friend who was told by doctors that she should terminate her first pregnancy and that they would have to perform a hysterectomy because of miomas. A private doctor gave her hope and that child is now a beautiful young woman and although she suffered several subsequent miscarriages, my friend has Baruch Hashem five children (the last two twins).
We are sometimes aware of Divine Providence and we recognize and acknowledge God's orchestration of our lives when we "catch a bus" or "have a providential meeting" or something happens just when we need it to but ironically, in the most life-altering events of our lives, we feel we hold the key to our destiny.
A friend told me a story about a mother who during the Six Day War moved Heaven and earth to arrange for her only son, who usually served in a combat unit, to serve in a relatively safe position with the Home Front as a border guard in a non-combat zone. The regiment that her son would have belonged to parachuted into Sharam Al Sheik. Not a shot was fired. Everyone returned home safely and unharmed. Her son was shot on guard duty when Jordan joined the war at Egypt's behest. Now it's not that if the mother had not interfered, her child would have lived. It wasn't that she caused his death, God forbid; it was that she couldn't prevent it.
We definitely need to do our hishtadlut. Guarding our lives is a mitzvah from the Torah. We need to pray for the safety and good health of ourselves and our families and to be blessed with children. We need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and prolong our lives.
But in our long miraculous history as a nation, through war, terrorism and inquisition, from Amalek to Bin Laden, from the prayers of Sarah Imeinu to the prayers of Sarah in Bnei Brak longing to be a mother, from miracle to miracle, we must always be cognizant of the fact that the Master of the Universe is also the Master of our destinies.
May God bless our efforts to come closer to Him. May our prayers be answered for the good and may we all be blessed with health and happiness, peace and prosperity, wisdom and success, love and naches in the coming year.
I Didn’t Know That
By Rosally Saltsman
We all like to be right. Right? I mean no one wants to think they’re doing anything wrong. So your natural instinct when someone tells you something you didn’t know you should be doing or not be doing causes you to say, “No, that’s not right.”
Case in point. A friend who was staying with me and had been away for Shabbat causally mentioned something about having to pay the person whose house you’re staying at for the Shabbat candles you use there. I had never, ever heard this before (I mean Chanukah candles sure but Shabbat candles, uh uh). I have been lighting candles in other people’s homes for about 33 years so I didn’t want to hear that I had been doing something not right for 33 years. For years I have been lighting with oil. Olive oil. This is not a mitzvah I take lightly. This was some stricture, only something my friend did. I looked it up. Couldn’t find it. Looked on the web, asked a Rebbetzin. Yeah there was something in it.
Now, it would be much easier to go, “Wow, I didn’t know that, thank you so much for telling me, now I’ll do it right.” My, our natural reaction, is no, I don’t know that, that’s not how I do it so it can’t be right. Now, I understand, as do all of you that this comes not from a place of arrogance but a place of goodness. We all want to be doing what we perceive is the right thing and when we’re not we are lacking in the perfection we so strive to reach. I mean when do we finally get it right?
Dov Baron, a life coach in British Columbia says that three of the most expensive words in the world are “I know that”. Because when you know everything, you end up not knowing many things that could save you pain, aggravation, money, love and … proper mitzvah observance.
I once had a “New thinking” teacher tell me I like to be right. Duh! Doesn’t everybody like to be right? I can just hear George Carlin going, “Yeah I was hoping to be wrong at least a few times today, gee what went wrong? I know I was wrong at least once. Well guess I was wrong about that, phew! That was close.”
It says that a fool doesn’t learn but if you think you’re wise you don’t learn either. We get all defensive about it. All tense like something terrible will happen if we do something differently or if we were actually gasp wrong. We are wrong, at least sometimes that’s what we’re here to fix in the first place.
Let’s all take a deep breath and start again.
Because, ultimately, that’s what we do every day. All of us.
Rosality is going on an indefinite hiatus. Thank you all for reading.
Reflections of You and Me
By Rosally Saltsman
I had to catch a 6:13 a.m. train to Modi’in from Petach Tikvah. Otherwise I would miss the Bar Mitzvah. Some places have transportation between them every five minutes. With others the frequency ranges from hours to days. So I showed up at the train station at a quarter to six. It was locked. I asked the guard when they would be opening. He said, “Soon.”
I said, “But I have a train.” True it would take five minutes from the time I entered the station to get to the train but ever since I was born two months premature, I like to be early, in plenty of time, you never know.
“Well, what time will you be opening?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
You know how everyone has their buttons, their pet peeves, their red capes, arrogant, uncooperative people who don’t comply with a simple request are one of mine. I threatened to complain. He didn’t care. Eventually other people arrived and he opened the door only when I went inside he told me I couldn’t come in yet. I refused to move. He threatened to physically evict me. Heated words ensued and I left the station only to be allowed back a minute later. I threatened again, he threatened me with a civil suit if I complained. The cashier at the ticket booth hadn’t arrived yet. It was 6:05. The young girl guard working with him seemed more reasonable. She said if the cashier didn’t come in time I could go through and pay at the end.
“But why wouldn’t he tell me when the station opened?” I asked of her reasonably.
“It depends,” she answered sweetly.
“We have regulations.”
“But what are the regulations?”
“I could miss my train”
“Everything’s from Above.”
