Why 5780 Has Been My Best Year Yet

From the Anash.org Inbox: “I have always wanted to change my life. I actually have been on that road for a few years now. With Covid, G-d presented me with the opportunity.”

By Sori Block, Melbourne, Australia 

The title of this essay seems too good to be true.

Allow me to tell you the simple and then deeper reasons I feel this way. I try not to be flippant and I know that so many people have lost loved ones, their jobs, even their sanity.

Yes, it has been a very hard and challenging year, and I want to acknowledge peoples losses. It has not been hunky dory for me either. What I have come to know through daily learning is that in the challenge is the growth. It is through the difficult times that the work I do creates a stronger better me. We are in this world to give and to grow. And often times its when we stop focusing on what we can get that we see this truth.

It’s easy to smile and be happy when life is smooth and we do need those smooth times too, but that’s not the fullness of life. I know because life has been up and down for me and I have learnt the most from my challenging times. And 5780 has certainly brought its fair share of challenges.

So back to my title:

First, I would like to thank G-d that I became the proud grandmother of two beautiful grandsons in 5780. I didn’t even have to become old. Suddenly, I was transformed into a Savta overnight. And it’s been as amazing as everyone told me it would. All the fun and none of the pain. You get to hold, hug, play and when you’ve had enough you can say, “Savta is tired now.” Such fun, joy, nachas and a real treat. Baruch Hashem!

I, baruch Hashem, also married off my second daughter two days before Corona Lockdown One started. Actually the wedding was pushed forward two days, (thanks to some inside information telling us that everything will likely be shut down in two days). So grateful that we listened!! The fact that Chavi’s mother, father, and all her siblings were there, is a blessing that only now we can truly appreciate. How many people have had to make weddings without parents, siblings, grandparents etc? For that I feel very blessed, thank G-d!

Now, for the deeper reason why 5780 has been my best year yet. I have always wanted to change my life. I actually have been on that road for a few years now. Desiring deeper appreciation for life, deeper conversations, deeper friendships, surrounding myself with growth minded people. Less chasing of the money, the glitz and the glamour and more self-development.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. With Covid, G-d presented me with the opportunity. A gift by G-d Himself. Less outside distractions, less flying across the world, less outside work and more inside work. With that He gave me ample opportunity to work on myself. The podcast, the shiurim they are all there for the taking, at the click of a button.

I have never learnt so much in my life, I have never walked so much in my life, I have never had such meaningful conversations with people I admire, love and respect. I have never done so much yoga with my daughter, a lot of the fluff of life has gone and what remains is real, raw and has deepened my connection to G-d, friends and family.

For all that I am grateful, when hard days come (and trust me they come!) I know it is a test from G-d and I do my praying, my listening to an uplifting talk, some music, call a friend, and do the ‘in’ work. It does help, it does work, but you must stay committed, devoted and patient (not one of my virtues…yet!) and you will get there. ‘There’ being a place of serenity that this is G-d’s world and His plan.

There’s a story I love that really gives perspective. In 18th century Europe there were two brothers; Reb Zushe and Reb Elimelech. They would pretend to be poor wanderers and thereby use the opportunity to inspire and share the light of Torah with the simple folks along the way.

Once they were rounded up with other beggars and thrown into jail. Reb Elimelech was very upset because he couldn’t pray in the jail cell since there was a pail of waste in the room.

His brother Reb Zushe calmed him explaining that the same G-d that wants you to connect to Him through prayer now wants you to connect to Him without it. So overcome with joy at this thought the brothers started to dance. They danced so intensely that everyone in the cell joined in. The warden, hearing all the commotion, walked in to see what was all this joy about and barked, “Why are you miserable prisoners so happy?” One of the prisoners pointed to the pail. Not wanting the prisoners to have such joy the warden promptly removed it. And now, Reb Elimelech was able to pray.

This is the essence of Judaism. We are always in a relationship with G-d, even when we are in a physchological dungeon (Covid or other times) and there is a bucket of waste around us, we are empowered to live and love fully in the way Hashem is asking of us at that time. Our connection is able to grow with the tools He gives us at any given time and place even if sometimes we have to dig deep and be creative because it’s not the way we’ve done in the past or even as long as we’ve lived.

Furthermore, when we become winners we win. Gary Newman, a marriage counselor, once said the following: When men are watching their team play, if their team is losing they tend to close the TV and go grab a snack. They’re not going to watch their team lose. Nobody wants to watch losers.

We have been complaining about corona for the last few months, and has it gotten us anywhere? NO. So let’s not come to Rosh Hashana whinging and whining. Turning to G-d – to run so to speak to the snack bar! Let’s come to Him with gratefulness, thankfulness and joy.

Thank G-d, we have a roof over our head, plenty of food (in fact too much) and inspiration galore. We have our health, we have our sanity (most of the time anyway) and the opportunity to thank Him for all that and more. Let us come to Him with praise and thankfulness. G-d will surely say, ‘I see you’re happy, well now I’m going to make you even happier!’. Because G-d loves us, and loves to shower us with blessings and all things good.

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