When I was a kid I used to always hear the phrase JOY= Jesus Others You. Personally I dont agree. While I do think we need to care for others, whether family, friends , congregation, or just the world at large, we need to care for ourselves too. For us women this almost seems to be a contradiction to what we are taught. I think we need to re-train ourselves. First of all, where in scripture do we ever see that a woman does not deserve her own time and self-care? There are many women in the Bible that were known for their faith. I dont see one of them spending ALL THEIR TIME ON OTHERS. In fact, I see the opposite. Deborah taking time to sit under the palm trees and relax, Hannah, mother of Samuel, going to pray alone at the temple, or Martha, sister to Lazarus, choosing to sit at Yeshua’s feet and learn rather than worrying about the house. Mind you I am not all discounting the need to care for our house, and our families. We want to make sure they are well taken care of. Here’s the thing. How well can we care for others without time for ourselves? The greatest gift G-d gives us is our life. When we run ourselves ragged , not eating right, not sleeping enough, and most of all , not taking the time to improve our walk with G-d, we are, I believe, taking that gift for granted. Mind you I have the same issues. I too spend more time on making sure the family looks good and leave myself last. Why? The reason is that somewhere we decided we arent worth it. This is definitely an issue that needs looked at. We want to raise up a G-d fearing, educated and capable group of women leaders. How can we do that if we dont see ourselves that way? We are the role models. We need to take some time every day, even if its only a few minutes, and learn to see ourselves through G-ds eyes. Take a walk, drink your coffee outside, whatever works. Just find YOU again. G-d wants to talk YOU alone. Take the time to listen.
It seems odd to ask who am I doesn’t it? Yet this seems to be a common question in Messianic circles. Why is this such an issue, especially for those who have been part of Messianic Judaism all their lives? I think it’s because of a desire many have to be part of the Jewish people, including adopting a Jewish lifestyle, and yet they are not Jewish. More than once I have been asked What do I tell people when they ask why I go to a synagogue? Oddly enough the answer is pretty easy. I am not Jewish but I choose to follow Judaism. It’s the truth and it is easy for someone to understand,especially with all the inter-married families attending traditional synagogues now. One of my brother-in-laws is Irish Catholic and yet he has raised all his children Jewish, Hebrew School, Bar/Bat Mizvot, etc. He is known in the shul and always greatly warmly when he is there. When I point this out I get one of two responses; either relief on the persons part because they now have an explanation that makes sense to others, or almost a confused/offended look. I believe the second response is due to the person(s) involved not seeing Messianic Judaism AS JUDAISM. In fact I recently had someone I know inform me that Messianic Judaism is a CHRISTIAN DENOMINATION. To say I was startled was an understatement. I grew up in a two-faith home , Jewish mom, and Christian dd ,and a Messianic synagogue looks nothing like a church. My reason for bringing this up is a concern for our kids and young people who have only known Messianic Judaism as their faith. For example, a few years back I was asked to complete Bat Mitzvah training for a young lady I had known her entire life. She was not Jewish but had studying very hard for her Bat Mitzvah just the same. Typically I would have said no. However this young lady was half way done and the rebbetzen who had worked with her was retiring, so I agreed. While completing her study we discussed the issue of Jewish Identity. She was completely fine with being a Gentile and was not insulted at all when the topic was discussed. A couple of years later she had the opportunity to date a Jewish young man. His family knew from the start she was not a Jew but were fine with her dating their son because she had some Jewish training, and lived a Jewish life. I believe it is very important that our young people be ok with who they are, not feel like they must be someone else. It’s not fair to them and can create HUGE problems for them in the world. Why? Very simply to tell someone your Jewish when you’re not creates all sorts of issues from just plain confused looks to being told you’re a liar and an identity thief. Do we really want to set our kids up for that? G-d made us all in His image . That’s what we need to remember. That’s what they need to know.
Everyone has heard the old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Sorry but that is SO FALSE. Words DO hurt. We have learned to expect strangers to be ‘thoughtless. judgmental, or even needlessly mean” , in fact we try to prepare our kids for dealing with such things. What about what we say, to them and to ourselves? I think many times we assume that those closest to us know who we are and what we mean so we dont watch our words as much. Why not? Just because we are among people who are close to us does that mean we dont respect them? Why dont we give them MORE RESPECT than the stranger? I think it’s because it doesn’t occur to us. A perfect example is when my husband gets in ‘the mood” to cook or clean. He automatically assumes that I know he’s in that mood and so I will overlook everything. While I do understand and , try to overlook things, there are still times I have to stop him and remind him to listen to himself. The same goes for me. If I am not feeling well or am overstressed I can lash out and not even know what I sound like. Then, I expect everyone to just overlook it. The truth is sometimes I need a loving kick in the but. We also hurt ourselves with the way we self-talk; “Everyone’s needs are more important than my own”, “I am stupid, unlovable, etc,”. What we tell ourselves is what we believe to be true, whether it is or not ,as a result, we decide how we will be treated. I am a huge Dr. Phil fan. One of my favorite things he says is that you teach people how to treat you by what you allow. Scary thought huh? If we want the best for our families and ourselves it has to start with our words. G-d loves us. He loves our families. Let our words reflect that love.