The ticket booth lady had meanwhile arrived and since the train was electric, I was smoking in its stead. But a few minutes later, I decided not to complain. It’s my job in this world to fix myself not other people, and I hadn’t reacted in a way that made me particularly proud. Also, his attitude, while it provoked and angered me, didn’t actually cause any harm. I made the train and the bar mitzvah, both very nice and the guard didn’t actually lay a hand on me. Also since I’m struggling with livelihood myself, I didn’t think it was auspicious to threaten someone else’s. I decided to let it go.
My trip required me to change trains in Tel-Aviv. I was going to get off at the last possible stop, but something made me get off at the central terminal. I had about 20 minutes before my connecting train and sat down on a bench to say Tehillim (Psalms).
A bareheaded man with earrings in his ears, looking a bit scruffy and smelling of cigarette smoke passed by.
“Tehillim is a good thing,” he said. I acknowledged his remark and then called after him, “So say some.”
He walked back to me.
“I have a Tehillim in my bag but I don’t say them.” He took out a book to show me.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I don’t know which to say.”
I quickly explained to him how the book was divided into days of the week and days of the month and he decided to say Tehillim for the day, which was Thursday.
“I need to cover my head right?” And he rummaged through his bag once more and pulled out an equally scruffy kippa and put it awkwardly on his head.
He sat down next to me and we proceeded to say Tehillim together in companionable whispers. I felt very divinely blessed. This was a special moment.
When we finished, I showed him the prayer he could say after each time he recited Tehillim. He said he’d say it on the train. He then expressed an interest in learning more. He told me he goes to a kollel every morning where he lays Tefillin. The kippa was obviously scruffy from use. I made a suggestion or two.
We parted with blessings for each other as the train pulled up.
He was obviously a divine emissary, after all something had made me get off at this station, and more than I was teaching him, he was teaching me.
You see the two incidents, the one with the guard and the one with the man, took place a half an hour apart. And look how tremendous a difference there was in the interactions.
The Ba’al Shem Tov said that we are all reflections of one another. We show others what they have inside them and they too reflect our flaws and virtues back to us.
We have a possibility at every moment, by our actions and reactions, to inspire others or to bring out their worst. The choice to be, and to see, are ours.
We are all like trains that pass each other on our journeys and stop briefly to make a delivery at each other’s stations.
The female guard was tight, “Everything is from Above!”
Wishing you the loveliest of reflections
A version of this article appears in The Jewish Press
A Little Light
By Rosally Saltsman
I was speaking to my oldest and dearest friend, my “adopted sister”. She was talking about how once when I was visiting her in Tzfat, I had made a joke when she had tried to slip in some garlic to an omelet she was making for us after I had said I didn’t want any. She liked how I had made light of it. This friend knows me practically my entire life and this incident took pace when we were 23. Of the millions of adventures we shared together on the road of our destinies, this one stands out.
My late ex-husband once told me that the highlight of our marriage was when I made him come with me to visit Houdini’s grave and pray. It’s not that we didn’t do more romantic or exciting things. I’d probably say that it’s because it’s something he never did with any other woman. I had a Houdini thing. I like the whole idea of making magic.
I have a good friend who always remembers the things I say to her. I don’t remember the things I say to her, but she’ll say, “Remember when I asked you… and you said… ?” No! but it’s helped her she tells me. Her favorite article I wrote was one that never got published. She frequently mentions it.
Over the years, I’ve taken my son to Europe and North America and tried to literally and figuratively give him the world. What he remembers with great fondness, however, is how I used to do foreign country day once a month. It was a fun activity where we chose a country and I’d teach him a few words in the native language, we’d eat the food of the same country, maybe dress up, I’d give him a history quiz and we’d make believe we were doing something touristy in that country.
The point is that the things that make us memorable, that make an impression on people in this world, that leave their imprint are the little things. It’s not the major achievements, the simchas we organize, the awards we get, the showy stuff we do, the major trips we take, even the generous acts of kindness (these are important too) but what differentiates us from other people in the hearts and minds of our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues are the little gestures, the encouraging words, the cute shtick, the almost indiscernible moments that light up people’s lives. Like a small jug of oil meant only to last a few hours, it brings light that lasts and is remembered for generations.
I know too that my greatest appreciation of my friends came at moments they don’t even remember but that made a big difference to my life.
Our friends and families don’t necessarily remember or care about our greatest achievements in life. It’s the little things, the little interactions we have with them. Not the downpour, the rain shower. Not the neon, the glow of a small flame.
Chanukah Sameach! Chodesh Tov!
By Rosally Saltsman
On a bus in Israel (I’m sure this is true in other places but it seems to be more so in Israel) you easily hear a dozen languages. They all sort of weave into a psalm sung to the Conductor. Or the bus driver. They blend into a buzz in the background but the individual conversations seep through.
I was traveling on a bus back from Tzfat. Behind me an Israeli was giving an Ethiopian new immigrant some tips. It didn’t sound like he needed them though. He had been in Israel a year and was already speaking Hebrew pretty fluently and was traveling to Petach Tikvah where he had purchased an apartment even though he didn’t have any profession. He seemed to be doing okay. He told his new travel companion about walking to the Sudan from Ethiopia during the night. It had taken four days.
“Where there any lions?”
“No, just robbers.”
