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Musing for Meaning

Until We Meet Again . . .

While most people don’t think of the day after Passover as the best sales of the year, when you have a child with celiac disease, there is nothing like hitting the grocery stores now that Passover is over to find all those gluten-free products at almost 75% off. After all, while a mere week ago the cost of matzah was comparable to the cost of gold, today it is practically worthless.

Being ready, able and willing to move forward at the right time is the key

There is a message and lesson in this that is particularly applicable to my life right now. Judaism teaches us that it isn’t just about doing or saying the right thing, but that timing is essential. As I think about my Shabbat cooking and find challahs in my freezer that we will be eating, just days ago these challahs would have constituted an enormous problem. Then, the mitzvah was eating matzah. But this Shabbat, it is challah. And in a few more months, come Yom Kippur, the mitzvah will be refraining from both.

Knowing what, when, where and how to do what we need to do can be tricky. And we might discover that what worked and was needed at one point in our life no longer applies. Being ready, able and willing to move forward at the right time is the key.

So, with that, the time has come to inform all you amazing and supportive readers that this is my last blog post for Musing for Meaning. After an incredibly fulfilling ten years with Chabad.org, I am blessed to begin a new position as the Director of Communications for the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, and I am so excited to explore this new avenue.

The hardest part for me about moving on is realizing that I won’t have the same relationship anymore with all of you. I cannot begin to tell you how much your comments and feedback have meant to me, and the inspiration you have given me in learning that my experience or words touched your life.

I look forward to connecting again in the future

There is the concept that chassidim don’t say goodbye. It is never goodbye, never final. And so, I look forward to connecting again in the future. Until then, I want to thank you for all you have given me. I feel blessed to have been able to share my life with readers who handled it with care!

Sara Esther

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

Every year around Passover, I teach the inner meaning of the ten plagues. And as I do, I try to reflect on which one is plaguing me the most. This year, it is definitely lice.

I would like to believe that I am thinking of lice simply because my child's class just had an outbreak. But no, I don’t believe it was being around children scratching their heads that is making me connect so strongly.

Lice is actually a bit bizarre to even be one of the ten plagues. I mean, looking through them, the others are quite devastating. We are dealing with all the water turning to blood, wild beasts, debilitating and paralyzing darkness, and more. But lice? Sure, it is annoying. An inconvenience. But an actual plague?

Sure, it is annoying. An inconvenience. But an actual plague?But here is how I see it, and why it connects to me so much right now. Lice are small. Practically invisible to the naked eye. When one has lice, it is rarely detected from finding the actual louse, but rather from the symptoms. My children already know that if they so much as touch their heads I pounce on them, ready to inspect.

But the louse itself is incredibly hard, if not impossible, to find. It not only blends in with the hair, but it is fast. Even when you see it, it often disappears before you can actually strike and kill. And yet, what can be found are the eggs. And man, oh man, can those louse reproduce. One little louse one day, and hundreds of eggs the next.

Now I know if you are still reading this you are scratching your head, as one cannot discuss lice without a psychological reaction on the part of others. But bear with me. There is a message here . . .

The eggs stick. They are close to the root of the hair, and must be removed. One by one. (And if you think you got them all with those nifty little combs, think again. Each and every one must be removed, or the process starts all over again.)

So, why do I find my life connecting to lice? Let’s redefine lice. Let’s think of those lice as negative thoughts. As positive as I can be, there is that pessimistic streak. It is so subtle that it can be hard even for me to detect. But it is there, running around my brain (covered by that scalp from which our hair protrudes) and laying its eggs. I rarely notice the lice until I notice the eggs, but by the time I do, they are everywhere.

The lice can be removed. Yet, only when we recognize we suffer from themI wash my hair, I comb it, I check what I can, and I ask others for help to check as well. And then the removal process must begin. Sometimes one by one. Sometimes dozens at a time by overpowering them with something positive, like rosemary or another oil they can't stand. But ultimately each negative thought, each pessimistic reaction, must be destroyed. And we must be vigilant. Because lice does not just affect the one who has it. Lice jump. If I am infested, give it another day, and my whole family will be suffering.

