Thursday, September 07, 2006

Conversation #3: The face in the mirror

Yochanan is a man who takes a rolley suitcase of books to learn from everywhere he travels.

After the class tonight, we both find ourselves in conversation by the refreshments table.

He overheard me mentioning to someone else something about learning in a non-Chabad school.

Turns out, he has a story that makes him intrigued in my experience.

So, after he asks, I share it with him.

And he shares his story with mine - a story filled with Boropark, witchcraft, and ultimately the growing of a beard.

He's been through a lot of searching.

I ask: So, after all that, how would you define yourself today?

He lets out a soft sigh and gives a strong stare at the ground.

He says: You know, when I look at myself in the mirror, I don't know who is looking back, how he defines himself. But, I do know what it means to do good things, so I try to do them, and, uh...that's where I am."

His answer was so simple and so real.

Where he is...

...maybe it's where we all should be.

I immediately felt like my question about definition was ugly at the core.

For one buzzing young girl, looking in the mirror will be different tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cookies and Nails

[The big picture is when every detail IS the big picture]

The right wood for the art project: $12.00

Short but strong nails: $5.00

Hinges for the a-frame: $6.50

4 huge posts for the pre-school playground: $60.00

Driving everyone at Home Depot crazy: Priceless

There are some things money can't buy.

For everything else, there's a blank check from the Rabbi.


What happens when an inspired and ideological girl on Shlichus finds herself with a headache debating hardware and lifting heavy things in Home Depot?

Well, she thinks about taking some Advil, never gets any, and tries to go to bed early.

But, she also makes a discovery.

Through her headache and muscle soreness, she finds out that her mission is inescapable.

She finds out that wherever she is, there is her mission.

It means that there is unity.

Literally everything is adding up to the bigger picture.

There is no "off-time."

There is no "this is my Shlichus and this isn't."

None of that nonsense.

Everything is here to serve the mission. It's not just some broad and nice-sounding statement.

It's so real.

Everything I've been doing, I've been making a chain in my mind - seeing how small purchases and decisions add up to the bigger picture. I think to myself, "these cookies will sit on a side table in a class tonight, and will make people feel like we care, keep them fed and comfortable, and they'll want to come back." or "Maybe we had to buy the cookies so that we can run into Barbara and give her a flyer to the grand opening coming up."

These thought processes are fun and rewarding at times. But the truth is, I can't continue to keep making these chains in my mind.

The power of the mission is that I don't need to. In truth, the only thing that rings with unity and power is to see everything - every purchase, every step! - as the mission. Its not just the cookies. It's also all the steps that you walk to the cookie aisle.

And if you forget that those steps are part of the mission, you're forgetting the mission.

It's one mission, and you're on it - all the time.

Wherever you are, there is the mission.

Whoever you're speaking to, there is the mission.

Whatever you hold in your hands, no matter how big or small, there is the mission.

Whatever you see and hear, there is the mission.

It does not need to be found or inspired - it's always there.

Shlichus comes from the word "messenger" or "sent."

So, I've been sent.

No slacking.

Everything is part of it.

You can't exclude one second, one small decision, or one purchase from that which you were sent for.

And the details bring it all to life.

They keep that fire inside burning.

It's very energizing to know that uniting our fellow Jews and making a path for the final redemption really does come down to considering the size of a nail.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Me and the Crickets

The crickets outside are alive, screaming - bubbling with excitement.

It's as if they know how I feel.

My brothers words ring in my ears.

My plane was about to take off from Seattle.

He said, "It all starts now Mim. Every step you take, every breathe...It's all part of your Shlichus."

When my plane landed, all I could do was smile.

My touchdown was really a takeoff.

And I just had to smile at that.

This morning, I went jogging around my new neighborhood.

My brother was right.

Indeed, no step is the same.

This is all really amazing.

And I feel like the crickets here in Narberth Pennsylvania agree.