Intuitive Living

When Hashem’s Timeline Doesn’t Match Yours

“How wonderous are your deeds, Hashem.
All of them are done with wisdom.
The heavens tell of your glory.
And the earth is filled with your kindness.” -Tehillim
Art by Yochana Chavah Sandler

There are certain lessons that are particularly difficult to learn. One of the hardest ones for me is acceptance when Hashem’s timeline is different (sometimes dramatically different) than my own.

Example: I wanted my chosen career set by this age, the love of my life by that age, and my summer home in Israel by another age…and these important deadlines have passed.

Admittedly, I’m a big dreamer. Always have been. But never a magical thinker—I’ve also always been a fiercely hard worker (Thanks, Dad!), throwing myself toward my goals wholeheartedly. So, when that hard work doesn’t pay off in the way that I want, or in a way I can see at all, uncertainty rears its ugly head. It challenges my core belief system that hard work must pay off. Right?

Stepping back, I know it does pay off…however, not necessarily in the way I expect. That’s the rub. It will pay off, but 5 years later. It will pay off as I use those skills in an entirely different profession. But that effort and dedication will pay off. You just don’t know how or when. And that. Really. Sucks.

Emunah or faith means believing in what you can’t see. It means believing in what you just somehow know, sometimes in spite of physical evidence that suggests otherwise. Emunah is a choice. There is no challenge to believe when the proof can be written before you. The leap happens when you believe despite what is written before you.

However frustrating, confusing or maddening, the reality is that we don’t want a Gd whose every step we understand, who we can out-think. What good is that?

Moments of doubt build character. Who are you really? Show yourself. A visionary, an upstander, one who is true to his values come what may? Then, what will you do now? Shrink and choose the easy route because the fear is too intense? Or breathe and walk into the unknown remembering, “In the end, it’s all good. And if it’s not good, it’s not the end.”

“.בסוף~הכל טוב
.ואם זה לא טוב~זה לא הסוף”
“In the end it’s all good.
And if it’s not good, it’s not the end.”

At the crux of my conviction lays the idea that Hashem is good, and that the circumstances aren’t just for the good, but are actually for the best. This knowledge soothes me in the face of challengers like time.

Time scares me. I never have enough of it. It races ahead, I always want more, and I measure myself ruthlessly against it. But, underneath my moments of inner pandemonium, I do know it’s working. I do know that ha-kol b’seder. (Literally: it’s all in order.)

I don’t get to see the big picture in real time. That’s the bad news and the good news for the future is determined in the very moment I decide whether to quit, or persist with the emuna/faith that it’s all happening in the most harmonious way for everyone involved.

Today was a day where I didn’t understand Hashem’s process or timeline. Yet despite my frustration and impatience, I suspect I will one day look back and say, “Thank Gd.”

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On deck: Beer and Bugs

bugs_beer_joyish_shabbatWhen her husband’s obligations demanded he miss dinner, my friend took the opportunity to throw a ladies night Shabbat.

The potluck plan came together via text message. I took on salad, ladybug two claimed dessert, and ladybug three offered wine. “Get whatever wine you want, I plan to have beer myself,” my friend said.

Shabbat keeps my girlfriends together in many ways. We’ve been friends for years and have coined ourselves “The Ladybugs.” Over time, we’ve gotten busier and busier. I expect that will continue. But no matter what, Shabbat arrives every week. Time to stop, eat and connect.

Because we’ve known each other for so long, anything goes. Some Shabbats are froufrou, Michelin-aspiring, 4-course meals. Others, like this one, will be part standing, part sitting on the couch, and part plopped on the floor, surrounded by my friend’s kids and their toys.

Perfection isn’t the point. Perfection misses the point. Shabbat is for connecting over a table or over a beer. It gives us a chance to stop striving for 24 hours, to look around and recognize, that even if it’s not perfect, it’s good. It’s a snapshot of now, and this now will change. It’s a reminder that whatever’s going on today should be savored and sipped slowly.

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7 Tips that Add Hours to your Day

time-travel2-photo-courtesy-of-junussyndicate-on-deviantARTTwo weeks ago, I launched Joyish. Creative, fun and mentally stimulating, I’m loving it…but, honestly, I’m also sleep deprived.

By day, I’m part of corporate America. I live in my office from 8:30 AM—6PM. And although it’s a really fab office with a killer view, it’s only after my 9-10 hour workday that I’m able to turn my attention to my infantile passion project. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but my body is kinda like, “Honey, baby, darling, sweetheart, we liked that whole 7 hours of sleep thing…what are you doing to me?”

