I just celebrated 19 years of marriage. It’s a big number, no? It must mean that I am getting older. Life’s ups and downs, many beautiful, and yes, challenging moments together. A relationship of two very different people from two very different worlds coming together.

On the surface, no one would have ever put my husband andWe didn't even have a common language me together. When we met, we didn’t even have a common language. But I guess because of our linguistic and cultural differences, we needed to be more direct in our communication and right to the point; after all, we needed to be understood. We had to communicate our values, our goals, what we hoped for in the future.

Fast-forward to 2019. We have shared so many special moments and experiences. We laugh and grow together; we struggle together. Do we argue or disagree? Of course, but there is a principle that I hold onto that no matter what, “I love you, and I’m with you.” Our souls are eternally together. And even if there is an argument, we need to communicate that love and dedication for each other. It might sound simplistic, but no matter what, we bid each other hello or goodbye, good morning and good night.

My husband and I, thank G‑d, have a handful of children—from a toddler to teenagers, and the stages in between. We made a rule that when you enter our home, you greet and are greeted, and when you leave, you always say goodbye. Even my baby repeats this from hearing it all the time. When a sibling or parent leaves, she says: B’hatzlacha (“good luck!”), I love you.”

Why? Why is this so important?

I remember that when I was a teenager, I hardly had any rules at home, but there was one expectation. I needed to call if I was running late; there was an important value called communication. Knowing that my mother trusted me, but wanted me to be in contact, made a huge impact on my life. It was always in the back of mind, influencing me to make wise choices.

I’m jumping around a bit, but give me a moment, and hopefully, this will all make sense. Now, I am the mother of teenagers, and I tell you, yes, to a certain extent it’s scary because the world is scary, and I want so much to shelter and protect them. I realize that all I can do is pray and give over my worry to G‑d because really, what control can a mother have?

My oldest and I go on walks together late at night. How I love this special time! What do we do? We talk. I share with him something from my day or my thoughts, and then I listen.

Yes, I listen. I do whatever I can to listen to him. The other night in our nightly walk/talk, he gave me such an insight into the world. He told me, “Mommy, I can’t stay the same like I did before. In yeshivah (high school), I’ll either come out very strong and excel, or I’ll fall.”

My mind started racing. What did he mean? What was he trying to tell me? What should I do? What dangers are there that I am not seeing? What can I do to prevent him from falling?

I stopped myself mid-thought and realized how mature my son was, and I turned to him. “You are right. You are the one who will have to make choices. No one stays the same in life; we either go forwards or we go back. I believe in you—that you can make the right choices.”

Then he continued to talk. I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked G‑d for his words because while I have no control, I do have influence, and there is a light of understanding as long as there is communication in our lives. As long as he knows that the door is always open—that I love him, and that no matter what, I will greet him and send him off with a smile.

You see now why I value greetings and why it’s so important to me that even when there is a misunderstanding that the doors of communication remain open. In a relationship, we agree and we disagree. We make mistakes, often do and say the wrong things, but if the base is “I won’t cut you off; I love you,” then hope for all good things remains.

In the Jewish calendar, there are three days in the winter month of Tevet when the days are very short and the nights very long. These days are referred to as the “three days of darkness.”

OnIn order to transmit anything, I need communication the first day, the eighth of Tevet, the Torah was forcefully translated into Greek—not for clarity or understanding, but with the intention to bring misunderstanding. On the ninth of Tevet, we mark the passing of Ezra the scribe, a leader of the Jewish people. And lastly, the 10th of Tevet is the day when the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and nothing came in and nothing went out. Communication with the outside was cut off, leading to the eventual breech in the Jerusalem walls and the destruction of our Holy Temple. Today, we commemorate the three days by fasting on the 10th of Tevet and by saying special prayers on this day meant to increase self-reflection and repentance.

In order for me to transmit anything to my children, I need communication. In order to maintain a loving relationship, I need understanding. That means for me, at least, I must always make it clear that the doors of language remain wide open.

In my relationship with my Maker, I need to learn more Torah, and seek clearer and better understanding. I also need to know that no matter what choices I make, He wants me to come to Him and to talk, to share my worries, concerns and problems.

In my relationships with family and friends, especially my children, it means that I need to let them know that no matter what, the door is always open. At times, I should be the one to speak, and at times, the one to listen.

Communicating with understanding during the three days of Tevet helps us get closer to the time when these dark days of siege and lack of openness will turn into days of light and goodness. After all, Tevet contains the word tov, “good”—days of joyful light.