Reflections on 20 Years of Marriage

Today is our 20th anniversary. Reflections.

(yes, there have been many celebrations within our family in the last few days and there are more coming up, for which we are so incredibly grateful to Hashem for, but I鈥檓 not gonna let another blessed celebration go by without a little focus and attention. And on that note, pardon any typos as that has not been much sleep lately LOL聽馃檪.)

诪指爪指讗 讗执砖指旨讈讛 诪指爪指讗 讟讜止讘 讜址讬指旨驻侄拽 专指爪讜止谉 诪值讬职讛讜指讛.

Proverbs 18:22

Loose translation: One who finds a woman finds good and he will produce (good) will from G-d.

But how do you know if you found a good woman? On a certain level it is a Soul connection… that you can feel immediately.

Another good test is to see if it stands the test of time. 20 years is a pretty darn good start. Though I am gunning for another 80 at least….

Loving this roller coaster ride with you…

Here are 20 musings on 20 years…

1. Happiness is a journey, not always a destination. Let鈥檚 keep on journeying together.
2. What doesn鈥檛 kill you, makes you stronger is actually a true statement.
3. Personal independent growth, helps a marriage grow stronger.
4. As long as there is respect, you can get through anything.
5. Kids are to a marriage what harmony is to music. Sometimes the music is off key, sometimes the harmony is聽馃檪.
6. Vacationing together is glue for a marriage.
7. Vacationing not together, with friends, is too.
8. This may be old fashioned but she still hasn鈥檛 taken out the garbage in 20 years.
9. 鈥淭hings鈥 are great, 鈥渆xperiences鈥 can be greater. Both is the best.
10. Pushing each other to be our best selves is working.
11. If you are not growing, you are receding.
12. Laughter, laughter and more laughter, balm for the soul.
13. When you love the person you are with, a pimple looks like a dimple.
14. A happy loving marriage is the best gift you can give your children.
15. Pretty much everything in life is unreliable, your marriage shouldn鈥檛 be.
16. Feeling heard is as important as being right.
17. 鈥淚 am not feeling heard鈥, is better than why aren鈥檛 you listening to me?
18. If you cannot quite muster up the words 鈥淚 am sorry,鈥 鈥淔air enough鈥 is a pretty decent second best…
19. In the beginning we talked about people. Later about thing, now we are talking about ideas. This is best.
20. i鈥檓 leaving this one blank opening space for others to share theirs….

Blog 47/52 Photo Credits (my Shvigger)

A Real Kodak Moment

When my father got remarried my amazing stepmother, my Ema, he often shares – much to Raizel鈥檚 chagrin – that in the beginning he would pull out one child at a time from a closet, spaced out by a week, so she wouldn鈥檛 be shocked at having married a man with 11 children.

While one can debate the depth of the humor, the point is certain worth exploration. In China they limit the amount of births allowed due to concern of over population and the ability to sustain the masses.

Many wonder about the ability to properly tend to the needs of so many children. In fairness, there are certainly times when the burden of the 鈥渟queaky wheel child鈥 may take some of a parents energy for the rest of the brood.

Having said this, I like to tell people, with a fair measure of sincerity, that love is like a flame of a candle, sharing it with others doesn鈥檛 take away from the original candle. You can light hundreds of other candles without diminishing the original candle at all.

This is not true quantitatively, as there are a finite number of hours in a day, however, qualitatively, the depth of the love is limitless. Just when you think you have reached your max, your find new reservoirs of love for another child.

This is why, when I attended the wedding of my niece this past week, I was most moved by a short moment after the Chuppa, and before the reception, that while sweet to most of the onlookers, was particularly meaningful to me a Chabadnik in the burbs trying to just keep up with chaos of life and a family with seven children.

The memo went out, 鈥渆veryone, family picture NOW in the hallway outside the ballroom, get there now!鈥 Of course I dutifully showed up, but was caught off guard at the size and scope and diversity of the massive group of people jockeying for position in the picture. Little kids in front, adults sitting, teenagers in the back. Oh, and short, fat, balding adults (me), stand with the teenagers.

My in-laws, who are relatively young, sitting pridefully like a king and queen, sitting in the center and can say with incredible pride, look at what we have made. If they did nothing else in their lifetime, this would be worthy of a top shelf spot in paradise.

A young man from Brooklyn, and young lady from Kfar Chabad, a small village in Israel, managed to create a veritable army of successful people with potential that is endless in under a generation.

Not even three decades later, hundreds of children and grandchildren following in their footsteps, is a naches that is brag worthy and a real feather in their cap.
What makes this notable is that it is just a short time after the holocaust where much of both of their families were decimated by the Nazi鈥檚, may their names be blotted out forever.

What makes even more notable is that this is happening in the snowflake generation where the me me me movement is at its strongest (in history?) and yet, there is a love, a bond and unity that replaces the I with the we at least most of the time.

Making life is easy, giving life is harder. Giving a life of values, meaning and purpose is harder yet. Yet this is what they did. This is what it means to have a large family. This is why we do it. This is what makes it worth it all!

Sure, we are no different than others in our squabbles and other idiosyncrasies. We have our differences both with one another and in our individual relationships with Gd. We journey uniquely, but we journey purposefully. In that we are all the same.

A large family is a lot . A lot of work, time, exhaustion, expense and the list goes on, and on, and on. But if I ever doubted its worth, that snapshot (or Kodak moment for those who remember) the other night put the value of it all into crystal clear focus.

Mazal Tov Shver and Shvigger. Look at what you did? You can be really proud.

Lechayim! Onto the next Simcha!

