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Riding the Ups and Downs, and Really Living Life

Riding the Ups and Downs, and Really Living Life

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I had a moment a few months ago. You know, one of those wake-up calls, where you say to yourself: “If this is happening. I need to look and see what I’m doing. Am I really living? What direction am I heading towards in my life, and what are my priorities?”

It was a wake-up call that comes when you go in for a routine checkup and they find something that sends you for an ultrasound, which sends you to the hospital to examine the lump they found that you didn’t even know you had. During the process, I was really calm. I had a feeling that it was going to be benign. But I would also be deceiving you (and myself) if IAm I really living? said that I didn’t worry. I had my moments, such as the night before going to the hospital, when I went to the Kotel with my husband and I cried, my heart aching with intensity as my prayers were carried up high. “I want to live! I want to see my children grow up, marry, have children of their own. I want to live!” I pleaded.

I cried, and the calm returned as I went to the hospital the next morning. And not to make you nervous with suspense, yes, thank G‑d, the lump was small and benign. I was the same person physically walking into the hospital as I walked out, and I know that I can’t take that for granted. I can’t take any day for granted. I told myself: “This experience, this can’t be for nothing. It’s time to re-evaluate, time to grow, time to reconnect, but on a deeper, higher level. It’s time to reconnect to life.”

What is life?

Sitting on my table is a vase full of beautiful flowers. I look at them and remember what a teacher once taught me. These beautiful flowers, are they alive? Yes, they look fresh and healthy. They are colorful and vibrant, but are they alive? No. From the moment that the growers cut them from their roots, the flowers begin to die. Now they are fresh, but cut from their roots, they are dead. The word “life” in Hebrew (chaim) is made up of four letters: chet, yud, yud, mem. The two-letter yud represents one of the names of G‑d. Just as when flowers cut from their roots die, so, too, does the person cut off from her Roots, her Source, her Creator. Meaning: A person who is not connected to G‑d is not fully alive. A person can live their whole life and not be fully ALIVE!

These days, everyone complains about a lack of time. We run and run, trying to catch up and take care of everything that needs to be done. By 9 a.m., I feel breathless and overwhelmed. I’ve already been up for four hours and feel like I take care of enough things that could comprise the events of an entire day. What if I spend my entire life like this? Just running from one thing to the next. Is this living? I’m not sure. And are we really so much busier than previous generations—generations that had to grow and cultivate their own food, make their own clothing and build their own homes?

No, they were busy, and we’re busy. The details have changed, but not the big picture. Probably no one had time then, and no one has time now. So what do we do? How do we connect? We have to take advantage of the moments.

Which moments?

The “wake-up call” moments like the one with my little lump for sure. Everything in life happens for a reason, and we can learn from each experience. There are no expectations for prophecy. When something happens, you are not necessarily supposed to know or understand why, but you are expected to take a moment and stop, reflect and connect. What can I learn from this situation? What can it awaken inside of me?

There are other notable times. These are precious gifts from G‑d. Moments like Shabbat, when with the candles you usher in the Sabbath bride with her entourage of peace and holiness. You light them and right there are given a moment to stop, think, evaluate and connect. The holidays—these, too, represent precious gifts and moments. They take us out of our daily routines, and plunge us into an opportunity to analyze the present and plan for the future.

We have one of those big moments coming up: Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. We pray and ask G‑d to inscribe us in the proverbial “Book of Life.” Or, quite literally, life itself.

These moments add fuel to the fire

We use this time to work on ourselves and to grow. You might ask: “Why should I bother to ignite a fire that I know will fade?” Why? Because as a great rabbi said: “As long as the candle [your soul] burns, you can fix things.” When you put more fuel to the flame, at any point, even if the flame is very small, it will grow brighter and reignite. Even if the flame fades a bit, it’s still not the same fire that burned before you added more lighter fuel to it; it’s brighter and bigger than it was before you started it.

These moments, these opportunities, these special days of the year add fuel to the fire and make us grow brighter. May we all be inscribed in the “Book of Life” this year. May we all be connected and choose to really live.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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