I usually go up to Metullah when I go up North but my friend from Metullah is spending the year teaching in Eilat, on the other side of the country, opposite topography, furthest North and furthest South.
I met a good friend recently with whom I had reconnected a few months ago after twenty years. We went for a drink at the place we first met 27 years ago. It looked different. So do we. Our conversation’s the same though, same rhythm, same dynamic, same upbeat. He divides his time between family and work in New Zealand, Hungary and England. And Israel.
Josh, my son, my wonderful son till-120! is learning in Beit-El. It’s a 40 minute drive with a car but two hours by bus. It seems further the longer he’s away. But he comes home and it’s a nice place. Leaving home is a rite of passage.
A good friend just moved apartments. Her cat, apparently disoriented went missing for 10 days. She was very distraught and almost despaired of seeing him again. But then she got a call from someone who had seen her notices and spotted the cat not far away. She ran to get him. They were happily reunited to the joy of all following the drama. Well, perhaps less so for her husband.
An old Yemenite man on the bus from Tzfat announced loudly that he was going to say Tefillat Haderech the prayer for a safe journey. And he did. While soldiers slept and teenagers talked on their cell phones and children settled in and the dark shadows of slumbering trees sped by. And some said Amen.
Each one of us is on their own journey but we all meet at the crossroads, or on the bus, exchange stories, take and give direction and accompany each other part of the way. Whatever road we take, we’re all on the same spiritual journey, going in the same direction. All we need is a ticket and a prayer to send us on our way.
Have a Good Month! And a Happy Chanukah!
Please pass on the following two announcements:
New! The Music of Forgiveness! A special musical evening dedicated to the journey of Forgiveness featuring Linda Tomer and Rosally Saltsman. For women only. Now accepting bookings for January and February. Please contact Rosally: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see an excerpt and to order go here:
It’s All in the Timing!
By Rosally SaltsmanWhen I took piano lessons as a child, my teacher would always tell me to count. But I didn’t like to count, I liked to feel the music. I never became a very good pianist. Since then I learned to sing and dance but when I sing or dance, I still don’t count.
Whether you count out loud, in your head or just feel it, timing is everything. Without it, music doesn’t flow and neither does life.
Life is time-sensitive. If you think about it, everything is a matter of timing and synchronization; from sunrise to sunset, from baking a cake to catching a bus, from conception to birth, everything is dependent on split-second timing that must be adhered to. The world and our biological and seasonal clocks follow a certain preset pattern that we must keep pace with.
We must be careful to keep time with our opportunities, not to lose a chance to say and do the right thing at the right time. We must adjust the settings on the metronomes of our lives to match the rhythm of what we’re doing otherwise we rush what requires patience and we dawdle when we require alacrity. We must keep time with the ebb and flow of the rhythms of our lives, the rhythms of those around us and follow the baton of the Master Conductor.
Whatever we do, wherever we go, our time signature affects our life signature and we have control of the tempo in which we play the various movements in our days. We must know how to prioritize and organize our time so we’re in step with the music of the universe.
Being in tune with the tempo, rhythm and time signature of our lives, allows us to live in harmony. Always counting the seconds and ensuring we use them well helps us to keep time properly whether we do it out loud, in our heads or just feel it.
Whether you’ve already changed to standard time or are at the season’s end of daylight savings, the pace of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow need not be petty, if we mark our time carefully and make each second count.
Have a Good Month!
Master of Mercy
By Rosally Saltsman
Yom Kippur is the day our judgment is sealed for the coming year in the Heavenly Court. We stand humbled by our vulnerability, sensitized by our physical deprivation, awed by the holiness of the day, buoyed by the hope of reprieve from the past year’s sorrows.
And we stand before God and beg for mercy.
We beg for mercy based on our remorse, on our determination to do better. We beg for mercy in deference to the merits of our fathers and with compassion for our sons. We beg for mercy because we are, when all is said and done, only human and susceptible to weaknesses, to failure, to errors in action and judgment and the pull of temptation.
God appraises our innermost thoughts, our deepest feelings and our most minute actions and He too considers whether indeed we have shown mercy.
Have we listened to our children and forgiven their childhood foibles or did we punish them harshly? Did we help the cause when we were supplicated, or did we brush off both it and its supplicant? Did we listen with empathy when a neighbor or co-worker began pouring out their troubles or did we hurry away mindful only of our own agendas? Did we quibble and criticize people who we felt were meant to serve us or were we gracious and appreciative? Did we yell at the lady who feeds the cats or birds for ruining the neighborhood and encouraging pestilence or did we smile at her and offer to contribute some scraps? Did we sit resolutely staring out the bus window, or did we look around and offer a seat to the pregnant lady or elderly gentleman? Have we forgiven, encouraged, helped and understood? Did WE show mercy?
Every Yom Kippur, we are spared the terrible Day of Judgment when we will have to account for all our actions and their ramifications in this world and the next. We endure a mini-trial in which we are, God-willing, given another chance to redress wrongs, redeem ourselves and find Divine favor. While we are standing alone, with whispered prayers on our parched lips, swaying with fervor and exhaustion, with tears coursing down our cheeks, imploring, entreating, begging for a chance to be the best we can emulating the Divine attributes, let us commit to being more merciful to all of God’s creatures.
