By Mussy Raitman, Lubicom Staff
The Three Weeks and especially the Nine Days are considered the saddest time of the year for Jews. Yet, so many years after the tragedies these days commemorate, it can be a challenge to connect to these days on a deep level.
I had the honor of speaking with a few inspiring women who shared with me their mindsets during the Nine Days.
With their large followings on Instagram, Malkie Hirsch (@kissthekoshercook), Bari Mitzmann (@barianna) and Shevi Samet (@itsalearninglife) inspire others daily. I was hoping to get a little insight as to what inspires them, especially during the Nine Days.
What do the Nine Days mean to you?
Bari Mitzmann– They are a time of introspection, a time to figure out how to be a better person to my fellow. The second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of how we treated one another, and each year that we are not redeemed, each year that the Beit Hamikdash isn’t rebuilt, I believe it’s because we haven’t been able to truly rectify this problem of not caring for one another as we should.
Shevi Samet– To me, the Nine Days are a time to reflect on how my life would be infinitely improved if Mashiach were here. All the areas where I’m blessed would be exponentially more blessed and anywhere I am lacking, that void will be filled. I try to imagine how much better life would be, tangibly, with Mashiach.
Malkie Hirsch– When Av begins, we are supposed to lessen our joy. Being that we have certain symbolic traditions of mourning, such as not eating meat, observing these allows me to focus on all the sadness that this time period has brought to my fellow Jews.
Do you involve your children in this process?
Shevi– My kids and I brainstorm together from the most mundane “could we have candy for supper when Mashiach comes?” to the more intense “I’d get to meet the great-grandfather I’m named after.” And we always try to remain solution-oriented. Yes, it’s a time to connect to the sadness we experience as individuals and as a nation, but we also can’t forget that we KNOW what we need to do to put an end to the suffering. Every year, my kids choose one thing they will give up for the Nine Days. It doesn’t have to be huge or even something they normally have. It’s more the idea and to encourage them to be mindful. One year it was ice cream (as if they get ice cream every Monday). Another year, ices (that was a hard year, I don’t recommend being this ambitious). Sometimes it’s a specific game or activity. It’s really the process of choosing and bringing awareness to the time period, on their level. Because, honestly, they don’t mind that much not having their hair or nails cut.
In the Nine Days, it’s critical to be more mindful.
Malkie– The Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of our Sinas Chinam. During the Nine Days, I take the opportunity to reflect on how the Beit Hamikdash is no longer here and ways in which I can bring it closer.
Bari– On my Instagram accounts (@barianna and @womanofvalorpodcast), I aim to remind women that if we don’t stop and think, if we do not live with intention, then time can just pass us by. We can be overwhelmed by our responsibilities and never stop and check in with ourselves: What are our needs? What do we want? How is our spirituality doing? How are we doing mentally, physically, and emotionally? When we ask those questions and take proactive steps to improve in those areas, our lives become intentional, productive, and more meaningful.
Shevi– Mindfulness means doing all the things you always do, but with increased attention to connection. Sometimes we want to connect to ourselves, to others, to Hashem. And we can do all that through the most mundane actions by elevating them without mindfulness.
Are you doing anything different this year during the Nine Days?
Bari– This year I am doing a digital detox. I will be uninstalling my Instagram app. That means no stories, no DMs, no videos, no advertisements. Nothing. I’m taking a step back from what I consider both my passion and my profession.
In 2019 a digital detox is a big thing.
Bari– The Nine Days is a set time where we minimize our physical pleasures to focus on our spiritual endeavors. I wish to take this time to look beyond the screen and both contemplate and invest in the real-life relationships that I have. I plan to take the time to figure out how I can be better for those around me, and how I can be there for them in a way that is best for them. I want to rid myself of the digital distraction to focus on what is right in front of me.
So true; looking beyond our screens every once in a while is so important, especially for our mental health.
Bari– Whenever I take a pause or a step back, it gives me time to appreciate what I have. I’m able to think clearer, focus better, and be refreshed when I return. The detox is meant to re-sensitize me to the effects of Instagram. At times I have felt judgment, jealousy, and desire for items that I do not need or that I know will not give me joy. Stepping away reminds me that all of these thoughts are foolish when it comes to the big picture.
What’s one way you would suggest spreading positivity during the Nine Days?
Shevi– I don’t think spreading positivity needs to be radical. I think the same way being mindful means elevating every day, being positive means elevating your daily interactions with others. Add a smile. Pause and make eye contact. Look for something meaningful or charming in the other person, something you can connect to. And allow that perspective to influence your interaction with them. For every critical thing you say, no matter how constructive, make 10 positive statements. And this isn’t just for other people. Being more positive makes YOU more positive, from the inside out.
Bari– When your instinct is to judge, when you feel yourself thinking negatively about another person, find one thing about them that you admire. Find one thing that you see as valuable to you, that you find inspirational or merely entertaining. Once you find that thing, tell them. Send them a message infused with positivity and a genuine compliment. You’ll be surprised about how you feel after doing so. And you never know what blessing and friendships will come your way because of it.
What is your final message?
Malkie– As much as we lack leadership today and times are tough spiritually, we have to constantly remind ourselves that the Beit Hamikdash can be built in this generation, not those prior. I focus my energy on bringing Mashiach closer and taking the necessary steps to do my part in this world.
Bari– No one loses out by being nice. Sharing a compliment never takes away from anyone. We have so much to give. Some gifts cost money, some take effort – but a kind word takes neither. It’s one of the easiest things we can do and is a great way to stay focused during the Nine Days.
From teaching your young children about the concept of kindness to taking upon something like a “digital detox,” it’s vital for us to be extra mindful during the Nine Days. Whilst the word “mindfulness” has become the modern-day buzzword, we as the Jewish nation are lucky to have it built into our calendar. It’s a whole lot more than just taking a few minutes to focus on breathing. The Nine Days really lends itself to the opportunity of connecting to those around us in the most positive way we can.