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Self-Growth & Spirituality
Most of these articles first appeared in our Women's monthly email newsletter. Subscribe
Pep-talk to yourself when you're feeling sad
Sadness is dangerous when it leads to sluggishness and despair. It can be positive when it moves us to action. Here’s one idea on what you can tell yourself when you’re sad:
When you’re sad about something that’s happened to YOU:
Tell yourself: Hashem does not make impossible demands of His creations. Hashem only gives me what I can handle. I may feel like I cannot handle this right now, but I carry a power that will get me through this. I will get the support I need, and tune into my inner strengths as I learn to rise above these challenges…
When you’re sad about something that has happened to ANOTHER:
Tell yourself: I cannot possibly comprehend what my friend is going through. I cannot understand how Hashem has allowed such pain to befall him/her. What I do know is that Hashem will give strength to those who need it. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of another. What I CAN do is help in whatever way possible. I can be there without saying a word. I can assist with meals, lifts etc. I can pray, hope and give in whatever way possible…
Personal Freedom - By Dorianne Weil ‘Dr D’
Over Pesach we have reflected and celebrated our freedom. Freedom from bondage and slavery. Freedom from oppression and control. Have you ever considered that at times we inadvertently become slaves to our own thoughts, feelings, self imposed limitations, assumptions and harsh internal directives? As women, we are reared to be nurtures and care givers. What a privilege! How magnificent! But is there a price? The answer is categorically ‘no’. There is reward not cost – provided you do not loose yourself, your psyche and your own needs in the process! Saying ‘yes’, on a continual basis but feeling ‘no’ inside, results in using energy that turns inwards rather than reaching outwards and in the end may build up resentment to the very people you are trying so hard to accommodate. Learn how to be emotionally authentic, to be free of unsaid and unresolved ‘faribles’ by including yourself in the equation and taking care of yourself like a younger person whom you love. Does this mean never compromising, never being accommodating, never putting yourself out?Of course not. It does mean maintaining your dignity, self respect and permission to recognize your needs. Taking ‘responsibility’ means the ‘Ability’ to ‘Respond’ - authentically. This is the essence of personal freedom! Dorianne Weil ‘Dr D’ is a clinical psychologist and radio personality.
At the Door: A Reflection - By Goldie Simpson
Rivka was a young mother. Like you and me she cared for her young children. Like you and me she sought a productive and meaningful life. Unlike you and me she chose to live in India, far from family and friends, far from anything modern and fashionable and Jewish. Why? So that she might help another Jew. But then she was murdered – she, her husband and her family save but one small boy. It was deliberate murder targeting all that she and her husband stood for. I cannot comprehend how such a thing could happen. What I do know is that the world-wide response to this tragedy has been a resolve to do more goodness and kindness, and to reach out to others with genuine love and care. In fact, the seeds of our Mikvah were sown in response to this tragedy with a determination to add holiness and sanctity to our community through the building of a Mikvah. Every time I stand at the entrance of our Mikvah, I pause to read its inscription “In memory of Gavriel and Rivka Hotzberg - Mumbai”. I am reminded that even in the face of pain and challenges, I need to pick myself up and do something positive – no matter how small - to add to this world just a little more light…
The value of Time
To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics. Treasure every moment that you have…! - Anonymous
The intention of Sefirat Ha’omer— of counting the days (towards Shavuot— is to make us aware of what we do with our time, and how precious time is. Before counting we should think for one minute, “What are we about to count?” What did I do during the last 24 hours that’s important, that was worth living for?
Be Beautiful - By Goldie Simpson
She is said to be one of the most exquisitely beautiful women of all times. In fact her name was ‘Princess’ and her beauty was obviously important. She was Sarah, foremother of our nation! But can you be attractive and not vain; striking, yet still pure and holy? And anyway, don’t we learn that “Charm is deceptive and beauty is naught; a G‑d-fearing woman is the one to be praised.” So should we take time and energy to be beautiful?
