At first, she put the constant tiredness and irritability
down to stress and worry. Baby had been ill on and off all
winter. Her job as an assistant at the local nursery was an
additional strain, and she felt it was all too much for her.
Maybe it was `mono' or C.F.S. (chronic fatigue syndrome), but
nothing showed up on the blood test.
She began to be impatient with the children, hustled them
into bed without the erstwhile bedtime story. Said
Shema with them hurriedly and with a perfunctory kiss
to each of them, breathed a sigh of relief. Her heart sank,
though, when she saw the state of her house each night, with
clothes strewn all over the place.
There was advice aplenty from well meaning friends and
neighbors. Most did not appeal to her. But she did decide to
get up for early morning calisthenics.
"Breathe deeply," encouraged the voice on the tape. "Feel
your toes, your fingers, straighten your back, loosen your
shoulders..." As yet, it hadn't made any difference to her,
but these exercises were meant to invigorate and rejuvenate,
so there must be something in it. But any slight feelings of
animation she might have felt were quickly dissipated by the
pressure awaiting her. A button was off Yael's blouse;
Moishie had a hole in his sock. She switched off the tape.
The smooth voice irritated her. Naomi was intelligent enough
to realize that she was on a downward spiral. She had to find
a way out.
THE DOCTRINE WHICH HAS PROVED ITSELF
Colorful posters were pasted prominently in shops and on
notice boards so that you couldn't miss them. "This is
your opportunity. Self awareness, developing your
personality, education with a smile. You can master this
creed in one evening and change your entire life."
One evening? Naomi felt a spark of hope. She had heard of a
series of lectures and talks; she had heard of support
groups, a long complicated process. Anyway, leaving the
house meant planning and organization, and the very thought
made her feel ill. But one night? Perhaps this is really
an opportunity for me, thought Naomi, studying the ad.
The crowd of women who squeezed into the lecture hall
surprised even the two organizers who stood at the door
handing out flyers. The pile of money for the entrance fee
grew steadily larger, whereas the papers were almost all
gone. Naomi met many women she knew, from all walks of life,
some of whom half apologized for being there, as if they were
above such things. She sat down and studied the attractive
prospectus in her hand.
The headline "Morning Dew" was followed by various subtitles.
"At this meeting, we are going to study and apply:
* Optimistic awakening * Affirming your personal competence *
Hope and its effect on the present * Managing on a limited
budget * The key to self sacrifice -- Love * Understanding
our purpose in life * Song -- how it influences our lives
Naomi glanced at her watch. It would need several hours to
cover even half of what was promised in the brochure. Women
sitting near her seemed to have similar doubts. "It all
sounds so marvelous till you get home. But there, things are
completely different and the battle is over almost before it
has begun," muttered one woman.
"The truth," voiced another one, "is that the topics are very
convincing, but will it make any difference in our lives?"
As the loudspeaker came to life, the babble subsided. A
pleasant looking, middle-aged woman stood on the stage. She
did not look quite like a professional qualified to discuss
all the topics in the brochure.
"Good evening, ladies," she began. "I want to begin with the
story which lies behind my doctrine in life." When they heard
the word `story,' the women relaxed and sat back in their
"I see your expectant faces and I can really identify with
you," she continued. "I searched, too. Oh, how I searched. I
looked for quality of life. I wanted to become a better,
calmer person, cheerful and patient. My quest turned into an
obsession. Lectures, workshops, nature foods, swimming,
aerobics, brisk walking each night. I tried them all. I am
convinced that my theory will be a significant shortcut for
all of you, and for myself." The audience nodded or murmured
"First of all," she proceeded, "I must enlarge on the subject
matter a little." The lecturer began to draw a magnificent
word picture of how to develop optimism. "Just look at the
multitude of wonderful things around us, even if you're
awaken by a wailing baby, just as you have dropped off to
sleep at two in the morning. Look at all the things we
have; these things are there for us all."
She then proceeded to expand on the importance of self-
esteem. "Every morning, tell yourself: `You're great. You're
the greatest. You're good; you're wonderful.'" From there she
went on to describe how, when we have done our utmost to make
the budget stretch, we should relax. Livelihood is not in our
hands; we have to try to cope with the `have' part of our
budget, not with the `have not.'
"That's it," thought Naomi. "They're handing me golden wings
with which to glide and climb over and above all my
problems." She waited impatiently to hear how she could
actually acquire all these goals. Just as the audience began
to fidget and show signs of impatience, the lights of the
auditorium were dimmed and the lecturer switched on a large
overhead projector. Her voice, which up to now had been
powerful and charismatic, changed to a confidential whisper,
as if she were imparting a secret.
"To tell you the truth, I am a little embarrassed to tell you
how I stumbled upon this secret. One summer evening, as I was
out walking, I noticed a bundle of pages lying on the ground.
I picked them up and took them home with me. They were in
Russian, which I happen to have studied a while ago. I
studied the pages and was mesmerized by sentences full of
hope and promise, strong forceful words. At that time, I was
practicing positive thinking, but felt that these pages were
along an entirely different track. If I were to start each
morning with affirmation, reading the texts on these sheets,
the messages would become part of my brain and my life would
be renewed each morning. I've had my fill of lectures,
relaxation classes and other fads. This was wonderful. Why
had nobody thought of this program before?
"I studied the pages more closely, wondering how they had
come to rest on the sidewalk. The numbers were not
consecutive, yet the style was not disjointed. I read them
again and suddenly it hit me like a bolt out of the blue.
These pages were a Russian translation of the siddur!
I had been saying these words each morning for dozens of
years! Could it be? Could someone say words each and every
day without knowing or realizing what s/he was saying? I felt
thoroughly ashamed of myself. And I had thought I was
davening with kavona... I opened up my thick
files, full of ideas and lists, and compared them to the
siddur. You will see my conclusions on the screen."
The heads turned as one to face the screen. "Optimistic
Awakening" was printed in bold red letters. Underneath were
the words, "Modeh ani lefonecha..."
"Someone who is content gives thanks," whispered the
lecturer. "If he is giving thanks, he must feel content.
Someone who reiterates, `I thank You' to his Maker the minute
he wakes up knows that he is being taken care of all day. Is
there any greater feeling of security?"
The next slide with its bright red caption, read,
"Encouraging Personal Ability." Underneath were the words
"Neshoma shenosata bi."
"Let us consider for a moment the implications of these
words. My soul, full of imperfections, is pure. When I
returned it to my Maker last night, it was tired, sullied.
But now, my soul, which means my very essence, is again pure.
It has been returned to me revitalized with renewed strength
and vigor to face a new successful day."
Now the slides followed each other in quick succession,
before the audience was able to absorb their entire content.
"Managing on a Limited Budget." And underneath, "Poseiach
es Yodecha..." To know for a fact that there is Someone
Who opens His hand to satisfy us, Who gives us strength to
cope even when money is very tight, and there isn't enough to
go around at the moment.
The speaker embellished some of the slides with stories and
anecdotes, but the message was loud and clear. Appreciate
the daily miracles of daily living, breathing, walking,
seeing and hearing, as found in our very siddur. Modim
anachnu Loch..." Know that you are beloved and that He
provides for your every need... Ahava rabba
The audience listened intently as the woman concluded, "I
could go on and on, but I leave it to you to develop my
theme, each in your own way. One quarter of an hour's
concentration while reciting this `text' which has helped
generations for thousands of years, will revitalize you --
like the morning dew."