Wishing us all a Happy New Year! A healthy, happy, prosperous, safe, fulfilling and sweet year!
Shanah Tovah Umetuka
V’Gmar Chatimah Tovah!
Taken for a Ride
By Rosally Saltsman
I’m very much against hitchhiking and am very opposed when my son and his friends want to hitchhike as part of their backpacking trips. I only acquiesce when my son assures me they do it in pairs or groups, there’s no other way to get where they’re going and they’ll be very, very careful whom they get in the car with. I hate the whole thing. I didn’t even hitchhike when I was in my early twenties when I was more carefree and adventurous.
However, uncharacteristically, when funds were low and my son’s vacation and mine intersected by a week and the North beckoned and I wanted my son to feel he had a cool mother, I said, let’s hitchhike up North and you plan the route.
My son took a lot of pictures of me hitchhiking, with my nouveau jeunesse, (or clochard-esse) much like you would an unusual natural phenomenon like a comet or a two-headed camel. Although he was a bit hesitant about the whole thing, he seemed to enjoy it. It was actually a lot of fun if not too big an adventure. We got a ride off the main highway with two young religious girls going up North. While they were originally going Northwest, they changed their mind and headed Northeast to Kiryat Shemoneh exactly where we were going. Couldn’t have had better luck.
For the next couple of days, we hitchhiked back and forth from Metullah to Kiryat Shemeoneh, to the Jordan River and my son kept snapping pictures of his hitchhiking mother. I was rather disappointed on the morning of the third day when he insisted we take the bus home which was rather less fun, more uncomfortable and more expensive.
This morning, a mere week later, I was waiting at the bus stop for my bus to work. A car with two middle-aged, religious Arab women stopped and asked for directions to the courthouse. As the courthouse was on my way to work, I said I’d direct them if they let me ride with them. It was two seconds after I closed the door that I realized what I was doing and I was suddenly gripped by fear and awash with discomfort. This was not a good situation.
Oh well, I rationalized, it’s unlikely that two middle-aged women who were on their way to the courthouse and just asking directions (after all I volunteered to ride with them), would be very dangerous, I thought to myself rather unconvincingly.
“Where are you from?” I asked, trying to sound casual, as they spoke between them in Arabic.
“Lod,” one answered. Okay that’s pretty safe.
There seemed to be some confusion, however, as to whether they wanted the courthouse or the police station so I asked in order to ascertain which it was most likely to be why they were going there.
“Someone in our family has been arrested.”
“Okay, make a left at the next light and let me off at the bus stop,” I said and then proceeded to direct them to the police station. I was relieved and shaking when I got out. I had in my hand the five shekel coin I had intended to use for the bus and put it in the charity box of the synagogue near the bus stop.
I realized something, after my early morning adventure. When you try and change an inclination, a behavior, a habit, whatever it may be, no matter our ingrained it is, and you take a step in the opposite direction, you never know how far you might end up the other way.
I think my experience this morning gave me a wake-up call and I’ll revert back to my more cautious and diffident ways regarding hitchhiking.
Yet in this month of reflection and introspection as we lead up to our annual Days of Judgment, it’s illuminating to bear in mind that we can affect change in ourselves (for better or worse) just by taking one small step in the other direction. So we must be vigilant if we find ourselves slipping a little and not try and delude ourselves that some principle we are being momentarily lax about is no big deal. And we must take heart and have hope that if we want to change some negative character trait or habit, all we have to do is lean a bit the other way, take one small step, and we’re on the road to wherever we want to go. We just need to be careful whom we take a ride with.
Have a good month!
Holy Books and Holy People
By Rosally Saltsman
What happened to me a few days ago is unbelievable. It was so divinely orchestrated that it was a Master sonata of divine providence.
I was walking home in the early evening sweltering heat, the sun having it’s last story, glass of water and kiss good night before going to bed. As I was walking home from the bus station, I saw that someone had piled 14 volumes of the Tanach (the Bible) on the sidewalk. Just like that. I was appalled! Such lack of reverence! But the set was too heavy for me to carry home (a ten to fifteen minute walk), I had no money for a taxi and I certainly couldn’t leave them there. I called some friends to see if maybe the husband was home with the car. He wasn’t. As I was talking to my friend trying to figure out what to do, a grandmotherly Russian lady whom I had seen transferring her grandson into a parent’s car from a stroller had just passed near me and stopped. She stopped, while looking back and it looked like she was waiting for something.
“You know,” I told my friend, “I think I’ll manage.”
“Excuse me,” I said to the lady, “Do you speak Hebrew?”
“A bit,” she said.
“Look,” I told her, “Somebody threw these holy books on the sidewalk.”
“Oh,” she said forlornly, tsking. She said she had noticed it and it was a shame.
“Do you think I can borrow your stroller? Tell me where you live, I’ll take the books home, and I’ll bring it back.” She readily agreed but insisted on coming with me, not because she looked for a moment like she didn’t trust me but because she seriously wanted to partake in the mitzvah. I suggested perhaps to take the books home but she said she had some of the holy books in Russian.
She told me she was from a place in the Ukraine I’d never heard of. It’s near Uman she said.
She walked the ten minutes home with me and came up while I unloaded the books. She wouldn’t even accept a drink, and then walked back home.
I was so grateful and blessed her that in the merit of this mitzvah, her grandson should grow to be great in Torah.