Beauty is like a zero. When that’s all you care about or think about, it’s worth little or nothing. Charm, too, is deceptive when all you care for is the impression you make on others. Another zero. But ‘zeros’ transform to big numbers when you put a meaningful digit before the ‘o’. When the ‘zeros’ of beauty and charm are preceded by a search for meaning, a willingness to grow and a recognition of G-d, then the zeros transform to ‘100’. Yes, ‘charm… and beauty is naught’, unless you are also ‘a G-d fearing woman….’ So think about G-d and your soul. Think about who you are and who you want to be. And also take time to feel and look beautiful.
Doing Hope - By Brenda Lasersohn
In this month we remember with sadness and record the destruction of the temple on Tish’a B’Av, becoming an aware witnesses to trauma both historical and current both as a community of persons as well as individuals. But being aware and remembering trauma and shock is insufficient to be transformative. This is only a first step. To be inspired and to be the people we prefer to be with deeply held values and higher purposes requires us to act consciously in service of such remembering. We need to ‘Do Hope’. Interpersonal and communal practices that ‘do hope’ relate to what we know in our country as ‘Ubuntu’, recognizing that ‘… being human is to be enveloped in the community of other human beings; in being caught up in the bundle of life. To ‘be’ is to participate’... This gathering of people in community prayer and practices allows us to express in real terms what our remembering means. The task of ‘doing hope’ involves expanding the boundaries of support upon which one relies during traumatic times to include a wider circle of caring people and bearers of pain. If hope for somebody is gone, it is time to rely on others to do hope for the sufferer. Our Jewish tradition reflects this most obviously in our rituals of support for those who sit Shiva after the death of a loved one.
...’and from this shared responsibility for hope, when hope seems impossible, comes the promise of the emergence of a new hope, one of more comforting and enveloping proportions, one of shared communal qualities that reconnects one with each other [and Hashem] as we remember, recall and bear witness to our historical and current common shock and trauma’ (Weingarten K: Common Shock and the Transformation of Trauma.2003). It is precisely this ‘doing of hope’ that has perpetuated the values and purposes of our people from one generation to another. Brenda Lasersohn is a psychologist in Private Practice.
How does G-d Judge Us?
I was waiting in line to pay. In front of me was a man with his four kids. The kids were loud, whiny and wild. Now I have kids of my own and I know how kids can be, but this was really out of control. What a foolish man, I thought to myself, and what a disgrace. Why’d you bring all your kids with you if they’re bound to be such a disturbance? As if reading my thoughts he turned to me with a sigh: “It’s a difficult time for us… Their Mom just passed away….” I couldn’t control my tears and though my previous thoughts had thankfully remained unspoken, I was hot with shame.
We all judge others and our judgements are often harsh. We judge our neighbours. We judge our kid’s teachers. We judge our supposed-friends-whom-we-couldn’t-help-but-gossip-about. But since there's so much that we'll never know about another person, any attempt to pass judgement on him or her seems doomed to failure. In the words of theTalmud, "Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place" and can one ever be in “his place”? So really we can’t judge another - ever!
How does G-d decide our destiny for the upcoming year? How does He judge us? The answer is simple: The same way we judge others. So let’s look at others carefully, with fresh eyes. Let’s look at another’s potential, exactly the way we want G-d to look at us.
The Day After - By Goldie Simpson
Two people sit side by side listening to an inspirational talk. Both take in every word. Both are engaged and involved. Both are attentive to the speaker’s messages of hope and renewal and change. But these individuals are worlds apart, for one is a woman about to conquer her universe and the other is complacent and idle. What distinguishes these women from each other, as they both sit there moved and inspired? How does one really tell the one from the other? The answer lies not in their feelings about the talk while they sit there enthralled, but in their response the morning after. For inspiration is worth nothing unless it translates into action – practical, baby steps – towards growth. Small gestures of loving-kindness. Consistent times set-aside for purposeful reflection. Commitments to even one more good deed, connecting to something higher than ourselves. The month of Cheshvan is a time to take the energy of the month of Tishrei and channel it into practical applications for the entire year.
