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Life Lessons

Braiding Challah and Learning Torah in the Rebbetzin’s Kitchen in Japan
The rebbetzin made herself available to me, despite having not a free second for herself.
I Chose Shabbat Over a Rocket Launch
We had committed time and money to this event, yet we would have to miss it because driving to watch the launch on Shabbat was not an option.
I Thought I Made the Mistake of My Life. Then I Went Swimming
Swimming daily meant I was no longer invisible—that there were witnesses to my life, however small it was. If I didn’t show up, there were women who noticed and would call to find out how I was. People cared, more than I cared for myself. I owed it to them to make an effort.
In a World Torn Apart, Our Jewish Roots Bind Us
I don’t feel a connection with just any American I meet, but I do feel one with another Jew, regardless of where they come from.
‘Live for Them All’: A Survivor Shares Her Story
Can you imagine what it was like to meet my savior all those decades later?
My First Taharah: Preparing a Jewish Body for Burial
As I rounded the corner on 50, mortality wasn’t a far-off abstract notion that had little to do with me. My mom was struggling with dementia and decline. I had lost some close friends. So when my friend Tamar asked if I might be willing to try this practice out, I gulped and hesitantly said “yes.”
Taking G-d With Me on a Fishing Trip (and Throughout My Day)
I am working on taking Him with me wherever I go and to make Him relevant in every part of my life, even the mundane parts.
A Young Man, a Sick Wife and a Wise Rabbi
“I need a rabbi! Help me! I need a rabbi right now!!” The shocking, ear-splitting cry shattered the stillness in the synagogue.
Turning Pain Into Promise
When things feel desperate and intellect can no longer save us, we go beyond what we know.
When ‘Reader’s Digest’ Proved the Existence of G-d
“Rabbi,” the man said, scowling. “You have 10 minutes to prove to me that there is a G‑d.”
My Grandfather’s Legacy: How an Educator Impacts His Students Decades Later
I asked him how it was that two brothers from the same home turned out so differently. He replied, ‘It’s very simple. I had Rabbi Schochet as my teacher in junior high, my brother did not.’ ”
The Need to Hit the Refresh Button Every Night
How fortunate we are that G-d, in his abounding kindness, wove the institution of nightly sleep into the fabric of our daily lives!
The Day My Best Friend Called Me a ‘Dirty Jew’
Most of our neighbors knew each other, even though hundreds of people occupied one building. They also all knew that my family was Jewish.
Be the Good That Someone Else Needs
The ability to see past our own troubles, challenges, and hard days and reach out to another in need is truly exemplary.
What Mikhail Gorbachev Taught Me When I Asked for His Autograph
Every single event, factor and statistical analysis with absolute certainty would predict my future to be the exact opposite of what it is today.
Free Will and My Uneaten Banana in the Soviet Union
I somehow knew that my inner worth was much more significant than the treat that was offered.
Finding Gratitude in the Supermarket, Even When the Shelves Were Empty
I sighed again and was on the verge of complaining to my daughter when I looked over at the the man picking through the soggy cucumbers right by me.
What My Pets Taught Me About G-d
Sometimes, when we are abused by life and the world, we fail to turn to the One who is always ready to be our comfort and protection, our sunlit island when everything looks bleak.
6 Crucial Life Lessons I Learned While Tubing Downriver
Life is like a ride downstream, and we are all on a journey together. Family, friends, strangers.
The Rabbi Who Raked Leaves for His Ill Wife
My friend turned to her father as they raked and asked, “This is a huge job. Why are we doing this? Do you really think this will even make a difference in the way Mom feels?”
Broken Wings? We All Have Them
Lessons From a Caterpillar’s Transformation
I couldn’t help but think of people who have broken wings.
How the Pittsburgh Attack Got Me to Share That I Am Jewish
It was the Monday morning right after the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, and I had not yet determined if and how I would approach the topic with my public school sixth-grade class.
Remember to Say ‘I Love You,’ Before It’s Too Late
For survivors of the sudden death of a spouse or family member, they wished they had a chance to say good-bye or say “I love you” one last time.
She Melted My Heart and Got a Ride Home
Standing at the counter was an elderly lady who immediately drew my attention. Within a somewhat fragile physique, she exuded light and strength. I smiled to her while noticing her shock of white hair, clear blue eyes and gentle smile, and then I said hello.
How I Learned to Cry Again
Cynicism tip-toed its way into my life, a soft pitter patter so quiet that I didn’t realize it was coming until it was already standing at my shoulder.
