Arm Yourself with Love

“Loving others starts with loving yourself.”

I know you’ve all heard this quote but I’m not talking about loving yourself to find your spouse or next boyfriend. I’m talking about loving yourself to love otherS, with a capital S. I’m talking about loving yourself because of why we fast today on the Tenth of Tevet. And we fast because of the siege on Jerusalem in 425b.c.e.- which was bred out of hatred.

What I’m talking about is the antidote to such hideous acts, to such evil, being love.


Let’s put it this way, through a story: Once there was a girl named Ivy. She lived in a lovely house, with two adoring parents. She had clothes, friends, money, anything a 15 year old could ask for. But every morning when she woke up, she’d look in the mirror and think, “I hate the way I look…I’m so ugly.”

One day, a new girl moved to the school. Her name was Allie. She had a similarly lovely house, good parents, clothes, friends, money, but she also had long flowing hair, big blue eyes, and a tiny little nose. When Ivy saw Allie and how all the girls were swooning over her beauty, she grew green with envy. The following mornings, when she’d look in the mirror she’d think, “I’m ugly and I wish I looked like Allie.” This began to irk her so much that she had to act. She began starting rumors about Allie, telling lies and making up stories. Then she started warning people to stay away from Allie, or they’d be in trouble. Eventually she had a whole team of people against Allie. They’d leave hate signs on her locker and mean messages on her phone. This continued, until eventually, Allie was left virtually alone.

Now, what if instead Ivy loved herself? Let’s try this again: Once there was a girl named Ivy. She lived in a lovely house, with two adoring parents. She had clothes, friends, money, anything a 15 year old could ask for. Every morning when she woke up, she’d look in the mirror and think, “I love myself, my life, everything!”

One day, a new girl moved to the school. Her name was Allie. She had a similarly lovely house, good parents, clothes, friends, money, but she also had long flowing hair, big blue eyes, and a tiny little nose. When Ivy saw Allie she thought, “Wow, she’s beautiful too. I think I’ll welcome her in and invite her to be a part of my circle of friends.” And so it was.

This story may be simplistic but do you think the destruction of Jerusalem started so much differently? Destruction starts from hatred, from envy. It starts when one person wants what someone else has.

This is why, we need to be armed when we go out into the world. Armed with a blanket of love.

Love is not just a word, it’s a state of mind and it spreads. Loving yourself means thinking positively-thinking well-of you.

I implore you to go out and find your armor. Find something you absolutely love about yourself. Write it down, think of it often, tape it on your wall, wear it on your wrist. Arm yourself with love so instead of destruction, hatred and evil, there will be building, loving, and good.

Love yourself! You are special and unique- Hashem wouldn’t have made you if you weren’t!

Easy (end of the) fast!


Our Everlasting Soul: Connecting with the Mikveh during the High Holidays


Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are a time for refreshing. They mark the start of the new Jewish year and they give us an opportunity to wipe away our sins and reconnect to the Creator.

Similarly, the mikveh is a refreshing for our souls. When a woman goes to the mikveh each month, she has the opportunity to look within and analyze herself. She asks herself questions, such as, did I improve myself this month? Have I focused more on what is important to me this month? Have I worked on my marriage? On my relationship with my children? With G-d?

When a woman goes to the mikveh, it is a time to spiritually wipe away sins and hit the refresh button. She hits the refresh button on herself, on her marriage, and on her relationship with G-d. In this experience, she gets to start again. She gets to re-experience herself as a woman, as a Jew, and as a wife and mother. She gets to re-relate to herself and her essence. It is a day for inner revitalizing.

I am recently married and when I first learned of the mikveh experience I was a little hesitant. I would have to dip into a pool of natural waters each month completely naked?! It seemed unconscionable and contradictory to what it meant to be a Jewish woman. However, it is very much so in line with being a Jewish woman. A Jewish woman is primarily and constantly focused inward and on her soul. She recognizes she is a divine being with a divine mission in this world. She knows her body and her clothes are just externals and temporary- but her soul, her essence, is real and everlasting.

