This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.
While sitting on the subway the other day, I took in the various types of people sitting around me. Were they looking at me too? I was with my two year old son. I couldn’t help but take in the moment and treasure the little hand that automatically would fall onto my knee.
I wanted to burst out with tears of joy: I had waited a long time for a moment just like this. I remember how much I longed for this feeling just a few years ago and how my heart would melt at the sight of a mother and child.
At age 32, I felt that my routine should remain unchanged. I should just keep riding the subway back and forth, day in and day out, going and coming. With each stop, unrealstic hope renewed that something or someone at this stop might change my destiny. Maybe today’s subway ride might lead to a great day at work followed by meeting a wonderful man, getting married, and having children.
I would let my dreams and aspirations tug my heartstrings at each train stop.
This daily routine controlled my life. But suddenly, I realized that the dreams and aspirations weren’t going to fulfil themselves as predictably as the train follows its tracks. It was time to get off that subway. It was time for new ideas. It was a time to start over again.
The timing coincided with the month of Elul, the month of renewal. Jews use this month to evaluate their lives and try to make improvements.
Elul ten years ago was the change agent. My vehicle was a soul searching Jewish study program during Elul in Jerusalem. I quit my job, sublet my apartment, and signed up. Now was an opportunity to choose a different track. The new journey was full of Jewish concepts and ideas I would have never had the opportunity to learn or absorb.
During that Elul in Israel, I was immersed in Torah, Jewish Law, Kashrut, and Prayer. Each new Torah portion learned and each new Jewish law explained brought me closer to the new me.
These stops were what my soul had craved for so long. Within a few days, my skin, eyes, and body felt better than they had in years. The changes were so healing. It was just what I needed. Other women were going through the same changes.
I was amazed at these women. Like me, they had closed doors to open new doors. They had ended serious relationships and left jobs, some good paying and some not-so good paying. We had all taken a risk, but that risk enabled our souls to open up and breathe.
Suddenly it dawned on me that I was living an entirely new life as an Observant Jewish woman. It was all new, but it seemedso familiar. I was reunited with the self I had always wanted to meet.
I had arrived in Israel as one person, but I came back as me, but as the new me.
The track I now follow was the path intended for my entire life. Finally, my soul was soaring with content and my life with purpose.
I had always loved being Jewish, but now the missing pieces are there. Shabbat provides a feeling of completion and separation. The discipline of kosher foods provides a statisfied pleasure.
I did worry about how others would react. Family and friends noticed change in me. They were not offended or critcal. They were so happy for me because they understood that I had been searching for so many years.
Judaism and the laws of observance brought into focus what was important to me. Now I understood what I wanted from life, particularly what I wanted in a husband.
A matchmaker introduced me to my future husband. He also had searched for a way to break out of mundane daily commutes and waiting for things to happen on their own. We both had changed our lifestyles and ideals to become observant Jews. We shared the same dreams for the future. We both wanted to marry and raise children in our newly found lifestyle as Observant Jewish men and women. We both had closed doors. But new, wonderful doors had opened.
We both had been riding those subways of life from different stations and different cities. We finally met up on our new tracks and created a new life together. We both had become masters of renewal.