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  • Writer's pictureAnat Ishai

My Jewish upbringing conditioned me to find light!

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

It has been a whole year of lost connection. It has also been a whole year of way too much connection. I am talking about the kind of connection that is known only too well by parents. There was once a time, not that long ago...(BC aka Before Covid)…that we outsourced many of the services parents required for their children. We sent the kids to a building for education called "school," and we drove them to various sites where they participated in sports activities also known as, "get your energy out before bed” activities. We dropped them off at homes to be entertained by their friends and where they could establish emotional and social connection with the outside world. And just like that, the vacuum was turned on and we all got sucked into a vortex which pulled us quickly into a very confined and narrow place of isolation to the outside world. The home of a family of 4 is now feeling too big without guests, while the apartment already too small for the family of 5 or more is reminiscent of wearing your size 6 wedding dress after 3 kids and downing a party size pizza.

I am a person who enjoys control, I enjoy order with a healthy amount of "kosher spontaneity". I love to make plans, including plans to not make plans. I like the freedom to choose how busy my weekend is going to be with social gatherings and interactions, and insanely enjoyed hosting dozens of guests at my Shabbat table every week. Oh, how I miss those days, I long to sit across from my friends and lean over to pour them a glass of wine, or pass the last brownie or, wait for it....remember when we used our hands to pickup the last piece of Challah and place it on our guest's plate!. We have all lost something this past year. Some lost family and friends, some lost jobs and security, some lost friendships and connection, while others lost opportunities and hope for future opportunities.

When I assess the last year and the events of my life, I still see a glimmer of joy in the wreckage. My Jewish upbringing has conditioned me to find light, look for the good, hang on to HOPE! It is no coincidence that it is always the darkest before the dawn! Right before we settle into the calming rituals of Shabbat our house turns into a courtroom brawl after the verdict....and that is just for deciding who gets to pour the salt on the challah this week. It is blissfully chaotic, but the chaos is all consuming sometimes...and then there is a fellow mom who thanks me for sharing my story because now she does not feel so alone. Connection Lightbulb moment!

Like many, I went through ups and downs. Riding a rollercoaster has never been on my bucket list. I have been hopeful only to be let down, I have been resilient only to crack under the pressure of parenting children without proper resources for them. I have been so elated to see 25cm dump on my driveway in one night so that my kids can be outside in nature and enjoy this beautiful world. As a side note: that is a major source of growth for me since I am a summer born Israeli girl who prefers a hot humid day over winter any day.

I have started to think about who I want to become when we are all out of this involuntary confinement. When the world returns to a new order, how will I be seen and who will I become so that I can meet my new future with an embrace. More than loosing my “COVID-19 weight”, more than reconnecting with my family and friends, more than going shopping at a mall or having guests over for a meal...I want to be WHOLE! I know that there are fragmented pieces in all of us in this collective story we share, but I want my broken pieces to be bounded by a guiding light of hope! I want to be strengthened by seeing the goodness of humanity and be put together by a desire to live and really know that I'm happy because of what I have, rather than waiting to be happy until I get the thing I seek.

The Israeli National Anthem is called HaTikvah ("The Hope"), it is the Jewish destiny to overcome adversity with the hope of a brighter and better tomorrow. The collective Jewish experience reminds us of our narrative. We are bound by a shared destiny of adversity, and a collective mindset of redemption and hope for a brighter future. So, I will lean into this moment of yet still so much uncertainty, but I am comforted that in us lies a spiritual DNA of overcoming the barren and dry desert of our current reality. We continue to keep the faith that we will one day, very soon again, taste the familiar sweetness of a future filled with milk and honey!

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