A luxurious spare moment...

With a mug of hot coffee in hand, I settle in comfortably at my computer desk and double-click on the e-mail icon.

My inbox reads: two new messages

I open the first. It is an e-mail from my friend, Diane.

Dear Chana,

It's been a difficult week. Much like the chaotic year I've had!

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the long talk I had with Nechama. She was telling me again that it's time to kosher my kitchen. Obviously, I told her (in a nice way) to leave me alone!

I said something to her that came out without thinking. But afterwards, it had me thinking for a long time.

I told her that G‑d just doesn't want me any closer to Him! The closer I came to Judaism, the worse my life became. First I lost my job, and from that time everything went downhill.

Believe me, after I lost my job, I was still fighting and not giving up. I was sure it was a test from Him. But then He was loading my shoulders so heavy that He broke my backbone!

Now I am piecing my life back together again. I don't want anything more to do with Him. Yes, I think about Him all the time, but I can't stop that.

As far as doing more mitzvot, I'll leave it to you religious people. I know you'll tell me that I'm not making any logical sense. So be it!

And don't even try to justify this G‑d of yours or religion of yours to me. Quite often, I do not think that He cares either. If He would, we would not be living in this kind of world, with so much hardship. Probably, no one at all cares!

Got to run, talk to you soon.


P.S. I am still waiting for that special Shabbat recipe that you were going to send me. My son is coming this week for Shabbat dinner and I want to make it exceptional!

I take a deep breath. Now is not the time to answer. I need to first reflect on what she's written. Diane is obviously hurting and expressing her frustrations over the turbulence in her life. She isn't seeking logical answers; she wants empathy, caring.

I label the email, to remind myself to reply later—when the children are quietly tucked into bed.

On to the next email...

It's from my baby center site. From the beginning of my pregnancy with baby Sara Leah, I've been receiving weekly or monthly emails, updating me on the current stage of my pregnancy, and, later, Sara Leah's infanthood or toddlerhood. The emails keep me posted as to my child's stage of development and what I could be expecting in the days or weeks ahead.

I open up this month's "insights and developments." It reads:

New this month: Feeling negative.

You may be surprised by the force of your child's likes and dislikes. Even at eighteen months, toddlers can be very clear—loud and clear—about what they do and don't want to do, to eat, to wear.

Some children surprise with another kind of force—hitting or acting out in aggression, especially when they're frustrated. The most likely target is surprisingly: YOU.

It's counter-intuitive, but this is actually a sign of trust. An eighteen-month-old child knows that you're a safe person, that you love him unconditionally. So he can show you just how upset and frustrated he can get.

On the same note, you may also notice that your child occasionally, but very deliberately, disobeys your orders. You say: 'Please stay away from that vase' and your toddler looks right at you, reaches out and touches the vase or plucks a flower from it. You know he got your message.

Once again, this is a sign of true love. Your toddler realizes that you are someone safe to test, to push his limits. It is safe for him to let out all his pent-up feelings around you, precisely because he knows and feels your love."

I think over this message. Now I can understand why Sara Leah will act most irritable or cantankerous towards me, her favorite person.

I consider how this message doesn't only apply to toddlers. How often do I let out my greatest frustrations—for a bad day, or bad fortune—on those very people whom I care most about—my parents, children, or spouse?

A sign of love and trust, perhaps, but hurtful, nonetheless, to those with whom we are closest.

For a moment longer, I contemplate the two emails. Maybe they are more connected than I had initially recognized.

It is human nature to demonstrate anger, aggression and defiance—whether passive, verbal or active—to those we care most about and are most connected to us.

We feel safest to show our deepest selves to these individuals, whom we love and who, we know, love us, unconditionally.

Whether it is a toddler to a parent, or a wife to a spouse.

Or, any one of us, to our Creator.