Fortunately, there are no wild beasts in my life. My water is clear, and the locusts are not swarming. But I do need to deal with the lice. I need to be real and honest with myself, and search out what is hard to find. The lice can be removed. Yet, only when we recognize we suffer from them. And only if we are willing to put in the hard work required to search and destroy. If ignored, they will not go away. Not even close. They will then be the ones to search and destroy.

But I am ready. I have my spray, my shampoo, my comb and patience. I want them gone. Forever. And I am determined to find them. Each and every one that is trying to work against me. To slow me down. To prevent me from doing what I know I can do. So, lice, beware. You may be small, sneaky and fast. But I am on to you. And, ready or not, here I come!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.

I’ve been completely stressed over my daughter’s upcoming bat mitzvah. I don’t recall going through this with my oldest, but I’m sure I did. I have a bit of amnesia when it comes to these things. I forget just how much work and anxiety I go through, so when it happens again I jump in so willingly, with no remembrance that I had promised myself I would never, ever, agree to handling so much on my own. So, needless to say, here I am. Again.

It is not so much all the logistics (of which there are many) of pulling off both a lunch in synagogue after services and then her party. It is something more. I have been filled with this guilt that she hasn’t prepared enough. That she hasn’t learned enough. That she hasn’t integrated the meaning of her bat mitzvah enough.

Part of my guilt and fear and stress was from treating this day as if it was a deadlineThen it occurred to me the other day how unhealthy my thinking has been. Of course, my daughter should take this transformative day in her life seriously. Of course, she should prepare. Of course, she should focus and learn and grow. But part of my guilt and fear and stress was from treating this day as if it was a deadline. As if this bat mitzvah day culminated everything, and everything had to be completed and ready for her big day.

For so many, the day of the bat or bar mitzvah is likened to a graduation. There is this sense that you have finished. That you have reached your goal. That everything up until this point, all the classes, tutoring, learning, preparing, has been only for this one day. And once that day is over, it is over. It is done with. Finished.

I want my daughter’s bat mitzvah to be a beautiful event. But more than that, I want and need her to know that this is not the end of anything; it is just the beginning. Her life as a Jewish woman is not the final day, but the first day. Up until now it has been only practice; from bat mitzvah and on, it is the real deal. Even though she is only a 12-year-old girl, Judaism now will consider her as an adult. She will be responsible for her thoughts, her speech and her actions.

And while it is so easy to get caught up with the details of the party (yes, I am talking to myself right now), the party is not the bat mitzvah. The bat mitzvah happens with or without the party. It happens with or without her involvement. The bat mitzvah happens by virtue of her turning 12. Her bat mitzvah marks taking her past, her childhood, and using that to catapult into her present, with a focus for her future. This is a lifelong process. This is not something that happens in one day, or is represented by one day.

The bat mitzvah happens with or without the partyWe put a lot into the big days. And for good reason. They are big days. But we can’t forget that these days are not all-inclusive. They always should represent a start, not an end. Yes, the birth is the culmination of the pregnancy. But the focus is on the new life, the beginning. Which is why I always laugh when someone tells me that they can’t wait for the birth, that then the hardest part will be over. Just wait, I think. The hard part hasn’t even begun.

So, too, with a wedding. Of course, a wedding should be beautiful. Of course, effort should go into ensuring that the day is special and holy. But if more focus is invested in the wedding than the marriage, it is a sad state of affairs. The wedding is the beginning. Only the beginning.

I am trying to make this my new focus. The week has finally come. The bat mitzvah is this Shabbat. And there is much left to do. But isn’t that the point? There should always be more to do. There should always be something unfinished to motivate us to do more. One way or another, the room will come together. I doubt anyone will starve, even if I can’t make the other 10 cakes I was hoping to. But what I can’t forget is the message I want, I need, my daughter to have.

This is her beginning. This is her start. As prepared as she hopefully will be, this is only her first step. Her bat mitzvah is her time to shine. It is her time to be the star. But the next morning is what really counts. When she wakes up as a Jewish woman. When she wakes up as a bat mitzvah. And when she recognizes that all the learning and development will only continue and grow.

Mazel tov, Nessia!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Every situation we find ourselves in is a lesson waiting to be learned. That is what this blog is about. From the people I meet, the places I go and the experiences I have, stories emerge, each teaching me something that I hope you will find useful for your life as well.
Sara Esther CrispeSara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.