Guest Post: Rebbetzin Yocheved Goldberg
This past week I attended the annual Yeshiva University Yarchei Kallah conference for Rebbetzins. Each year, I cherish the opportunity to gather with women from around the United States and beyond, and work together to grow in our roles in the community as Rebbetzins. As I interact with the other women and hear about their challenges and frustrations, I am reminded of how fortunate and truly blessed I am to be part of our wonderful BRS community, one that I am extremely proud to represent each year at the conference.
The theme of this year’s two-day gathering was, “Nurturing the Private ‘I’ to Better Serve in the Public Eye.” Sessions ranged from “Instilling positive self-esteem in our teenage girls,” to “Making decisions efficiently, effectively, and peacefully.” There were lively discussions on the challenges of the Rebbetzin’s role and the difficulty in balancing communal leadership with private responsibility.
Two sessions in particular really resonated with me and inspired me in a way that I hope will be meaningful to you as well. It is clear that we live in a world filled with much noise and commotion. We are bombarded by the sounds of the phone ringing, email alerts beeping, music blaring, our children interacting, or simply the internal humming of the to do list that never seems to end. The combination of the outer noise and inner noise, the total lack of silence in our lives, has the serious consequence of preventing us from knowing and being comfortable with ourselves. We are too occupied with absorbing the sounds from all around us that we fail to discover and cultivate our true selves.
When Yaakov goes back to retrieve the vessels he had forgotten in this week’s parsha, he encounters the angel with whom he wrestles. According to many, the angel was none other than himself, his alter ego. Yaakov struggles and emerges triumphant. What allowed for Yaakov’s growth at that particular moment? Vayivaser Yaakov levado – it was the fact that Yaakov was alone, in the quiet of his own mind, truly by himself, that allowed him to wrestle with himself.
At the conference, Dr. David Pelcovitz gave a powerful lecture on “The Elusive Search for Spirituality: Practical Tips to Use and to Share.” In it he explained that in a survey he conducted on the greatest impediments to spirituality, he found that number one on the list was our lack of stillness. We are always rushing and we never have time to reflect and to think about our priorities, our values, and what’s important in our lives. In essence, in today’s world even when we’re alone, we’re really not alone because we are still connected to our technology and surrounded by noise.
It’s impossible for us to truly connect to Hashem and to ourselves when connected to our smartphone, a friend, a song, or the Internet. Dr. Pelcovitz mentioned that in Shema we say, “Ve’avadtem mehaira,” literally translated as, “you will quickly be abandoned.” The Ba’al Shem Tov interpreted those words not as a threat but as a command: “get rid of the rush in our lives.” Please Hashem, take away the chaos and constant noise, and enable us to refocus and turn our attention to our relationship with you, Hashem, and with what’s truly important and matters most.
There was another speaker, Judge Danny Butler, who delivered such a moving speech that there was not a dry eye in the room. He spoke about his son Mikey, who died a few years ago at the age of 24 from the terrible disease cystic fibrosis that he had been fighting his entire life. Mikey and I overlapped on a Yachad Shabbaton when I was an advisor and we connected through the fact that we both play the drums. I remember then being amazingly impressed by his courage and faith, but what I learned about from his father regarding the last few years of his life truly blew me away.
Mikey Butler did not have one normal day in his life. Every day he struggled to breathe and both he and his family never knew if it would be his last. His motto was to live every day to the fullest and always chase after your dreams because you never know if it will be your last day on earth. His father ended his speech with three messages that life with Mikey taught them all.
First is to always make a Kiddush Hashem, which the Butler family did throughout the hospital stays and other difficult situations they had to deal with. Second is to always reach out to your fellow Jews and do whatever you can to enhance their lives. Chessed brings the Jewish community together and helps relieve the pain and suffering of a fellow Jew.
Third and most importantly, is to just be happy for simply having a normal day. If you stop to think about it, we are so busy running around and dealing with the chaos in our lives, that we never realize just how lucky we are to be alive and, moreover, to just have a day in which nothing catastrophic happens and in which we functioned normally and made it through without crisis. An uneventful day is not something we should ever take for granted and we should appreciate each day that is in fact normal and routine.
What I took away from Dr. Pelcovitz and Judge Butler’s talks was not to get lost in the momentum and chaos of life. Pause, reflect, be grateful, take stock, and make space to think, grow, set goals, and become a better person.
For me, attending the Rebbetzin conference was an opportunity to get off of the roller coaster ride that is my life, and reflect upon my goals and aspirations as a mother, wife, Rebbetzin, and woman. It was a welcomed time to take a step back, out of the chaos and craziness that each day brings, and reconnect with what matters most in my life and how to step it up a notch and do it even better than before. Whenever I leave the conference, I always feel so grateful for what I have and what I can accomplish and I feel empowered and inspired to try to do more.
I hope everyone in our wonderful BRS community knows that I am here for you and I truly love and value the role I play. It’s not a bother when you call and I’m never too busy for any of you. You are important to me and I want to be a part of your lives. However, I must balance my desire to be the most accessible and available Rebbetzin with my obligations and responsibilities to my children and family. Please forgive me if I have missed an important occasion in your life or did not show up at your simcha, shiva, or event. Part of this balancing act is going to include making tough decisions and prioritizing. As I wrote last year, there will be times that I am in a rush and don’t engage in conversation with you at the supermarket or I’m busy running around shul gathering up my children and don’t acknowledge you at the Kiddush. It’s certainly not because I don’t care about you. I’m just “juggling” and trying to do the best I can without dropping any of the balls.
May we all be zoche to find the right balance in our lives of spirituality, chesed, gratitude, closeness to Hashem, and closeness to one another.