This time last year, I remember attending services, looking out the window and thanking God for all the beauty in my life.
I was then, and continue to be, grateful for my health and all the wonderful blessings in my life.
When I originally spoke with Cantor Bosky about speaking and sharing my Israel experience, I thought I would talk about all the beautiful places I visited.
In July, I had a magical experience – an unexpected trip to Israel as part of the Momentum Women’s Trip Sponsored by Jewish Women’s Renaissance Program.
It was always a dream that someday I would visit Israel. In my heart, I had no idea if that dream would ever truly become a reality. But it did, when I least expected and needed it the most.
It was not a “vacation”. It was a life-changing experience. One that I hope you all get to understand if you so desire.
Drake, a well-known Grammy award-winning entertainer, has a song called “God’s Plan.”
My trip to Israel was God’s plan.
I know it.
I was meant to go to Israel, to remind me to be open to love and to continue to allow the magic in my life.
I spent nine days in Israel traveling with six other women from this area, and not knowing anyone before the trip. Each person that was part of the group was unique and special in their own way.
I left on a journey to Israel with six strangers and came home with six soul sisters.
We bonded over our love of our religion, our culture and our Israel. Yes, our Israel. Yours, mine, everyone’s.
Going to Israel and not knowing anyone was such an exciting adventure and yet included a lot of the unknown.
The day we went to Masada, it was 115 degrees. The tour guides kept saying, “Drink your water. Drink water. We do not want anyone to get dehydrated.” I am a really good listener (and rule follower), so I did what they told me to do and I drank a lot of water, I mean a lot.
Now, here I was on top of Masada, in the middle of the desert, and I had to go to the bathroom.
I remember thinking, there has to be a bathroom somewhere around here. I walked up to a guide who tried to explain to me where it was.
Now, it was 115 degrees, I was sweating, my clothes were sticking to me and I really had to go to the bathroom. I am thinking to myself – what if I get lost and cannot find my way back? I went back and joined the group and told myself I can wait.
As time went on, I really had to find the bathroom. Then I turned to one of the ladies in the group with me. She was on my bus and I had never really spoken to her. I said, “I am going to try to find the bathroom, wish me luck.”
As I walked away, she came running up to me and said, “Wait, I will help you find it and go with you.”
She walked next to me. We found the bathroom and she waited outside for me. We walked back. I thanked her for going with me and she said, “I got the feeling you really didn’t want to go alone.”
I will never forget that moment: I never said I didn’t want to go alone. It was not what I said, it was what I didn’t say, and that she showed me kindness.
My message from my restroom story is to pay attention to what people don’t say and show kindness to everyone because you never know what they are going through. I was high on top of Masada, with women from all over the world and one decided to show me a random act kindness.
At the end of our tour of Masada, the tour guide ended with this, he asked us to take 15 minutes a day to stop and reflect about how we can contribute and make our life better.
15 minutes a day – think about it, it is not that it’s a lot of time at all, each day to think, be reflective – how can we make our life better?
When I was in Israel it was all about the present, the now, today. I lived in the moment. I was present in the moment. I did not want to miss a second of my trip.
Yes, we toured Tzfat, we walked on top of Masada, we floated in the Dead Sea, we went to Bar Mitzvah Day at the Wall. It was not the big things that made this trip magical – it was the feeling, it was the energy, the people, and it was the love felt between all of us.
We were all Jews celebrating being together, reconnecting to our Jewish heritage.
It did and does not matter if we are Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, whatever – we are all Jewish.
The trip had reminders and lessons every day.
One day on the bus, we were traveling to Jerusalem and some of the women were quiet, while others were being loud and chatty.
I am often the loud and chatty one but for some reason today, I was enjoying the bus ride and taking in the view.
There was a women sitting in front of me who was very loud, and I mean loud, and she kept trying to have a conversation with me. I spoke to her, I was not rude, but the bubble over my head was saying, “OMG, please, please let me just look out of the window.” In my mind, I made a decision about this person – I was like, OMG she is so over the top.
Then, a few days later, I found myself stuck in an elevator with strangers. Not one person from my group except that woman from the bus – the women who I labeled in my mind as so over the top.
As other women began to get nervous, and some were scared, I watch the lady from the bus start to tell them a story, she tried to distract them. She told a white lie. When the women asked if the air conditioner was working in the elevator, she said yes to help make the women calm down. Let me tell you there was no air.
We were stuck for probably 15 to 20 minutes, but it was during this period of time that my opinion changed and I thought to myself, do not be so quick to judge based on one interaction.
Yes, maybe she was being over the top on the bus that day, but she was also being kind and calming at a time that others needed her. Maybe, I was too quick to pass judgement. I needed a reminder.
The trip was filled with reminders about the beauty of kindness found within people and the importance of growth.
Judaism is a religion of growth.
What areas do you want to grow in?
What are your personal goals this year?
Maybe you want to look at life differently, with fresh eyes that are open to seeing the beauty in people.
Maybe you want to attend Shabbat services once a month, maybe you want to disconnect from your cell phone for one hour a day, whatever it is, ask yourself what does my soul need?
Be open to filling your soul with love and you will find and feel the magic.
I hope this year inspires you to look for the magic in your life.
To look past the person with the loud voice or to listen for the unspoken message.
Find the magic in your everyday life because God does have a plan.
We all have choices to make, every day, every hour, every minute, about how we want to look at life.
Look for the good and you will see the good!
This year let’s strive to live in the present like I did when I was in Israel, so we do not miss out on the magical moments.
Continue to work and grow to be the best version of you.
The teacher in me is always challenging my students. So today, I challenge you to look for the good and I promise, you will see the good.
This year let’s live in gratitude.
Can you write down 50 things you are grateful for? Hang that list somewhere where you can read it every day, to remind yourself just how blessed you are and to live in the magic.
Let’s all grow together and remember that we are all family. We are all connected.
Finding beauty and magic in everyday life is necessary and possible.
Remember to love yourself, be grateful, and be open to the magic.
Magic happens every day – it is there, I promise you, if you don’t see it, try to look a little harder.
Pictured here on the day of my speech with my dear soul sister Kim Strauss Levin from my Israel trip! Thank you for coming to support me!