May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Have you ever come home from a night out from a social function and feel like you really didn’t need to be there? You even spent time having an internal debate whether you should go or not go, but ultimately you felt you just had to go, so you went. Ever come home from a store and wonder why you bought something that you kind of don’t need? I guess the modern-day version of this is seeing something on social media and then ordering the item online. It’s as if we think having that item in our hands is going to add some substantial value to our life. So many times I hear the phrase “I have to go” or “I needed to buy it.” It’s as if our lives are dictated by some sense of urgency and pressure. But where does that come from?

More often than not I will be in touch with a friend a day or two after an event that this person felt they were obligated to attend for the review. Here are some examples of what I generally hear: I didn’t even get to see the host; I actually had no one to talk to and felt uncomfortable the whole time; I came home and my kids were still up and the next morning was a disaster; the food wasn’t even that good. More often than not, the reactions are almost predictable. Most people have a strong inclination to please others—even if it comes at the expense of our own self-care. We think that our presence at that simcha/fundraiser/birthday party is really necessary. It could be one of our closest friends hosting an event, and we could have a fever or just had a long day at work, and we will still find the energy to get up and get dressed and go. It’s as if we think our closest friend who absolutely needs us there won’t be understanding enough to believe us that we honestly had a good reason for not being able to attend. What’s the one event you should always be pushing yourself to attend despite any and all circumstances? Shiva. The avel will remember your presence even if you are just there for two minutes and may even remember years down the line if you were not.

Recently I heard a vort on Lechu Neranena. In the third line of this mizmor of Kabbalat Shabbat there is a line that leads to a great question. “Ki Kel gadol Adoshem, u’Melech gadol al kol elokim.” The first part of the line is perfectly clear: Hashem is a great God. The second part can be confusing: HE is the ruler of all other gods. Other gods? What other gods? We are Jews and we all agree that we all believe in just one God who is the ruler over everything in our world. This line can be interpreted as it’s not that we believe in other gods, but we ourselves give power to things and other people while knowing that they actually have no power.

What’s the prime example of this? Money. As we find ourselves coming off the Chanukah gift-giving season and as we approach the time off of school in a few weeks, which is now eloquently coined “yeshiva break,” we’re in the midst of this power. From the decadent Chanukah parties that are a far cry from potato latkes and a game of dreidel to some sort of unspoken obligation to be getting on a plane when kids are off from school, it’s as if we have all created a new level of social pressures. By no means am I discouraging anyone from traveling and enjoying time off with family, but if it’s going to create a financial burden that could lead to even more stress, is it really worth it?

The combination of the power we give to money and power we give to other people’s opinions can slide into our minds so subtly, yet the combination can be overbearing and all consuming. Each time I write a piece, I feel like I’m the one who has to apply what I say more than anyone I have met. And maybe that’s the upside of having this platform. By no means am I telling anyone to stay home in the dark all alone and ignore social events and vacation time with family. But understanding the source of how we make decisions can really teach us a lot about ourselves.

On a deeper level, so many times we have convinced ourselves that a certain situation can’t change because it’s just impossible. That idea is the complete antithesis to our belief that Hashem is the ruler of all and has the power to change a situation—and not those fabulous new shoes. Maybe it makes something feel better in the short run, but more likely than not it will not be sustainable. Ironically, we probably don’t give our own self as much power as we should in order to have the ability to make independent choices and trust our gut. And if it’s too hard to do that? U’Melech gadol al kol elokim—and He’s totally got your back.

By Rachel Zamist


Rachel Zamist has lived in the Passaic community for the past 32 years and has watched it grow and transition. She is the beaming mother of Mimi, a student at Rachel’s own alma mater, YBH.

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