Organizing life to make time for creativity, family, friends and fitness requires a certain finesse, one that I’m far from mastering. But already, I’ve identified a few practices that together literally add hours to my day:

  1. Take at least 5 minutes to connect to Hashem daily, ideally first thing in the morning. Amazing what a few minutes can do. This time enables me to walk into the day centered. I more nimbly adapt to challenges. I feel more balanced and receptive. Rather than swim upstream, muscling everything myself, I create space for Hashem’s presence in everything I do.
  2. The 1 minute rule. If you can do it in less than 1 minute, do it now. In the morning, this might show up as making my bed and putting clothes away. Before leaving work, it could be organizing my desk and cleaning my coffee mug. I grabbed this tip from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and I share it because it works! Tell yourself, “in 1 minute this could be done!” It’s a pretty compelling argument. Plus, I find that the more organized my environment is, the more organized my thinking is, so this tip that reminds me to “clean as I go” makes a big difference.
  3. The To-Do List. Put it on paper and get your arms around it. I find putting pen to paper helps commit tasks to memory better than digital lists, but to each his own. I create a new list daily which keeps my goals in front of me, helps me prioritize, and prevents things from falling through the cracks. Once I see it laid out, I can schedule it, and cross it off.
  4. DVR it. I have my shows, like we all do. I’m so happy “Once Upon a Time” is back, and I can’t wait for “Homeland” to start again; I love “Shark Tank” and my guilty pleasure is “Say Yes to the Dress.” But, I record them and reserve them for the weekends. This way they’re a treat instead of a distraction. I have more time for friends and accomplish waaaay more with the TV off.
  5. Limit Social Media. Now, I can only dream here because my job requires I monitor social media throughout the day. But on my days off, I relish the escape from the infinite feed. Sure, it’s fun to see what friends are doing, but only for about 20 minutes, all platforms combined. After that, social media just becomes a time sucker that’s probably causing you to feel unduly crappy because your friends’ projected lives seem better than your actual one.
  6. Become a Master Multi-Tasker. If you can do more than one thing at a time—without diluting the quality of either—do it. Examples of this include driving and making phone calls, working out while watching TV, or prepping healthy food for the week while doing laundry. In my case, multitasking would not include something like writing emails while on a conference call. Why? Because one distracts me from the other, and the quality of both suffer. So, this tip requires some self-awareness and discretion. No one should feel ignored thanks to your “efficiency.”
  7. Discover what fills you up. What makes you feel happy? Is it gardening, soccer or a trip to the beach? Maybe it’s time with friends or a little pampering. Whatever it is, make it a priority. Filling yourself up ensures you have enough to give to others. Running on empty for an early burnout serves no one. Breathe. Take a walk. Remember there’s a great big world to enjoy beyond your computer screen and to-do list.

Striving and filling your life with friends and meaningful pursuits can be tiring in the moment, but ultimately, it’s energy generating. After all, what else would you be doing? Even “Homeland” can wait.

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5 Tips for Guilt-Free Shabbat Dining

On Shabbat and most Jewish holidays, we’re encouraged to eat, drink and celebrate. But weekly feasts can all-too-easily slip into overeating, causing guilt, physical discomfort, and post-meal narcolepsy.

Kidding aside, this scenario hits close to home. After working in the entertainment industry for many years, I internalized the infamously impossible beauty standards that business demands. The result: while trying to eat as little as possible, I drank the Kool-Aid in large gulps.

At a certain point, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I gave up dieting and embraced intuitive eating, slowly learning to listen to and trust my body’s hunger and satiety cues.


Here are a few strategies I’ve developed over the years that allow me to participate in and enjoy holidays, without killjoy food drama.

  1. ­­­­­­­­Scope and pacing. How many times have I filled up on the first course, not realizing three more were coming? Ask your host what’s being served. Knowing the entire menu in advance will allow you to make informed choices. If you know her famous noodle kugel awaits, you might opt against a second helping of gefilte fish.
  2. Take one plate of whatever you want. I love trying new foods and usually want to taste everything. I recognize though that however extensive the food spread, my body only physically needs one plate of food. So, I fill my one plate with whatever I want and grant myself permission to enjoy. In this way, I get to sample and participate, while enforcing a gentle boundary that protects me from overdoing it.
  3. Only eat what you love. At my grandparents’ house growing up, my brother and I would put our plates on our heads after finishing all of our food. Ta da! Albeit cute, I’ve now excused myself from the “clean your plate” club. These days, I eat food that my body and I both love. I used to express appreciation to my hosts by eating more, even if I found the food mediocre. Now, rather than stuff myself to accomplish this, I use my words to say thank you.
  4. People are the point. Shabbat allows us to stop and connect with Hashem and each other. That’s the whole idea. But, measuring and monitoring, and focusing on food kept me in my head and removed from the moment. Let food play a supporting role in the Shabbat scene and instead, prioritize people.
  5. Ask for leftovers. Sometimes, you get a dish that’s particularly delish. When that happens, the inclination is to take more—seconds (and thirds!) The logic goes, “Who knows when I’ll have this awesome concoction again? I better eat it all while I can.” Here’s the thing, if you’re at a Jewish function especially, your host likely made too much, and she’s stressing about what to do with the leftovers. Ease her mind and yours by asking to take some home with you for later. Not only will you compliment your host’s cooking, you’ll spare yourself the impulse to overeat, knowing you can have more once you’re hungry again.