Blog 46/52 Photo Credit Mushka Morozow

Excuse me sir, are you Jewish

鈥淓xcuse me sir, are you Jewish?鈥

鈥淣o thank you, I already ate lunch.鈥

***

***

鈥淓xcuse me ma鈥檃m, are you Jewish?鈥

鈥淓xcuse me ma鈥檃m, are you Jewish?鈥濃淣o, sorry, I am gender neutral.鈥

***
鈥淓xcuse me sir, would you like to put on Tefillin?鈥

鈥淲hat is that?鈥

鈥淧hylacteries鈥

鈥淥h鈥 (confused look crossing individuals face)… 鈥渦m, what are Phylacteries?鈥

***

It began on the streets of downtown LA, in the fashion district, with the vast majority of people on our 鈥渞oute鈥 being Persian clothing designers. With their accented English they were happy to see us, we were the Yeshiva boys.

Later it continued on the streets of France, Champs Elysees in Paris to be more specific. My partner Berel L, who was a French Yeshiva student did the talking and I did the wrapping. This was my second extended exposure to this concept.

It continued still in New York, though there things had progressed, we were no longer just doing the basics, the whole program had graduated. Here things were seriously organized. The streets of Manhattan, an organized grid, not like the sloppy city planning of my current location of Boston, oh no, New York had a 鈥渟ystem.鈥

Each Street and each Avenue had their set of 鈥渂ochurim鈥 who were in charge of their couple blocks (or even buildings as the place was so densely Jewishly populated) that was under their care.

Now, we even had colorful paper handouts to give along with out Tefillin laying and Shabbat Candle packets for the women. The concept I am describing was and is one of the signature achievements the Rebbe of Righteous memory, it was called by the loose description- Mivzoyim.

Literally, the word Mivtzoyim refers to the 10 Mitzvah Campaigns that the Rebbe introduced at various times, such as the Tefillin Campaign, a prominent one, started by the 6 day war. The Rebbe posited that his adherents go 鈥渙ut鈥 into the world to do this mitzvah with every Jewish man as the spiritual benefit would not only benefit the person putting on the Tefillin, keeping them safe, but would bring that good energy into the world making the world safer. Other Mitzvah鈥檚 like Mezuzah, Shabbat Candles, and having a house full of Jewish books were among the popular Mitzvah Campaigns. For all 10 click here https://www.chabad.org/鈥/jewi鈥/10-Point-Mitzvah-Campaign.htm

The colloquial term, Mivtzoyim had a whole other meaning! It wasn鈥檛 just a reference to the the many campaigns of the Rebbe but it was a thing you did, and specifically on Fridays.

There were 9 other Mivtzoyim but on our Friday 鈥渞outes鈥 we focused on three primarily.

Putting on Tefilin with the men, giving a Shabbat Candle Packet to the women, and encourage both men and women to put a coin (at least) in the tzedaka box. Later we would give them some prepared pamphlet for our 鈥渃ustomers鈥 to read, usually a short word of Torah wisdom, a story, other little Jewish factoid that made for interesting reading material.

Later in 1988, that pretty little pamphlet got the name LeChaYim. An acronym word, that spelled (in Hebrew) 鈥淔or the Memory of Chaya Mushka (Schneerson) the Rebbe鈥檚 late wife.

A third and less discussed component was the impact it had on the Bochur. The Yeshiva students who went out to do the mivtzoyim. The 鈥渕e鈥 in this case. While an extrovert at least on the surface (pun intended) I was a pretty shy young man. Oh, sure, within my own circle of friends I was loud and opinionated, but ask me to go over to random stranger and ask for any basic information, and I would have rathered not.

Ask me to go over to a complete random stranger on the street and ask them a) if they are Jewish. If I got a positive reply, ask them if b) they鈥檇 like to put on the Tefillin?!! That really was out of my comfort zone. And if and when they did answer to the affirmative to both, their question in return would be 鈥渨here do you want to put them on? Right here in the street?鈥 To which I鈥檇 reply, 鈥淵es! Right here on the street,鈥 鈥榠n the subway station,鈥 鈥榦n the train鈥欌 or wherever we were at that particular moment. (Nervous chuckle from both of us)

It was super awkward to say the least but it really did thicken the social skin. Now, don鈥檛 think twice asking that question. Or many other uncomfortable questions for that matter. That school of hard knocks, or strange or downright obnoxious responses actually did me a great service in my personal and social development for life.

Those thousands of micro-experiences helped fashion many a young shy, awkward child into a confident adults who have the courage to ask tough questions, stand up for their convictions, better handle obnoxious people and comments, and in general have thicker skin to handle the many (far larger) disappointments of life.

I don鈥檛 think that this was the primary goal of the Mivtzoyim campaign, but I do think this is and was one of the many many excellent unintended consequences of many of the Rebbe鈥檚 world changing ideas and innovations.

***

I was recently contacted by the editor of the Lechaim Magazine asking seeking permission to reprint an article they found on my website. In her email she boasted that the magazine now has a weekly printing of nearly 35,000 copies just in the NY Metro Area, Toronto and Montreal. This didn鈥檛 include the printings that go on in LA, Paris, Manchester, London, Sydney and many other places across the world where they are doing Mivtzoyim.

Of course I said yes, and was humbled to have this journey of personal fulfillment come full circle. Where now, I was no longer just going on Mivtzoyim, now everyone going on Mivtzoyim would take a piece of me with them, at least for this one week.

Excusez-moi monsieur, voulez-vous mettre le Tefillin? Excuse me sir, would you like to put on the Tefillin?

Photo Credit Yanky Ascher

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