I called my very dear friend who is a baalat teshuvah (becoming religious). “Hi, you know how you don’t have a Tanach,” I told her. “Well you got one now in 14 volumes!” She was thrilled!
There are so many inspiring lessons that can be gleaned from this story.
You can never tell what greatness hides behind a grandmotherly woman you meet on the street. It was like one of those Chassidic tales. A woman who can’t even read the Torah has such devotion and deference for it that she would accompany it with the same tenderness she had just showered on her grandson.
G-d is always watching, always with you and is always sending messengers to help you. And when you seek to serve Him, they’ll even stand around waiting for you to notice.
Have a good month!
Snapshots from G-d’s Photo Album
By Rosally Saltsman
THE year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!
There’s something intrinsically wrong with the above poem. Not that I have anything against Robert Browning, or the poem, it’s very nice but the concept that G-d is divorced from our lives and sits up in heaven on his throne smiling benignly down at us is more reminiscent of Dumbledore than The Creator of the universe.
Allow me to share with you 36 consecutive hours in the past month to illustrate how G-d is right beside us every second orchestrating events that seem to paint with a neon-colored paintbrush “I AM HERE” with almost the same clarity that He spoke the Ten Commandments (well actually, the first two) on Sinai. And if we just pay attention, we can see it.
8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. On my way to the bus stop, I pass bushes full of jasmine. The pervasiveness of jasmine blossoms is one of the things I love about living in Israel. I make the blessing on smelling flowers and sniff. The woman who had been walking behind me stops at the same time and makes the blessing over the roses, the next bush over. We smile at each other. “You have to stop sometimes and look at creation,” she calls after me. Freeze frame, click.
11:00 a.m. There’s a nationwide army drill. The siren goes off and we all hurry (okay go leisurely, it was a drill) to the nearest bomb shelter. Part of the bomb shelter in the building where I work doubles as a synagogue where workers pray the afternoon service (Mincha). One of the more humorous guys made a joke that they should have a siren every afternoon. He then turned to one of the secretaries and good-naturedly pointed out her that she was not appropriately dressed for a place of worship. This secretary is young and beautiful and dresses to show off her physical attributes. She replied by quoting chapter 121 of Tehillim (Psalms) and informing him that she says Tehillim every day which was followed by an argument of what chapters of Tehillim one should say, etc. The drill was over. Freeze frame. Click!
4:00 p.m. The above-mentioned secretary, we’ll call her Sheila, ‘cause that’s her name, comes into my office and asks me if I know where to get the book of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) she wants to learn it. I told her it’s in every siddur (prayerbook) and every Tanach (bible) but she didn’t have one. In the meantime my boss found it on the Internet and printed it out. She told us she wants it with explanations. She was also very interested in the lectures of Rabbi Zamir Cohen a very erudite young Rabbi who enjoys a lot of popularity in Israel.
My boss (who’s not religious by the way but is warm towards it) spends the next 15 minutes looking up in succession Tehillim and Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers).
I take some money from Sheila and tell her I’ll try and pick up the book for her on the way home. She hands me a hundred shekels hoping it will be enough. Snap.
5:00 p.m. From the bus I can see that the store I wanted to buy the book from was closed. I decide to get off the bus one stop before my stop and see if the Breszlev run store is open. It is. A beautiful ethereal creature steps up to the counter to serve me. Everything about her is flowing - her hair, her blouse, her dress, her smile. I feel strangely fragile in this mystical environment. “Do you have Shir Hashirim?” I ask her. She steps over to the bookcase and takes out two. One is with interpretations by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. She informs me it’s the only copy she has and has been there a while. I get all emotional. “God is everywhere,” she says with a voice that is at once otherworldly and grounded when I explain the “coincidence”. The book costs 30 shekels. She throws in a few pamphlets and sensing my fragile state makes me a gift of a pamphlet on Being Happy. I ask her to gift-wrap the book. Snap, snap, snap.
7:00 a.m. I’m on my way to Tel-Aviv to order new discs. I’ve only sold 12, but somehow am running out. I’m sitting on the bus saying Tehillim. A young man sits down besides me and soon takes out what looks like a Muslim version of Tehillim. After a few minutes my curiosity gets the better of me. “Is that like an Arabic Tehillim?” I ask him. “Yes,” he answers. “Well, What’s in it?” I ask. “Prayers you say in the morning.” Ah. After a while I see him scribble something in English on an envelope. I try to unobtrusively see what he wrote. “Please God, something our homes.” At least I hope it said homes. A young Arab man and a middle-aged Jewish woman sitting side by side on a bus in Israel, praying. Telephoto focus. Click!
9:30 a.m. I excitedly hand Sheila the package and her change. She can’t believe it’s Rbbi Zamir Cohen. She loves it, throws me a kiss and sends me an effusive email. She later tells me her friend wants the same book. Snap.
6:00 p.m. I get home physically and emotionally drained. Me and my son have a conversation about my precarious financial state. He’s very mature and supportive. I’m on the precipice of doom. Emotionally exhausted I go to the computer. There’s a knock at the door. It’s one of the ladies from the neighborhood who goes around asking for charity. She looks at me with sad eyes and a look that begs compassion. I give her something. She asks for more. I say I don’t have. She looks up at me pleading. I give her more. As I close the door, I gain a little perspective on how bad things really can get. I am still, thank G-d, able to give. Message received. Click.
