Last Sunday night through Monday was a big day for G-d and me. It was the 27th of Teves, the anniversary of the day He and my parents brought me into the world. For that brief span of time, I was the most powerful woman in the world. Or should I say in my world, or even more specifically, in my inner world, the world of my soul, which is what G-d infused into that little body of mine on that freezing winter day back in 5716. (Go ahead, figure out how old I am.)
For nearly half of my life, I celebrated my birthday on January 11th. That day usually meant going out for dinner and, in a good year, getting presents. And if I had an urge to indulge myself in a little something “just for me” around that date, I pulled the birthday card and guiltlessly treated myself.
So much for old birthdays. The new way I understand my birthday is that it’s the day G-d chose for me to come into the world as a human being, an earthly body enlivened by a Divine soul. I understand that, like me, everyone who ever lived, lives, or will live is created to fulfill a mission that is unique and essential to G-d’s vast eternal plan for the whole entire universe.
And the G-dly power that drives me to fulfill mine is strongest on my Jewish birthday. (This awareness, I must say, has been way better than any present I ever got on January 11th.)
This year, thank G-d, the timing of my birthday worked out exceedingly well. My husband Zev and I drove to New Jersey for a wedding on Sunday evening, just as my birthday rolled in. Many of the people at the wedding were young adults we’ve known since they were kids; for some unexplainable reason, they have all grown up and now have kids of their own. (I think this experience falls under the heading of nachas and it’s somehow more enjoyable on your birthday.)There was an even added measure of joy at this wedding because of Esther, the bride, who is also a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease.
So, as everyone celebrated, I used my power to give birthday blessings to anyone I knew well enough who wouldn’t think I was being either too friendly or strange. Every blessing pretty much started out the same: “you should have good health in all ways–physical, mental, spiritual, emotional…”
Who knows the power of a Jew’s birthday blessing? I made sure to call my mother and my siblings to give them theirs. And whenever I could, I tried to think good thoughts about people I care about, even my new Facebook friends.
Okay, full disclosure: I ended my blessings by telling everyone they should utilize their “enormous talent” or “strength” or “wonderful gifts” to bring Moshiach now. Because that’s my real birthday wish.
The good news is that there are Jewish scholars among us who say that this is very doable in our time.
So, knowing this, what did I ask from G-d on my day as the most powerful woman in my world? In addition to asking for blessings for revealed good all around, I asked for help with the challenging yet essential mitzvah of ahavas yisrael, the love of another Jew, the mitzvah that is said to be able to actually hasten Moshiach’s arrival.
The reason for this, according to our sages, is that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because Jews were guilty of sinas chinam, a hatred for each other for no reason. The antidote that will hasten the Temple’s rebuilding with the coming of Moshiach is ahavas chinam, a love and concern for another Jew simply because that person is Jewish.
It sounds hard and it is hard. But I know it’s where I need to improve. Because there are still a few people who, well, let’s just say, I want to love more than I do.
I do have to say though that my ability to see the good in others has gotten increasingly easier as I have grown to like myself more. This makes sense according to Chassidus, which teaches us that the things we don’t like in others are actually reflections of our own flaws. Trust me this is a really scary mirror to look into at first, but it offers insight that can be hugely helpful in self-understanding and, with a lot of birthday help from Above, correcting character flaws.
But I’m not getting any younger. I want to succeed in correcting what I need to correct so I can truly appreciate the G-dliness of every Jew.
Will my prayers be answered? I hope so. But I will be even happier if I get my real wish, so that everyone’s prayers will be answered.