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The Guiding Lights of a Positive Life

The Guiding Lights of a Positive Life

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I wandered in the powdery sand to the beat of the soft lullaby the waves sang without any idea where I was going. I came upon a sign on the beach in the form of driftwood with a magic marker message: “Even if you’re lost, you’re here now and that’s good enough!”

Lost . . . I could have been lost, completely lost, with no clue how to get home. “What was home? Where was home?” My spirit could have been destroyed in all the manyI could have been lost, with no clue how to get home moments I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but I kept walking. I didn’t lose my purpose. I kept going.

My life has been marked by transition and uncertainty—unpredictable, frightening moments that catapulted me in the exact direction I was meant to go. I don’t regret any of it because all of the wrong choices led me to the right places, every step of the way. The thousands of experiences I’ve collected and the miles I have traveled might not have been where I initially set out to go, but they were exactly where I needed to be.

The past few weeks seemed to disappear, all stress washed away. I arrived exhausted at my daughter’s condo in Hallandale Beach, Fla., well after midnight last night following a tumultuous flight from New York, yet the allure of sunrise on the beach beckoned. I rose before the crack of dawn, tiptoeing quietly down the hallway and out the door, unprepared for the scene unfolding outside.

I drew in a deep breath of cool, cleansing salty air and walked straight into the ocean, or was it the sky? The colors melted so perfectly that the horizon was undefined. Suddenly, the transition from night to day began; the world between worlds, between light and dark, magical and surreal. Time seemed to stand still. A kaleidoscope of vivid colors streaked the heavens and the surface of the water. The production climaxed when the golden disk of the sun, bit by bit, as if in slow motion, rose over the ocean, turning the crimson clouds into an intense network of fiery orange and yellow strips. The sun rose higher, the brilliant rays began to warm the air, the colors quickly faded, and the show was over.

A new day had come with new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written.

Joseph evolved to greatness while alone in a foreign land and garnered the necessary strength to remain true to his identity because he saw the image of his father Jacob in his mind. And in accessing his experiences with his father, Joseph saw his roots, his foundation, his own image, his potential. I followed his example and remained connected to my roots by recalling my father’s image. For all our history adds up to who we are—or who, at least, we are always trying our best to be.

Chassidic philosophy teaches that sight validates. “Seeing” allows one to take in the entire picture, even that which is otherwise not obvious. My father’s guidance and teachings are sacred memories—portraits painted on my soul, lifelong companions to sustain me and guide me to new levels of seeing, feeling, perceiving and being.

I thought about the powerful life lessons my father taught me:

About faith: Never waver in your trust in G‑d, especially when things look bleak. It’s the only thing to hold on to.

About respecting people: People’s struggles are real, regardless of how trivial they might seem. Remain empathetic and extend as much grace as possible in respect for their concerns, even when facing grave personal circumstances.

About money: The real measure of wealth is how much one would be worth if all their money was lost. Material possessions are insignificant if internal circumstance are broken. Without purpose, surroundings feel purposeless. With a strong and fulfilling function, humble external circumstances are much more palatable.

The author and her father
The author and her father

About happiness: It’s bad enough when someone or something terrible causes you harm; you do not need to elect to compound it by also being sad about it. Allowing a person or situation to steal your happiness is your choice, albeit a self-defeating one.

About fear: Never allow fear into your life. The worst thing in the world is to be afraid of anything or anyone. Only fear of G‑d is positive. Fear cripples and paralyzes, and any decision made from fear is a wrong one.

About religion: Religion is not a burdensome set of rules to impose on people, butYou stumbled? Accept it! the means to paving a path of proper direction to a joyous, beautiful life. Someone who isn’t happy is not a good advertisement for their religion.

About community service: All that one gains only for himself or herself is of very limited value. In service to others lies the real treasure—a treasure beyond all imagining, a treasure multiplied by the number of lives touched.

I didn’t realize I had walked all the way back to my daughter’s building until I heard my grandchildren screaming from the terrace. “Savti! Where were you? We couldn’t find you anywhere! We thought you were lost!”

As I rushed up the stairs to hug my little loves, I mused . . .

My father taught me about losing direction when life explodes in your face and doesn’t go according to plan, and you get lost. Don’t get so caught up in the disappointment and the self-loathing that you remain stuck in the situation.

You’re here now. So you stumbled? Accept it, reclaim your abandoned self, don’t run from yourself. Remember who you are. Focus on your strengths, not your flaws; use them to move forward and find your purpose again. The tragedy would be to never discover (and rediscover) yourself. You’re here now. That’s all that matters.

Maybe the person who left that sign on the beach knew all this already.