When I experience the mikveh, I remember this- my body is temporary, my soul is eternal. My first few experiences have been deeply spiritual and overall self-awakening. Each time at the mikveh I have a chance to introspect and connect. I take time just to myself, and remember who I am and what I am doing here. I am a soul.

On the High Holidays, we also have this chance. We reconnect and realign ourselves with who we are and what we’re doing here. We ask for a relationship with King of the World and we make sure we are worthy of one as well. It is in this time of the year, we remember: I am a soul. I have a mission in this world; a purpose. On these days, we concentrate on our actions and recognize a moment with a potential for spiritual change is upon us. We want to take advantage of these opportunities to enhance ourselves and our relationships. We want to make this special moment (the one of the High Holidays and the one of the mikveh day) everlasting.

May we use these opportunities to reconnect to ourselves, to our spouses, and to our Creator and may we remember, forever, we are a soul.

Finding Freedom On Pesach

Part 2 of Why I Dress Modestly


How does dressing tznius make me feel more free than dressing “freely”?


G-d commanded us to cover up, to hide ourselves, just as He is hidden in this world. To be like G-d is to exalt one’s physical self to a spiritual level; to the level that G-d is on. G-d transcends physical reality and asks of us that we do the same. By connecting to G-d, to a force greater than myself I give my life more meaning, purpose, and energy. By being connected to the Creator, I am being connected to the origination of creation.

Imagine being sent to a new job. You are put in a room with a computer, desk, and chair. No one is there to tell you what to do, but beforehand you were told that if you complete the first week’s work, you will receive $5 million dollars. However, if the work is not completed at the end of the first week, you will not be paid and will ultimately lose your job. Imagine the panic you would feel in that office-alone-with no one to ask what to do and $5 million dollars on the line. Imagine the lengths you would go to to find out your task, to find out your role.

That is life without Torah. It’s as though coming into the job with no roadmap as to how to receive the “paycheck” at the end.

When I discovered Torah, my task, my roadmap, was opened up to me and I was free. My decisions are made easier, my trials are more manageable, and my perceptive is clearer. That to me, is freedom. Dressing tzniusly each day reminds me, I am connected to the Creator and I have a job to do. I know my job and I am free.

I’m Selfish. And Proud.

Part 1 of Why I Dress Modestly

“I’m happy to share my jewelry, my books, my thoughts, my time…but let me keep one thing though. Just let me keep my pride.”selfish girl

Growing up as a middle child, I was told I had to share. Chinese food containers were put in the center of the table, drinks were pulled out of my hand and slurped on by my sister, fries were snuck off my plate and eaten by my brother.  The remote control was often a pawn in a tug-of-war game and chocolate was always gone before I could finish opening the wrapper. Like I said, I had to share.

And then, when I got older, I shared a house with 100 sorority sisters, a dorm room with 50 and a shower with 20. I went off to Israel and shared an apartment with 6, a bedroom with 3 and breathing room on the train with 100s. I share my secrets all too often and my time is up for grabs. I write a blog about my thoughts and a Facebook shared with plenty…but I wear a long sleeve shirt, a skirt and tights. Finally, a place not shared.

So, why do I dress modestly? Because, I’m selfish with my body. And proud.


I am…Beautiful


As an assistant second grade teacher in a Jewish school, I am privy to the ins and outs of a bunch of little girls’ minds. I have the opportunity to see up-close and personal, all the fights, the jokes, and self-discovery moments. I get to see the times they are strong and the times they are weak. I see which girls are brave and which girls are shy. I also see the moments they might not want me to…

I was taking my students to lunch one day, when I overheard some of them jabbering to each other, using a phrase all too familiar to me from my sorority days. The phrase went a little bit like this…I’m.So.Fat. That phrase, those three words, instantly took my attention away from lunch pass hand-out. “Girls,” I said, looking at them sternly. They giggled a little, “What?”

