My Home, My Life

My Home, My Life

Tsunamis, nuclear disasters, famines, earthquakes, genocidal civil wars.

This morning I was reading about a man who spends his life traveling from disaster zone to disaster zone in order to help nations rebuild in the wake of massive catastrophes.

The funny thing is, and this might be hard to believe, but I once thought that my life would look a lot like this man’s.

As a teenager, reading about disasters around the world broke my heart, and I wanted to help. So in college, I majored in International Relations and dreamed big dreams about working for the UN or the Peace Corps or making my mark as an independent do-gooder assisting the suffering masses in the Third World, Mother Theresa style.

In fact, on the day I got engaged to my husband I made him promise that if one day I wanted to do something crazy like open up an orphanage for AIDS orphans in Africa, that he would humor me and come along.

And then… A few years ago I had a baby and then another one and then a few more.

When I think of my dreams today, they no longer involve AIDS orphans in Africa or tsunami survivors in Indonesia.

Today, 95% of my life is occupied by acts of kindness and responsibilities that take place on this side of my front door.

The kitchen floor that must be washed after a day of spills.

And the lunches that must be prepared the night before to feed hungry little tummies.

And the anxious child who needs to be comforted with a note for this teacher and for that one too.

And, most of all, just being here, in this home, and caring for my family.

But my homebound acts of kindness and responsibilities extend beyond my family as well…

There are my JewishMOMs to make smile.

And Shabbat guests to host.

And neighborhood crises small as well as large to ponder and help out with.

I was recently speaking with a group of college-bound 18-year-olds about this personal transition I’ve undergone over the years, and one of them, who thought my story was downright depressing, challenged me…Don’t I ever regret that I am not living the international plane-hopping life I once dreamed about?

My answer? An unequivocal, unwavering, unconflicted “No.”

Right now I am working my way through the new Artscroll biography of Rebbetzin Kanyevsky zt”l. And while reading, something funny happened. I found myself mesmerized by the photograph of the Rebbetzin’s oven, until tears come to my eyes as I looked at it.

And I realized why I had such an emotional response to this oven….

Because that oven represents me and the life I am living…

This biography is full of awe-inspiring stories about this oven. How for decades the Rebbetzin managed to feed 100 needy local families before Shabbat with kugels and cakes and chickens she made in this oven. And how the Rebbetzin prepared food for her multitude of descendents (by the time she passed away she had 60 married grandchildren as well as 60 great-grandchildren) in this oven. And how every Thursday afternoon, over 150 women would gather from all over Israel to say the blessing over Challah for Shabbat that would be baked in this oven.

But what’s striking about this oven is that it is the saddest looking oven you ever saw. Old and worn down and smudged up from overuse.

If this oven was being given away for free, nobody, NOBODY, would want it.

And yet Rebbetzin Kanyevsky managed to create an empire of kindness with this pitiful oven.

Similarly, the life I live today isn’t a glorious life. My college alumni magazine would fall over itself to feature my classmate who is running a school for homeless kids in Honduras. But me? They wouldn’t even mention me.

And I agree that my holy classmate or that man I read about who is travelling around the world assisting disaster victims are probably bringing Hashem a lot of nachas day after day.

But I also believe that my current life spent cleaning up after my potty-challenged toddler, and making sure that my messy home still manages to be a sunshine-y place for my family to come home to, and helping out here and there in my community are also probably bringing Hashem nachas.

Like the Rebbetzin’s oven, this life probably doesn’t appear so impressive.

But I feel that there is so much blessing in this life.

And I feel that there is so much potential for goodness in this life.

And I feel Hashem here with my in this life.

And that brings me so much satisfaction, so much joy.

Thank you Hashem for this messy home full of little people and big dreams. B”H.

Related posts:

The Blackbird's Song
The Mystery Man at the Bris
When I Was the Worst French Horn Player

9 comments

  1. Hadassah

    Don’t underestimate the impact your blog/website has on many women confronting their own lives, families, messes, and ovens! Who can say that having the courage to battle our own enemies (sadness, laziness, discouragement) and disasters (childlessness, birth defects, tragedies and hardships)is any less heroic than confronting major disasters? As you so beautifully said it, “Hashem is getting nachas.”

  2. this gives strength to all of us, “daly routine” women who put aside their dreams of “grandeur” and ended in a kitchen!! thank you,and to the list of your daily activity please add this precious blog that i would’t miss for a day!!!
    hashem bless you always

  3. I concur! So well spoken/written. The world we live in is so inside-out backwards that we must keep up the battle to keep our grand perspectives. Thank you so much for chugging along. A gutten chodesh, chodesh tov, may we all be zoche to renew ourselves with chizuk and clarity, matching our ratzon with ratzon Hashem!
    Julie H. in Michigan

  4. I loved this blog post!

  5. Why not do both? Live both dreams? I spent two years out of college working in a rural health center in the middle of Africa – Rwanda- as a Peace Corps volunteer. Doing my best at Tikkun Olam in that small part of the world actually strengthen the connection to my Jewish roots and led me eventually to where I am now, often in the kitchen and raising my family of five children in the Judean hills.

    • JewishMom

      I’m also happy that I did a lot of travelling and some international volunteering before I became a mom (though nothing nearly as serious as what you did, wow!) If you ever want to write something up about how your Rwanda experiences led you to reconnect Jewishly, I would love to consider that for publication on jewishmom.com!

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