All is right with the world, even if we don’t always acknowledge it, because G-d is, like my ethereal friend said, everywhere, always, guiding, blessing, watching and filling His album with Kodak moments.
Thought for the month: G-d moves the earth, I’m only along for the ride.
Have a good month!
By Rosally Saltsman
When I was growing up, the only networks I was familiar with were the CBC and CTV. Now network is a verb. And networking is something you do with anyone, anytime, anywhere, virtual friends and virtual strangers, virtually all the time.
My introduction to Facebook was via my friend Judy who categorically refuses to talk to me unless I write on her wall. I was taught not to write on walls so we haven’t been communicating very much. Slowly but surely I notice my friends have stopped emailing as frequently, but if I go on Facebook they’re very busy talking to their walls.
Now I object to Facebook on a number of principles. First of all, I like to have private conversations. I don’t need an audience when I talk to a friend. Extroverted as I am, I like a certain degree of privacy. Secondly, I’m a person who likes deep relationships. Facebook doesn’t lend itself to depth. Do you know I’ve never even met some of my friends on Facebook. And third, I don’t have time to communicate with half the world. I know the part of the idea behind this is networking, building relationships and contacts and you do save time date updating everyone simultaneously but it still somehow takes more time commitment than the good old fashioned one-to-one communication.
Of course I know it’s a losing battle. Facebook is here to stay like answer machines and cell phones and every advance that makes communication faster, easier, more accessible and somehow less personal. On the other hand, a couple of things have happened to change my tune and sing Facebook’s praises. Firstly Facebook, undeniably, is a great way to find old friends. I happened to search for someone I hadn’t seen for the better part of 2 decades, as Divine providence would have it, he came to Israel very soon after I found him and I was able to reunite with him for a couple of hours. Since he now lives in New Zealand, and we have no mutual friends, I doubt I would have found him any other way.
300 years ago, okay it was only 30 it just seems that long ago, I spent my freshman year at Brandeis University. I shared a suite with 15 other girls and we made a year of memories. At least they were memories until a few days ago when one of them contacted me and told me they were organizing a reunion. I won’t be able to attend as the reunion will be in New York and I am in Israel so I nostalgically filed the data away in my brain. But Facebook quickly reunited me with many of my old suitemates, girls, now women that I never though I’d ever speak to again. Suddenly memories came flooding back and it was neat to see how we girls on the threshold of our dreams have grown and realized them 30 years later with children now the same age as we were when our lives intersected at the crossroads of our lives. As the correspondence between me and my suitemates expanded, I felt myself strangely getting younger, Billy Joel playing in the cobwebs of my mind and feeling a camaraderie that comes from a shared past taken out of storage.
But spiritually Facebook may have other perks. Consider this, according to Jewish tradition, when we die, we see our lives replayed to us sort of like a DVD. We see our triumphs and our mistakes and how we could have better realized our potential. Well, when we reconnect with people from our past and relive our pasts with a virtual audience, aren’t we being given a chance to make amends, to express thanks, to wax nostalgic and maybe be given a second chance at relationships that didn’t go so well the first time around? Do we not have access to the past in a way we never did before? Are we not given the opportunity to better our lives by closing circles, finishing unfinished business and making up for lost time, virtually, simultaneously living different parts of our lives in tandem?
And when we talk of the unity that God has been waiting for for millennia among His people, is not Facebook unifying? I mean people from all over the world connecting to people all over the world, sharing their daily joys with each other, bridging time and space and differences that don’t have an icon on one’s page of “friends”. That’s pretty unifying. And every few minutes, Facebook offers to connect you to friends in common, searching through the common denominators trying to bring people together. True it’s virtual, and sometimes annoying, but virtually, the whole world is out there for you to connect to, to bond with to add as a “friend”.
A well-known Rabbi I’m friends with once quipped, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could fax ourselves all over the world?” Well, let’s face it that’s sort of what we’re doing.
The girls from East quad’s suite 209 never dreamed they’d be together 30 years later. And though we can’t all make our reunion, we are back together on Facebook. Maybe world peace is still an ephemeral dream, waiting for the End of Days. But for world unity…, well take a page from my facebook…
But you an also call or send an email…
Have a good month!
By Rosally Saltsman
I’ve been paying attention recently to an interesting fact. The most famous and accomplished people were disappointed in their achievements and lacked fulfillment in the very areas in which they excelled. Many of them did not realize their fondest dreams: Many inventions were created by accident by inventors trying to do something else, several composers left symphonies unfinished, Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime and l’havdil, Moses did not get to enter the Promised Land.
No one in their right mind would say these people had failed but it’s noteworthy that it’s particularly the overachievers who are plagued by lack of self-esteem, self-doubt, unrealized dreams and disappointment in their achievements. Kind of paradoxical eh?
And the biggest irony is that while these great people, and many of us, who are unbeknownst to us also great people, are focusing on our lack of fulfilling what we perceive to be our destinies, we are ignoring our very real and contributory achievements because we often set our sights too high or don’t appreciate what we’ve done and where we’re going. We create, but not exactly how we wanted to, we earn acclaim, but not for what we wanted, we get love and admiration but not enough and not from the “right” people, we are successful, but not enough.