“I never want to hear any of you saying that again, OK?” I said. They giggled again. “But I am….”One stammered, giggling again. I took a deep breath. “No, no,” I said. “Try again, I am…” I said, trying to redirect them the same way I do in a writing lesson. “Fat?” One answered. “No,” I said, trying again, “I am…”

“Um…beautiful?” Bingo, I thought. Just the word I was hoping for. “That’s right,” I said, “Say it over and over…I am beautiful just the way Hashem made me.” All through the hall some of them repeated it, and then for a few days after, but then it began to fade, until it wasn’t mentioned. It still troubled me, though.

I lived in a sorority house for three years. There were about 100 of us living in this one house, together. During my years of living in this house, starting from about January 1-Spring Break, weight loss was the number one topic on most of the girls’ minds. They hung clippings of thin models in bathing suits above their closets, wrote “YOU WANT TO BE SKINNY” on their mirrors, complained about an extra inch of fat around the waist line every evening and woke up dreading bathing suit season every morning. It became an out and out obsession. For most of these girls, little mattered more to them than, this in those months. Fact: Most of these girls were average weight-very thin. Fact: Most of these girls spent more of their time concerned with weight gain over ANYTHING else, including school, character, and even friendships. Fact: There was never a Skinny that was Skinny enough once Skinny was the goal. Now, some of these girls were beautiful, wonderful, intelligent people. They had motivations, aspirations, a whole bucket worth to offer. But when they were obsessing about weight, all they saw was the extra pound they wanted to lose.


The Torah teaches us that Hashem created us in His image. Hashem, the All Mighty, Creator of the World, is not human. He has no body, no physical features and of course, we cannot see him. So what does this mean? Well, it must not mean physically in His image then. It must mean, in his likeness, in his essence. It must mean then, that the part of us that is like Hashem is also hidden.

When Hashem created the world He worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. After each day, He would see what He had done and say “It is good.” That is, until the sixth day, when Hashem created man. On that day, Hashem saw what He had created and said “It is very good.” Hashem saw all that He had done and deemed it “good,” and even more so, He created man and deemed it “VERY good.” Hashem, being all powerful, could have made us however He wanted. Hashem chooses and chose to make us, as we are. If Hashem, the Creator of the World, thinks we are “very good” why do we think we are not? Here is a story:

There was once a very talented shoemaker, who was sought out by all the people in the land. He created the most beautiful, unique, and dazzling shoes. People came from far and wide to buy a pair of these one of a kind gems.

One day, the man was working very hard on a pair of shoes for the Princess. The princess, gorgeous as she was, was peculiar. It was known across the land, that the princess had long blonde hair, tiny blue eyes, and very, very large feet! The shoemaker had never made shoes of this size before, but it had been his dream to make shoes for the royal family! What could he do? After all, she was the princess. So, the shoemaker labored for days and days, creating a pair of unique and beautiful shoes fit for the large feet of the princess.

It was on a certain night, when he was working very late, when he fell asleep. When he awoke, his shoe was talking to him.

“Excuse me, Shoemaker! Wake up!” said the shoe.

“What is it?” Asked the surprised shoemaker, rubbing his eyes.

“Good day sir,” said the shoe, “I have woken you up to tell you of my grievances. I do not like my sparkling stones, or the pointy tip of my front. I do not like my enormous pearls or the height of my heel. My biggest grievance is, however, I do not like my size! Make me smaller! I want to be smaller, like all your other shoes!”

The shoemaker looked at the shoe in disbelief, “But, my dear, beautiful creation, don’t you see, you are for the princess! If I make you any smaller, you simply will not fit!”