“Women don’t gossip as much as men do.” This was a comment made by a male friend of mine a couple weeks ago. I was surprised to say the least, but then I thought about it. I think the reason we do not gossip as much is because we, as women, know how hurtful it can be. Here’s the issue. What is gossip and what is sharing information? For me the test is, can I say this to the person(s)s face? If not then its gossip. I firmly believe that if the individual (s) being discussed are not there, or there is nobody to speak for them, the topic should be dropped. There are two reasons I take this stance. One, I was a single mom for nine years, and on disability as well. Needless to say my situation was one that I am sure was a topic of discussion, even if I never heard about it. Two, I used to run a chat room on Aol and was surprised, and a bit dismayed, at how easily other people’s views on religion, lifestyle, etc were attacked, typically without anyone there to defend the other view. It seems that anyone that is different, does not fit the expected perceptions, etc, becomes a topic for debate. Here’s the thing if we really care as much as we say we do about others, why don’t we go talk to them directly? How many times have you heard someone use a prayer request as a way to gossip? For example; please pray for sister X that she gets healed of her drug problem. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with this. However that type of request is usually made only when the person is absent. If we are really worried then why not approach the person and offer to pray with him/her? Yes they might reject the idea, but they might also be touched that someone cared enough to offer. Gossip keeps us isolated and makes us feel superior, conversation opens up our circle and helps us realize that we are all equal in G-ds eyes. Personally I prefer the conversation how about you? To do good or do harm that’s the choice.
G- d looks every day to see where we have gone wrong and writes it down in his book. He is a strict and unforgiving being. Where does that idea come from? Why do we buy into it ? It certainly is not found in scripture. Two examples of what G-d is really like are shown in the verses below:
English Standard Version (ESV)
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them
Ok so I like the Three Musketeers . The point is that they all made a choice to work together to protect what they believed in. Why do we as women tend to leave Torah study to the men? After all it was given to all Israel not just the men. Torah states that all people heard it, even the little ones. Yet, we do not seem to take this privilege seriously. I am not talking about just reading the passages. That is the easy part. What I am referring to is the deeper study. Understanding what it means for us today. There are great sources out there that can be of aid if we choose to use them. I like to use Chabad.org because I relate best to stories. They help me take a closer look while keeping it ‘basic’. Though in fairness they are actually far from it. Even in the BeSorah women were encouraged to study. It states that Reb Sha’ul met with the women by the river to study since there was no synagogue in town. We also see the instruction for women to ask their husbands any questions they have at home. This was not meant as a ‘be quiet because you’re a woman ‘ statement. Rather a reminder for the women to listen so that they could ask more in depth questions at home. In fact, Judaism teaches that if a woman does not know Torah it is the man’s fault for not teaching her. Personally I like to ask questions about things whether its Torah, Halakha, or very basic Talmud. I think my husband enjoys the fact I ask. I may get it all wrong, but at least I learn, even from my mistakes. Let’s take the Torah as our own. Learn from it. Be blessed by the study of it. After all its ours too.
One of the hardest things for us as women to accept is we cant do it all. Frankly, I am not sure we should even try. I have seen so many women get upset or angry with themselves because they feel that a ‘real woman” can do it all and do it perfect. This idea even spills over into our spiritual life. Somehow we decide that we need to know everything , do it all and be able to teach it to others . In fact, some of us put an expectation on ourselves that is far from realistic. For example, learning all levels of Hebrew, including advanced, well by the end of a couple years. I was raised with a Jewish mom and I have still have a lot to learn when it comes to reading siddur Hebrew, not to mention reading any Hebrew without vowels. When I married my husband I set this goal for myself, that was very unrealistic, of knowing basic halakah for the house, getting my Hebrew fully polished, and learning to be a great hostess, Nobody asked me to do this but me. After a while I began to see that nobody else knew it all either. So why panic? Its ok if I dont know the answers, cant make challah to save my life, or am not the worlds best housekeeper. As long as I am doing my best and moving forward then its good enough. The rabbis teach that rather than doing several mitzvot poorly a person should pick one mitzva and work on doing it until its the best one can do, then add another, etc. Be happy. Do the best you can today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.