Not to be too hard on our species, it is part of our nature to want to achieve and to not rest on our laurels. This helps us achieve even more and not get too arrogant or complacent. On the other hand, we don’t get to enjoy our lives when we’re focusing on what we haven’t done and we are lacking gratitude for the gifts of accomplishment we have already been given. Every success is not an end in itself but a stepping-stone to a greater one.
We can be proud of our achievements and strive for greater ones. We can be happy with our accomplishments while still wishing we can do more and we can take a lesson from our predecessors, all of whom unjustifiably felt that they hadn’t done enough. We can feel good about what we’ve done and that more than second-guessing ourselves will help us do more.
Human beings are programmed to aspire to greatness and have tremendous resources to achieve it. And though we all have our moments and opportunities for surpassing even our greatest expectations, we don’t have to wait for that defining moment. Each act and moment has inherent greatness in it if we use it the right way.
The truth is, we are all given myriads of potential, very little of which we use. Our limitless spiritual, emotional and intellectual energies are constricted by time, space and by our physical and monetary limitations. However, knowing it’s there and knowing we can tap into it should give us freedom not frustration. Perhaps it is our destiny to strive and sometimes feel we missed the mark. But if we consider the prophets, artists, musicians, scientists and leaders whom we seek to emulate, we’ll notice that even in our lesser moments, we are in good company. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where God intended me to be.”
Have a good month!
I Have an Idea!
By Rosally Saltsman
One of the favorite characters my son likes to imitate is Julian the Lemur from the film Madagascar. Whenever we’re talking about options for doing something, he says Julianesque, “I have an Idea.”
Having an idea or a plan is more than a good strategy; it could mean survival. Not only physically but emotionally and mentally.
When I’m faced with a challenge, a problem, a difficult situation what can be worse than having to deal with it, is not knowing how to deal with it. If I’m faced with a situation that appears hopeless, and I feel trapped and overwhelmed it’s very easy to sink into despair and give up. Then, not only can’t I solve the problem but now I have another problem, I can’t cope. That can leads to a lot worse things than the original problem.
But, if I have a plan! There’s hope, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and I can hold on till help comes, time passes or I realize the plan.
Now having a plan doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in terms of bringing ultimate salvation. However, having a plan will keep me going and able to cope. And many plans do work or lead to other possibilities. A plan, an idea, is the arms you must take up while splashing in a sea of troubles. It’s the life raft.
There’s no worse feeling than despair, that you’ve played all your cards and tapped all your resources – physical, emotional, spiritual, mental. But when there’s a glimmer of inspiration (usually in the shower), the despair drains away. The idea can be a realization born of the fusion of all the advice I had been getting or a new window of perspective and suddenly everything seems clear and possible.
I do great with plans. Although my friends don’t always appreciate their part in them. Hope for finding the solution is often more important than the solution.
Spring is the season of birth or rejuvenation, potential and hope which springs eternal.
Have a hopeful Spring and a Pessach Kasher VeSameach!
A Time to Laugh, A Time to Weep
By Rosally Saltsman
There is no greater teacher of life’s lessons than life itself. And contrast is one God’s most potent tools to bring those lessons home.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of two of my closest friends’ son. We all gathered in a beautiful hotel in Netanya, with our families, many of us who hadn’t been together in ages and celebrated, with food, with song, with laughter, with prayer, with pride and joy. We took our hurried leave Saturday night, blessing each other that we meet again at future celebrations and taking note of whose simcha was next. We met sooner than we thought, the very next day, only it was to escort the mother of one of the friends we celebrated with to her final resting place. One had just begun his life as a full-fledged Jew; the other ended hers. A celebration of joy; a gathering of sorrow. The same group of people, two completely different defining life moments.
One doesn’t need to reflect too deeply to appreciate the lessons learned from this juxtaposition. But one does need to reflect. And we can wax philosophical about how we have to cherish the joyful moments because they flee too fast; that life is both full of joy and sorrow and we share them with our friends; that the circle of life is commemorated by beginnings and endings and that we can never be sure where we are on the carrousel of life and we can never know what the next moment brings. But I think we can do additional justice to the aforementioned events.
In the liturgical poem, A Woman of Valour authored by King Solomon about his mother, Queen Batsheva, recited every Friday night, it says: “Strength and majesty are her raiment, she joyfully awaits the last day.” While the meaning ascribed to this is that a woman who lives her life well, can reach her last day knowing it was well-spent and she was deserving of honor and respect, I’d like to offer another interpretation. We all will, one day, breathe our last on this earth and be called upon to give an accounting of the days of our lives. But knowing that our death, if not imminent, is inevitable, we must spend every day until our last joyfully. I remember the aforementioned woman being very vibrant and energetic. We all made our way to pay our last respects, with the strains of the notes of the bar mitzvah boy’s electric guitar still echoing in our ears and the smiles of the event still lingering on our faces.
I think, if we’re to take a lesson from the timing of the events, it would be this. Life has beginnings and endings, joy and sorrow, but when sorrow comes, it must always do so on the coattails of joy; there must be joy till the very last minute. Until our last day, we must live every moment joyfully and celebrate every day that we are able, because the climax of sorrow is the end of life when we can no longer rejoice. And even when life ends, we can still rejoice for a life well lived. The juxtaposition of sorrow and joy must often be so dramatic because we must always be hopeful, joyful, grateful. That is why it says in Ecclesiastics, It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting because it is there that we discover how truly precious life is.
