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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ripple Effect: Smart Place

I had to film something for a promotional video with my beloved Rabbi at his office.

After we filmed, I stayed and taught my Zoom class from there.

My students immediately noticed that I was in a different space.

Mind you, not one person noticed that I cut my hair, but they saw the books behind me, and they got the vibe.

“Ms., where are you? You are in a smart place!” one said.

To me, the office I was sitting in was more like a womb than a smart space. 

Yes, there are lots of books, books about ethics and books about Judaism. There is also an incredible amount of love in that space. 

There are photos, too, including one of the rabbi’s stunning wife. I love her and deeply admire their beautiful relationship. There is a picture of my cherished Rabbi with important political figures. Then there are quotes, quotes that to me are the essence of this special, wonderful man who, for many different reasons, has become such an important person in my life.

“Caring for people is our only business.” 

“Love peace and act peacefully. Love people and draw them close to the Torah.” (Torah is the Old Testament.)

“What you say matters. What you do matters. Who you are matters.”

Every corner of this office is filled with intention, filled with love. And the kicker? In the window, there is this beautiful glass case and inside it is an old special Torah that survived the Holocaust.

This office is so much more than a smart space. 

This office is a loving space. This office is a safe space.
This office is filled with a spirit of generosity and kindness.

When I open my computer, I don’t think about any of that.

I am just worried about getting online and making sure that I have the password.

So many times, we are so busy with one thing, we forget to pay attention to the other more significant thing. After my class, my next meeting was with someone who knows my Rabbi and who was tickled pink to see his office. I made a point of showing her the Torah in the window, because she understood the significance of it. 

When I left the office, I could not figure out how to leave the parking lot. I was in a hurry and was driving around for a bit, which made me laugh at myself when I finally got out.

 

On the way home I was thinking about smart spaces, safe spaces, loving spaces, generosity filled spaces. 

We are all confined to limited spaces these days. 

What is filling your space? Books? People? Feelings? 

Things you need to get rid of?

“Ms, where are you at?” they asked me. “What is that smart space?”

I explained. They were curious about my Rabbi. I told them that he is my colleague, my friend, and mentor. I shared with them that he is my special person. I told them that whatever space you’re in, make sure you have a special person. That is really the most important thing you should have in any space: a good person.

“Girl, I’d be happy to fill my space with fancy things. Fuck people.”

We all laugh.

I then ask them to share something they are looking forward to. One shares that her son is getting out of jail after four years. She is excited and worried. 

She is happy that she has a house and he has a place to come to. Her house is small. He will be on a couch or maybe share a room with her younger son, but he has a place to come home to. 

She tells us that she hasn’t seen him in four years, because she herself is on parole and could not visit him. She tells us that she doesn’t know him and that she worries. She tells us that she’s excited, and she tells us that she wants to fill her space with anything and everything he needs.

“Now, that is creating a smart space,” I say.

One of my other students who was recently released from jail chimes in. 

“You need to be patient. You need to be so incredibly patient. It’s hard coming out. Things that you were used to, your reactions that you have on the inside, are so different on the outside. Understand that he’s forgotten. Understand that he will make big mistakes. Understand that you need to make space for him to be. Be the smart one,” he says.

“Create a smart space, not the fancy book kind like where Ms. is sitting. Make a space where you give him space,” someone adds.

“Yeah,” she says. “Thank you.”

My kind Rabbi gave me his space, a smart, warm, welcoming space. I didn’t even think about it. He said, “Feel at home,” and then he went home.

In my house, my children are each in their own room every day in the space they created to learn in and be on Zoom. I hope these are smart spaces.

More and more, I am staying home and not going to my office that, luckily for me, is still open. The Advot Project’s office is a great space, but my kids are home. I want to be near them to make sure our space is working for them to be in and to learn.

“Ms.,” she tells us, “I am excited and a little afraid. It is hard to create space.”

“It is, but you are going to be fine,” I say.
“Be yourself in your space and it will be filled with goodness and love, just like where I am sitting right now. It is going to be hard, but you are going to be fine.” 

I so wish I could give her a hug.

When the Zoom session is over, I look around and realize how much the office I am in is a reflection of the person it belongs to.

This week is the Jewish New Year.
May all our spaces be filled with love and kindness. May we be inspired by smart places.  May our hearts be forgiving, and may the New Year bring everything we wish for — and a few surprises that we could have never imagined! 

I am taking a break for the next month from The Ripple Effect.

I will be back in October.

Please be the ripple of good. 

Pay attention. Give attention. 

Know that you are loved.

We all are.

A happy, happy, sweet, joy-filled new year.

Shana Tova.

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