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Happy Birthday to Me!

Thursday, 12 December, 2019 - 10:56 pm

Yup, it’s my 38th birthday. While I’m so grateful to the many who sent me heartwarming wishes on December 11th which is my Gregorian/Facebook birthday; I was born on the 15th of Kislev and our family celebrated last night around the dinner table. Birthdays are tricky as they remind us of our fragility and the aging process but it also gives us so much reason for celebration. On my special day, I think of my mother who carried me for nine months in her womb, of my parents who raised me with love through thick and thin, of my siblings who I was lucky to grow up with and for a time it was a family of seven in a two bedroom apartment, and I think of everything that G-d has given me in my life, most especially Chavie and our five beautiful children.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob encounters his brother Esau, a somber reunion after thirty six years of separation. Before they meet up, Jacob is scared and proclaims “Katonti”, telling G-d that he “feels small”, humbled and perhaps unworthy of more blessings and supernatural protection; as he’d already experienced so much kindness in his life and figured he had already cashed in on everything G-d will give him. When a man like Jacob, the premiere patriarch, who epitomized everything that’s good in our world, expresses so much gratitude that it results in a refreshing dose of humility, we can garner a life lesson in “Katonti” for ourselves in the process.

Life isn’t always peachy but the more we embrace “Katonti”, the more we'll be able to breathe-in those close moments with HaShem that will not only make us grateful humans, but guide us to be smaller and less egocentric. When the Alter Rebbe was freed from prison on the 19th of Kislev in 1798, he emphasized “Katonti”, urging his beloved Chassdim to be kind to those Jews who, sadly, informed on him with lies that led to his arrest. He beseeched his students to focus their energies on growing the study of Chassidism and inspire others to follow in its ways. If you meet a Chassid who isn’t grateful and humble, then the lessons of Jacob as illuminated in Chassidic thought, hasn’t permeated their life. Today, almost 221 years since the Alter Rebbe's liberation and 38 years since my mom birthed me at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, I express gratitude to Hashem who has given me life and allowed me to live it fully; I pray He will allow me to share those feelings for decades to come!

Katonti! 

May You guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May You protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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