There is a rich heritage, sparking an inspirational message across the ages, that a Jew has a place, a home, and a refuge within the belief, practice, and traditions found in the realm of yiddishkeit. There is a Jewishness about everything from potato latkes to the peyos (side curls) of an Orthodox Jew. The entire gamut of a Jewish way of life, in all of its kaleidescopic color, consists of a seamless unity from one generation to another. Despite assimilation, some semblance of the original focus (deveykus) and lifestyle of our ancestors, may still be found amongst all of us, from one end of the spectrum to the other. No matter how a Jew is defined, the pintle yid – the essential Jewishness – may always be found in one form or another.

Because the door is always open to explore the various facets of Judaism, from many different angles, opportunity prevails upon us to enter into a world that is replete with sights, sounds and experiences, that may have the effect of rekindling the glowing embers in our heart. With the help of H’Shem, these flames may be fanned into a fire of longing for a closeness to G-d, that will compel us to take that first step through the doorway. Once taken, we are in the hands of H’Shem, who will lead us along the way of our unique path on the road home to Him.

“Turn us unto Thee, O L-rd, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”

– Lamentations 5:21, JPS 1917 Tanach

Reflections: Lighten Up


Do things differently today. Certainly, there is plenty of opportunity to pay heed to this recommendation. This is a proposal that I intend to take to heart. These were the first words that formed in my mind this morning, while I was still half a sleep. Probably, because I was vaguely thinking at the time, that having overslept, my day was already lost. Then, I began to analyse myself, and my previous day, to get to the heart of the matter, by asking myself questions as if I was my own personal life coach. Why did I oversleep? Am I feeling depressed this morning? What reason could possibly warrant my being depressed? I began to review the nature of some recent interactions with others, prompted by something that troubled me yesterday. Perhaps, I have some ongoing concerns, that I was reminded of by this negative occurence; or, other issues that arose for me later, based on this; things that I have never resolved for myself. How do I break out of any negative patterns that might have already formed below the level of my awareness, and, no pun intended, may have been plaguing me for months?

Then the thought struck me, bypassing all of my concerns, as if to answer everything that was disconcerting to me, by sidestepping those obstacles in one precise move, “do things differently today.” Words of wisdom from the depths of my own soul? Hmm. Regardless of where the idea formed, I am beginning to have some insight about this seemingly simple endeavor. The directive does not mean, to do something different today. Rather, to do what I would normally do under stay at home orders, differently. I.e., a catalyst towards changing my attitude, perspective, and any maladaptive coping styles. An effort already in progress, as I pay attention to relaxing my shoulders, and the tension in my body, as I sit here at my desk, writing this blog. And, take a deep, refreshing, cleansing breathe.

I recall, years ago, being occasionally told by others, to “lighten up.” Even before the adage became familiar to me through its commonplace usage, in an effort for others to compel me to make an attitude adjustment, I can also recount, prior to this, when I would be told every now and then to relax my shoulders. However, I could do neither through sheer willpower alone. Moreover, I only now realised that most of the people, who told me to “lighten up,” over the years, were not doing so out of genuine concern, rather, out of a sense of their own discomfort with my serious attitude. Furthermore, those who told me, “relax your shoulders” may not have realised that physiological patterns of stress can not be instantly changed.

So, here I am, now, with my own sense of directive, and inner locus of control, a phrase borrowed from Steven Hassan, a mental health specialist, trying to listen to my inner voice, go at my own pace, and melt away the negativity that would otherwise result from holding patterns in my mind, body, and spirit. With a little help from Above, I feel assured of a gradual shift, with G-d’s continuous prompting, that will effectively lead me into a new realm of awareness: less stressful, less hurried, and more alert to the potential of the everchanging moments, that constitute my life, like building blocks for a strong foundation. I hope that my personal account of this challenge, along with its accompanying insight along the way, may inspire others. As I do not often write within the framework of my own personal narrative, revealing my own struggles in life, perhaps, this is permissible, according to my own conscience, if by way of using myself as an example, others will benefit.