The bar mitzvah boy’s father was glowing with pride, radiant as if he was a new father and he was. He was the father of a new man. It is this same father who called me the next morning with a heavy voice to relate the news of our mutual friend. Joy to sorrow in a heartbeat. That’s the only way sorrow should be allowed to intrude on our lives.
May we all meet to celebrate life’s happy and defining moments. And when the last day comes may it come on the coattails of joy and with the feeling of a life well and joyfully lived.
May our friend be comforted among the mourners of Zion; may the parents of the bar mitzvah get much nachat from their son and live to dance at his wedding and may we all know much joy and have many reasons for celebration.
Dedicated to memory of Malka bat Zussman a”h
That’s Bad, That’s Good
By Rosally Saltsman
When my son was little, I read him this book called, That’s Good, That’s Bad (or was it the other way around?) But that was exactly the point of the book, what seems bad could be good and what seems good could be bad.
The story tells of a little boy who gets separated from his parents at the zoo. He’s thrust from the paws of one animal to the claws of another until he’s finally returned to his parents’ loving arms. And the consequences of each transfer to a new denizen of the zoo turns out to be different than expected.
There’s a lot of wonderful lessons to be learned from this book and not only for little children. We go through a variety of experiences, some good, even euphoric, some bad and even ultimately tragic. However, we don’t always know how to differentiate between something we thought was good which was in essence bad, or something bad which turned out to be for the best. Even our own actions, be they positive or negative can have ramifications we could never have imagined. In any scenario there’s both good and bad, and we can’t always differentiate between them.
The news has been anything but good lately: Recessions and financial crises, war, personal tragedies, it’s devastating. On the other hand, there have at least been a few miracles alongside them in the news, the beginning of a new era, and hope. Also, in whatever area, we’re struggling, we can also find the rays of sunlight piercing through the clouds: loyalty of friends, the kindness of strangers and just pure sunlight heralding the spring.
We all eventually end up in the arms of our Loving Parent who put us here and Who watches over us at all times. Nothing lasts forever, not joy, not suffering. As we pass through the stations of our lives, which sometimes seem wild and wooly, our only hope is to focus on the good around us and to know that nothing is completely good, nothing is completely bad, and we can’t always be sure which is which. Salvation can come at any moment and there is meaning to everything we go through in life. And that’s just good.
~~ My new disc is now available on my website. Click here for a peak. ~~
I Had a Dream
By Rosally Saltsman
We always read the story of Joseph in the synagogue during Chanukah. The story unfolds over three Torah portions and relates the incredible chain of events as Joseph goes from being favored son to favored minister of Pharaoh, ruling over what was at the time the largest and most powerful empire in the world.
The story begins with Joseph dreaming a dream and telling his brothers about it. But the road from dream to reality is very long, very hard and very circuitous. But the most significant aspect of the story is the Divine Providence behind it. God is guiding events so that they will unfold the way they do, the way they're supposed to.
Joseph's brother Reuven has Joseph thrown into the pit with the intention of going back to save him. But he isn't able to. A caravan serendipitously (for his brothers) passes and Joseph is sold into slavery. Then he's bought by Potiphar and it looks like he's found a niche for himself until Potiphar's wife tries to seduce him. He escapes, only to be thrown into prison and when he thinks he's finally found a way out in the form of two emissaries to Pharaoh, God has him languish in prison another two years. If you look at all the details, you can clearly see that everyone's original plan was foiled but the end result was Joseph's dream coming true.
Why are we given all this detail? The Torah doesn't usually provide so much detail. The answer is because God is in the details. He is the One who micromanages the universe while we make feeble attempts to do so.
On a completely different note, I have just realized a dream of a quarter of a century. I recorded a disc of original songs, which I and my musical friends have written over the decades. This is a dream I had long given up on but it was recently reawakened and I have been working on this project for the better part of a year.
What has been obvious to me is that while I have been trying to orchestrate a disc, God has been orchestrating all the events surrounding my efforts to produce it; Events, which brought certain people into my life or back into my life, which meant some things wouldn't go as well as planned and others would go surprisingly well; and amid the feelings of triumph and frustration, I got a clear glimpse of Who was really producing the disc.
While we are the ones who ultimately choose our dreams and take the steps to realize them, that's where our control stops. If they will be realized, how, when, and why is ultimately up to God.
We can choose to view this with frustration and a feeling of powerlessness, (like I often did) or we can watch the story unfold and wait to see the miracles emerge. You see, when you're co-creating with the Master of the Universe, any dream can be turned into reality. But we have to follow God's timetable and His route.
God willing, my disc, Like a Rose Among the Thorns, will be available on my website (for women audiences) within the next few weeks. I have many talented and supportive people to thank but mostly I must thank the Composer of Life's never ending symphony. Baruch Hashem!
The story of Joseph and his ignoble descent into slavery and subsequent unprecedented rise to power has ramifications for the rest of the history of the Jewish people. Like with everything we do, it's all in the details. That's one of the messages of Chanukah; A small drop of oil, a little detail, can produce great light. Details change history.
I wish you all a bright and happy Chanuka!