Batya Schochet Lisker is the founding principal of Bais Chana Chabad Girls' High School of Los Angeles, current executive assistant to Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky of Chabad World Headquarters in New York, and program administrator of the Machne Israel Development Fund Early Childhood Initiative.
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Julie M May 21, 2017

I needed this also. Thank you. Reply

Lin Olson May 21, 2017

EXACTLY what I needed to heaar/read today. Thank you! Reply

Cena Glass Akron, May 20, 2017

Thank you for this article. I have lost many people in the 15 years. My spouse 15 yrs ago, many aunts and uncles, but recently my mother. Sometimes I felt lost, but quick to release to realize that God is right there to guide me all the way. Raising three children by myself until adulthood was daunting. The Torah has been my all along.Shabbat Shalom. Reply

Chaim Leib Toronto May 19, 2017

A hearty yasher koach on your article.
What an absolutely perfect title for such an important subject.
I have read the comments and agree with each and every one. All I could express
would be a multiplication thereof.
The picture of "the author and her father" is wonderful.
Important, it is featured on chabad.org, but honestly, it deserves a world audience.
May I respectfully suggest you submit it to Readers Digest, for starters.
Reply

Denise South Africa May 19, 2017

Words are inadequate to express the joy that rises up as I read story upon story of G-d's faithfulness to the faithful, to children's children, opening a door of grace to know our Creator's ineffable love. Reply

Dana May 18, 2017

This is exactly what I needed right now. Reply

Lin Olson Williamsburg, VA. May 21, 2017
in response to Dana:

ME TOO!!!! Reply

Melody Music Minnesota May 18, 2017

I really needed to read this today. Thank you for your well written article. Reply

jim dallas May 18, 2017

after the expressive piece of impressionistic paint and poetry i just had pleasure to read, anything off my easel will be amatuerish at best...so you are a jewish woman huh?, well that is very powerful! Reply

Missie May 17, 2017

Thanks for this. Reply

Rhona Earth, Sun, MW, UA May 17, 2017

Thank you for sharing the wisdom you acquired while living your life.I particularly found your statements about fear interesting. I think "awe" of God is a more appropriate term to use than "fear." I am certain that God would not want to be the cause of the negative, painful feeling of fear. Furthermore, feeling fear is perhaps a period of atheism. If you believe in God, it seems inappropriate to feel fear.

Perhaps feeling fear, like feeling jealousy, reflects a shortage of some knowledge pertinent to the situation. If you possessed adequate knowledge, you would not feel fear (or jealousy.) Reply

Batya Lisker Brooklyn, NY May 18, 2017
in response to Rhona:

“וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל — מָה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ?
כִּי אִם לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ ...”
“And now, Israel, what does God want of you? Only that you be in awe of the Eternal your God, following in all His paths and loving Him....” (Deut. 10:12)

There are different levels of Yirah. There is Yirat Shamayim — awe of Heaven. And there is Yirat Cheit — literally, “fear of sin,” but better translated as “repulsion from sin.”

These two forms of Yirah share the same root of awe and reverence. Yirat Shamayim is a mindset, expressed in our thoughts and feelings. Yirat Cheit, on the other hand, is more practical, expressed in deed and action. As a result of our perception of God’s infinite greatness, we feel reverence towards God — Yirat Shamayim — and are acutely aware of the repugnance of sin — Yirat Cheit.

In Hebrew the word for fear is the same as the word for awe therefore my use of the word fear in my article. Reply

Missie May 19, 2017
in response to Rhona:

Yes; I was taught that with regard to G-d it means reverence, respect, piety. Reply

Susan Lynn Shifman Arizona May 17, 2017

Thanks for sharing! Beautifully written indeed. Reply

Anonymous Plaut May 17, 2017

Thank you so much. I too have a wonderful father. Just thinking of him fills me with love... He's my earthly rock... My Rock is Hashem . Reply

Raymond Bastarache Canada May 15, 2017

a comment... My strength is from G-d......many times I found the answer in prayer...my relationship with the Divine who directed me...and I obtain mercy on my situation "this poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles". "Lord, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I". "I have none in heaven? but thee? oh Lord!" Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn May 14, 2017

You are very open and accepting of the waves of life, very deep and extremely talented in writing. Thanks for sharing. Reply

Hadassa May 11, 2017

Batya , wow !
this is beautifully written , and an excellent piece that can really benefit everyone if they only take these very wise words to heart ... Reply

Anonymous May 18, 2017
in response to Hadassa :

Finding myself in a place very far from where i was raised , i relate to your words ... Being in new stage of life ... Facing so many challenges at the same time...I m trying to find my way too ...
your father advice are a source of clarity and purity
Thank you for sharing your beautifull insights of life. Reply

Sarah Kranz-Ciment Virginia May 10, 2017

Beautiful and so wonderfully described! Your father is clearly a wise man - thank you for sharing these short yet invaluable lessons. Reply

Elaine FL May 10, 2017

I promise if you keep searching for everything beautiful in this world, you will eventually become it.
-Tyler Kent White

Beautiful Batya ❤️ Reply

Liora May 10, 2017

Beautifully written and a great inspiration to live in the moment . Thank you ! Reply

kraindy klein BROOKLYN May 10, 2017

thank you Batya..So honest and direct...chazak! Reply

Chaya Diamond May 10, 2017

Add a comment..Wow! Written so beautifully! You are so talented kah! I loved reading this masterpiece! So REAL! Time to write a book, dear Batya!. Reply