If we recognize our great potential, our uniqueness and the specialty and care Hashem took when creating each one of us, we will see how beautiful we are. If we see that Hashem made us the way we are for a purpose, we will delight in ourselves. We will write, “I am beautiful,” on our mirrors, we’ll hang pictures of ourselves, instead of supermodels over our closets, we will overjoy in the excitement of a spring break instead of dreading its approach. We will talk about how beautiful we are and one day, our daughters will hear it. They will go to school and tell their friends, “I see what Hashem has made, and it is very good.”

Here’s the exercise I ended up doing with my second grade girls. On a piece of paper, taped into their folder I wrote:

Hashem made me beautiful.

My favorite part about myself is ___________.

My favorite trait about myself is ___________.

Why don’t you try! It only takes a minute, but you’ll be grateful that you did!

**Being overweight is not the goal. Taking care of ourselves, feeling good, and eating smartly is. May we all merit to know when skinny is skinny enough and when looking good is good enough and love ourselves for that!

Women Reflect Like the Moon

I was discussing this concept with a friend the other day, after reading an interesting chapter in the book “Nefesh Chaya” based on the teachings of Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus. In the book Rav says that women, like the moon, reflect that which they see and that women don’t just become affected by what they see, they actually become what they see.moongirl

This might seem extreme, but then stop and think. Have you ever walked away from Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and suddenly felt more classy and elegant like Holly Golightly? Or watched Pretty Woman and wished you had Vivian’s massive curly hair? Or possibly you stumbled upon 10 Things I Hate About You and felt like Kat, just minutes away from joining an all-girls rock band. Let’s be honest, the things we see do make us feel different. I’m not blaming us, this was how we were created, as reflectors like the moon. But what my friend and I wondered is, what is the impetus behind this crazy Mirror Mirror system?

It comes down to this: G-d created all of us with a piece of divine essence inside; a piece of Himself. G-d, in all His glory, is perfect. He personifies perfection. Our tasks, each one of us, is to reach this lofty level, to perfect ourselves. This is the job we are entrusted with. Therefore, inside us we are all feeling a pull, a tug, toward absolute perfection. So it only makes sense then, that this is our drive, this is our impetus behind our actions. We are constantly and always striving for perfection.

But how have we today, as women in modern society, been trying to perfect? Perhaps at times, it’s been by buying the new mascara CoverGirl is advertising, while other times it might be updating our bedrooms to match the one in the Pottery Barn ad. Or at other times it’s even just starting to speak a little bit more like our friend with that fabulous habit of using the word fabulous. Whatever it is, we are constantly hitting the “update” button on ourselves, retouching the top layer. Which is fine…and healthy, because we should always be growing and changing. And perhaps sometimes we don’t even notice we’re doing it, like when we emulate our favorite tv show character or that new friend we’re always with. However, while we are retouching the outside, are we neglecting that which is in? While we revamp the top layer, do we also work on the inside layer?

Hashem made us with a drive to perfect ourselves, so it’s natural like anything else, that that drive be focused in a different direction than intended sometimes. Like when someone misplaces their anger on their spouse instead of the client at work or their child instead of their messy dog. However, Hashem gave us this drive to perfection for a reason, and while we perfect every other aspect of our beings, we must also remember to hone in on perfecting our insides as well.

Since we, like the moon, reflect, we should surround ourselves with friends who have sparkling middot (character traits) who are always treating others respectfully, and we should read books about remarkable people like Rebbetzin Kanievsky and Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer who spent their days doing acts of kindness. We should find mentors, people who give their time and energy to helping others while at the same time build their own special families, to connect to. This way, when we reflect what we see, when we hit the update button, we won’t just refurbish the outside, we’ll update the inside too. And since we’re so good at reflecting what we see, we’ll reflect the things we truly want to reflect, not just that which happened to be in front of us.

So ladies, may you merit to reflect enormous light onto this world, as does our mother, the moon.

Chodesh Tov!

(special thanks to Amanda for helping me develop the idea for this post!)