Dear Readers,

A friend of mine was going on a special vacation trip to Europe with her husband. Justifying her extravagance, she jokingly explained: “I work hard all year. At my shiva, I want my children to say that their mother also knew how to enjoy herself!”

We laughed. But then the conversation became a little more serious as she turned to my other friend and asked her: “What do you want your children to say at your shiva?”

Caught off-guard, my friend answered honestly: “I want my children to say that I loved them. And that I believed in them.”

I thought it was a good, off-the-cuff response. What parent doesn’t want that for her children? These are two ingredients at the foundation of our children’s growth and development. When a child knows that his parents love him unconditionally and believe in him, the child gains the confidence to reach higher and work harder to become his or her greatest self.

We are now in the month of Elul, quickly approaching the High Holidays. It’s time for introspection, for a long, hard look at the past year. An honest evaluation might reveal all the things that we had hoped to accomplish, but didn’t. As another year passes us by, we remember all those times we fell short, and we are reminded of our mortality.

It is a somber time that is rife with opportunity, but also possibly guilt and hopelessness, as we come to terms with how far we have to go and how little we have achieved.

This week marks the 18th of Elul, the birthday of revolutionary pioneers who made Jewish mysticism accessible to all: the Baal Shem Tov, and the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. These two spiritual giants taught us that we are all children of G‑d, who loves us more than the love of a parent to an only child. No matter where we are on the spiritual rung, each of us possesses a Divine spark that has infinite capabilities and cannot be snuffed out.

We are here in this world to grow, improve and connect to G‑d. But our imperfections should not depress us. Our shortcomings do not define us; rather, they give us reason to celebrate our effort in coming closer to G‑d, revealing that spark inside.

Now, during the last few days of the month of Elul, is our time to reach higher and work harder on improving ourselves for the coming year.

Let’s do so with joy in our hearts and confidence in our capabilities—knowing that our heavenly Parent loves us and believes in us.

Wishing you a ketiva v’chatima tova! May you be written and inscribed for blessings in the coming year!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW