Motherhood is a new territory, and every child—no matter how many you have—is its own, beautiful, new light. You enter new stages all the time. What worked for one child doesn’t for another.

On top of that, so many of us live far from our own parents and families, and so we raise our children alone—alone in a world that is constantly changing and terribly confusing. It’s not just the physical health of our children that we need to think about, it’s also the emotional and spiritual.

MotherhoodMotherhood is new territory is a package of laughter and tears, of hard work and prayers, and nothing—neither the joy nor the pain—is what you could have possibly imagined. I often think, “I can’t do this. It’s too much! I didn’t know that it was going to be so hard.” This past year with COVID-19, we have been pushed beyond our limits, which makes us question and doubt, can we really do this? Maybe I’m not good enough? Maybe I’m not capable enough?

But maybe all of my “maybes” and questions are just an excuse? Maybe I just have to know that I need to try as hard as I can and trust that G‑d will bring out the best in me.

Our sages (Yoma 35b) teach that a poor person, a wealthy person and a wicked person come before the Heavenly court to face judgment about their conduct in this world. The poor man says, “I was too poor and too occupied with trying to make a living to devote myself to a spiritual life … .” The rich man says, “I was too busy managing all of my businesses to pursue a G‑dly life … .” And the wicked says, “I had too much temptation; it wasn’t fair.”

The court will counter their arguments. The poor man is shown Hillel the Elder, who was so impoverished, yet did not stop learning Torah. The wealthy man is shown the exceedingly wealthy Rabbi Elazar, who was so rich, and yet this did not prevent him from leading a righteous life. The wicked man is compared to Joseph the Righteous, who in the face of great temptation from the wife of his master, Potifar, was able to run away.

The sages teach us that no matter what the situation, no matter how little you do or don’t have, you can choose light, grow and become the best that you can be. Yes, it’s hard, but we can do it.

During the holiday of Chanukah, every night we light the menorah. We start with one candle, and each night, we add another candle, another light. At the end, we have eight candles (beside the shamash). There is a discussion among the sages as to whether one should start with eight candles and each night decrease a candle, or start with one candle and grow. Practically, we follow the opinion of the House of Hillel to increase candles nightly.

This teaches us not to let what little we have stop us. You have one candle, start with that; you don’t need to start with eight, just take what you have and use it positively.

Chanukah is related to the Hebrew word chinuch, “education.” As parents, we don’t need to know all the answers. But if we know aleph (the first Hebrew alphabet), let’s take that knowledge and transmit it to our children. They will grow from it and add to it.

When weCan't we find better examples of role models? bless our daughters, we bless them to grow up to be like our matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Why do we bless them to be like women who didn’t come from “good” backgrounds, of moral and upright families? Can’t we find better examples of women who are role models, yet also came from “good stock”?

Perhaps our matriarchs show us that where you come from doesn’t make you who you are. It’s where you are standing now and where you are trying to go that matters. It’s the people you seek to emulate in your life and where you choose to be, that counts.

Our sages taught that in the merit of the righteous women, we were redeemed from Egypt, and in the merit of righteous women, we will be redeemed once again in the future redemption. What is this incredible strong power that Jewish women possess?

Could it be the power to say, “Wow, this is hard, but with faith, love, prayer and effort I believe that it can work! No excuses!” The matriarchs had all kinds of challenges, yet they strove to raise upright children. I, too, must have faith that with G‑d’s help, I can do this.

I can take whatever I have—my own personal light—and add a little bit more light every day and in every circumstance, and with that light I will illuminate those around me and brighten our world.