These tenets serve me in many food-oriented scenarios. Not only do they reduce inner dissonance and stress, they provide flexible guidelines that support healthy relationships with others and, most importantly, yourself.

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Now Connecting: Tevye-Style

Sunrise, Sunset in two of my favorite places.
(Left, at my home. Right, in Tel Aviv, Israel.)

Every morning, I have a pow-wow with Hashem. We talk about anything, it’s all fair game. We’re close. I’m pretty sure my picture is on His fridge.

The idea of talking to Hashem in your own words, a Jewish practice known as hitbodedut (HEET-boh-deh-doot) first came across my path via the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Growing up, my parents took my brother and I to New York just about every year for a Broadway theater binge: 5 shows in 4 days. We saw Fiddler starring Topol as Tevye during one of these trips. I was 10 years old and the idea made sense to me.

Throughout the show, the character Tevye candidly converses with Hashem. He pours his heart out, questioning, praying, debating and wishing aloud, in his own words. A two-way street, He asks Hashem questions and listens for answers.

Tevye’s hitbodedut plays a central role in the show because it’s so quintessentially Jewish. One of the few religions in which man engages directly with Gd without an intermediary, Jews have nourished deep, personal, one-on-one relationships with Hashem for thousands of years.

You can see where this is going. I too chat with Hashem regularly, Tevye style, both during my morning connection and throughout the day, formally and informally, about matters big and small.

My hitbodedut shows up in different ways. Some days, I talk aloud (though, usually in a whisper). Other times, I speak silently in my head, the practice taking on a meditative quality. When my thoughts insist on wandering, I write in my journal, often posing questions, and asking Him to answer me through my pen.

Creating time and space for Hashem invites the infinite into the limited. It grants access to what was, what is and what will be. I’m regularly amazed at the insights and answers I receive. The line is always open.

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5 Ways to Let your Inner Queen Reign

Keep Calm and Esther On _ Joyish_Let queen reign_ Lara Dvora_ Berman_PurimYou rule. You know you do. But you don’t always feel that way. I get it—I’m talking to myself as I talk to you. Lucky for us, we’re in good company. Queen Esther herself didn’t feel like she ruled all of the time either.

Beautiful, sweet and ferociously intelligent (I know so many women who fit this description), her husband’s advisor Haman was dangerously close to enacting a plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Secretly a Jew herself, Esther was perfectly positioned to speak up and save her people! If she failed however, she faced certain death.

Esther’s potential to do great, important things shone to everyone around her. But internally, she felt doubtful and afraid. Fortunately, her dear Uncle Mordechai believed in her, and urged her to trust her abilities.

“Listen, you’ve got this! ” Uncle Mordi said, without a trace of guilt or coercion. “But, if you don’t do anything…well, the Jews will survive some other way.”*

We know what happens next: Esther faces her fears, heroically rises to fulfill her destiny, and Haman hangs on the very gallows he built for the Jews.

Esther was a queen, a hero and a human.

5 Ways to Let Your Inner Queen Reign:

  1. Trust Yourself. The root of the word “Esther” relates to the Hebrew word “hester,” which means “hidden.” Just because you haven’t done it before, doesn’t mean you can’t. I have doubts, you have doubts, every leader has doubts. So what? If your inner voice says, “yes,” if it nags and persists, listen. This is your hidden potential seeking to be revealed.
  2. Believe. I bet each of us has an “Uncle Mordi” in our life, someone who truly sees us. They believe in us and push us, but we dismiss them. Don’t they have to say those things? Well, no, they don’t. And actually, they can see what we can’t sometimes. Try believing them.
  3. Stand up for what you believe. Queens exercise their spines. They’re passionate and willingly stand for truth, even when it’s unpopular. That’s one reason they make and change history.
  4. Act Now. Do it now, whatever it is, because if you don’t, someone else will. Rather than cause panic (well maybe a little panic), I see Mordechai’s message to Esther as humbling and motivational. The world isn’t waiting for our grand arrival, but that doesn’t change the fact that we each have a unique role, a unique contribution to make right now. Someone else could do it, but not like you.
  5. Wear a Crown, Really!…or at least a sparkly headband. Socially acceptable forms of dress up—like headbands—add fun and playfulness. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m royalty every time I wear one. But I do feel fancier, and it can cue some queenly consciousness each time I catch sight of it in a mirror or window.

Rule, reign, rock that crown. You got this.


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