Beltani: How I Made Peace With My Imperfect Life
As women, we have incredible demands placed upon us, and a significant number of people in our lives who rely on us to be strong, to hold things together for them. There is often an invisible pressure that is not seen but felt—to be the perfect version of ourselves, to never let anyone see that things are not, in fact, as perfect as we try to project out to the world.
We Should All Be More Thankful
One day I was in a store and saw one of the mothers of our day-camp clientele. I thought to myself, “She really should come up to me and thank me for the years that I hosted her children in my house. In fact, why didn’t she ever call me in all these years to thank me for watching her daughters?”
Pack Lighter and Take What Truly Matters
Will the collection that I’ve amassed in the chamber warrant my entry into the banquet hall? Am I living my life as though I’m a traveler passing through?
When I told Sandra who I was and that I was calling to confirm our Shabbat-dinner date, her voice sounded choked, her words almost indistinguishable. Suddenly, the floodgates opened, and I heard unmistakable sobbing on the other end of the phone.
Today Was a Very Hard Day . . . or Was It?
It's all in the perspective
Today, G‑d sent me one of those days where I had an opportunity to strengthen my spiritual muscles.
Recognizing G-d Along the Way (Road Bumps Notwithstanding)
One of the tires, while appearing fine superficially, was actually almost completely peeled off.
The Guiding Lights of a Positive Life
Lost . . .I could have been lost, completely lost, with no clue how to get home.
How I Dealt With My Anxiety Over Hosting
I’m an excellent cook, but everybody has their off-days, especially when making a huge amount of food.
In Desperate Need of a Charge
My phone’s been really weird about charging the last few days. Seems like something is off-kilter in the charging port. I’ve had to juggle the charger, wiggle it around, get it in exactly the right place and the right angle for that elusive, all-important red light to go on.
A Molehill Out of a Mountain
“My child is not walking,” I informed the doctor.
Saved by an Unlikely Person
Our upstairs neighbors for the past four years have been, well, challenging to say the least.
A Time to Be Born and a Time to Die
This week, for maybe the first time in my adult life, I attended a Hachnasat Sefer Torah that affected me deeply, in ways I could not have imagined beforehand.
How I Learned to Put My Phone Away on Shabbat
I knew it wouldn’t be easy to give up my smartphone on Shabbat and the holidays.
One Person’s Trashmen Are a Real Treasure
When someone deserved commendation for a job well done, my mother made a practice of telling the boss.
Looking Inward After Being Verbally Assaulted
She screamed at me for minutes on end, as I sat there, unable to get a word in, feeling terribly guilty and ashamed for the missed appointment and having wasted her time.
Three Years After My Daughter’s Open-Heart Surgery
Chunks of time roll by without me even thinking to say thank you, without me remembering or acknowledging the gift of three years ago.
The Non-Jewish Girl in the Jewish Youth Group
The activities were fun, and I wanted to share the fun with Betsy. I lobbied the youth group advisor to let Betsy come along. The advisor was adamantly opposed.
The Lessons She Left Me
But how can I be a friend still? How can I conjure her up at a moment’s notice—not because of something I see, but something I do?
Aunt Mania's Magic Slippers
I was an orphan. And I was shoeless.
The Little Girl and the Nazi Prisoner
The sight that greeted us was not at all what one would expect to see at a parade. There was no music, no cymbals, no clown twirling batons and making people laugh and letting everyone know what was being celebrated. In fact, it soon became clear to me that this was not a parade at all, but a procession of enemy prisoners of war who had been captured by Russia.
How Converting to Judaism Taught Me the Important Things in Life
I live in Los Angeles, where wealth, celebrity, youth and beauty are valued above all else.
Listening to the Shabbat Candles
I stood there with my face covered, tiny tears gathering in the corners of my eyes.
Filling the Emptiness From the Inside Out
Healing Through Self-Love
All of my life I have walked around trying to patch it up temporarily by getting validation from the outside. But nothing and nobody could ever fill it for more than a little while.
Birthday Musings
A few days ago, thank G‑d, I marked my 58th birthday. A fleeting day filled with a perhaps paradoxical mixture of serious reflection, a pink birthday crown, feeling grateful, being feted, and too many calories. Along with the joy, I felt an undercurrent of anxiety.
A Punch in the Dark
My eleven-year-old son came running into the house, crying hysterically, “A gangster PUSHED Tatty!” His face was bleeding so profusely that blood was dripping from his beard.