Women and Light
It was the early 1970's, the height of the Feminist Movement. Women struggled for equality and fought for an end to discrimination and sexism. Many sought out a meaningful response to a tumultuous era. It was at this very time that a worldwide campaign was initiated to encourage women to light Shabbat candles, placing women at the fore-front of a powerful and courageous mission of impacting the world by spreading light. For the Shabbat candles represent the light within and the power we each have to share light and warmth and joy, impacting our own lives and the lives of others in a very real way. In fact, the word ‘Neshek’ – the acronym for ‘Neirot Shabbat Kodesh’ is also the Hebrew word for ‘ammunition. It is with the power of light that we can battle dark forces around us. It is with light that we can reveal the unseen and intangible G-dly energy which permeates our existence. And it is with light – and particularly the light of Shabbat candles - that we can truly bring peace and tranquility into our own homes and lives.
Click here for a cute but meaningful video about Shabbat candles.
Click here for a video about Shabbat featuring Senator Lierberman, Dr. Norman Lamm and others.
Do you have courage?
She was a young widow. She was extremely beautiful, wise and pious. She was Yehudit, aunt to Judah the Maccabee. The fashion in her time was to live the modern-life, worshipping culture, sports and fashion as a replacement for G-d. But Yehudit and her fellow villagers refused to give up the Torah in order to live as society thought they ought to. And so the Greeks laid siege to the village and the residents were starving and dying of thirst. The village leaders decided to submit to the Greek demands. Yehudit wouldn’t hear of it. She dressed in a magnificent gown, adorned herself with jewellery and perfume, and risked her life as she set out for the military camp. The evil Greek governor, Holofernes, was struck by the beautiful Jewess and invited her for a private audience in his tent. She fed him cheese and wine until he fell asleep and she beheaded him. Inspired by her bravery, the villagers were victorious in their subsequent surprise military attack against their enemies.
Does Yehudit still live on?
She lives in the friend who cuts her own hair in support of a friend with cancer.
She lives in the parents who proudly display their chanukiah even in an environment where non else are doing the same.
She lives in the professional who asks that her office party take place at a Kosher restaurant.
She lives in the Jews who raises eyebrows by dressing with dignity even in the heat.
She lives in every brave Jewish woman who knows that being a good Jew often requires courage and self-sacrifice.
And that in this may sometimes lie the very existence of our nation.
3 Habits That Can Make You Happy - Practical ideas from Dr. Pelcovitz's talk at Great Park
1. Take a few minutes once a day to relish something that you usually hurry through. A walk, a meal or even a shower. Savour the moment. “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were big things”.
2. Write down your dreams. This can help you recognize that it is in your power to work towards your valued goal. You –not external forces - have the power to make them come true.
3. Ritualize gratitude. Make a set time for it. For example, really think about the strengths of each of your children while blessing them on Friday night or when sitting around the table together. Once a week invite each family member to say something that they’re grateful for. Sing songs with kids where they add what they’re thankful for. Let gratitude become a habit.
Vulnerable & Courageous
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.- Brene Brown
She had everything a girl could want. She lived in a palace with the most powerful ruler and she knew she had his heart. She was in a position to influence his decisions and to affect the entire future of her people. And yet, Queen Esther was afraid. “So I will go... and if I perish, I perish...” (Megillat Esther 4:16) she says to Mordechai when it was time for her to act for her people. She was anxious. She struggled. She was human. And yet, she found the strength to respond to the call of the hour.
Heroes sometimes seem like super-stars who are daring and brave and who lead lives that seem impossible to emulate. But Esther was real. From the very beginning of the Purim story, she experienced real emotions of uncertainty and had to challenge herself to push beyond her comfort zones. She tells me that when things seem too difficult to handle, it’s okay to feel vulnerable as I search for the energy that I require. That when the role I need to play is difficult and scary, I can persevere knowing that powerful women before me have worked through feelings of anxiety and fear, but have nevertheless found strength to go, to speak, to influence, to conquer…