Ruthie Hollander

Where We Let God In

A child and parent face one another. Child made small by boughs of palm, willow, myrtle, several feet long; parent kneeling and directing the branches, hand wrapped around a smaller one wrapped around a fragrant pebbled fruit. Waving: north, south, east, west, God is here, there, truly everywhere.  

Everywhere, everywhere — in the mundane, too. In lost car keys and grocery lists and toys on the floor and your child’s laugh. 

God is, says the Kotzker Rebbe, wherever we let God in. 

Growing up I kept a diary. And every single entry started off with the words Dear Hashem.

For years, I wrote all of my journal entries to God: arguments, infatuations, interests, anxieties, hopes, dreams. I was convinced that God was both present for and interested in what I wrote — both witness and recipient to my childhood and then teenage ambitions and angst. 

As a child, I had the pure, all-encompassing belief that God walked by my side. And it was a tremendous gift. Because today, even as an adult, I find myself in monologue with God. 

In frustration — Really? Was this necessary, God?
and gratitude — Thank You so much. Thank You, thank You, thank You
and giddy nervousness — Please let me do well! 

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all,” writes early 20th-century poet and mystic Kahlil Gibran in his most acclaimed work The Prophet. How do we create a daily life where Hashem is truly everywhere? Where the big and small moments are punctuated by a back-and-forth with our values and relationship with the Divine? I think the answer is that we must start with our children: we must start by convincing them that they are beloved by God. 

As you hold the lulav and etrog in your child’s small hands this year, you feel their unshakeable trust in you, see their careful focus as they wave: up down, all around. And maybe afterward, as if spurred by some unnameable rush of emotion, you express: Aren’t we so lucky that Hashem is in our lives?

About the Author
Ruthie was born in Germany, grew up in Michigan, and has been in the NYC-tristate area for the last seven years. As the Director of the Orthodox Union's Executive Fellowship, Ruthie recruits and provides leadership training for young Jewish professionals interested in service and advocacy. She also works as the Youth Director of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, where she engages with children of all ages, developing and organizing thoughtful and innovative curricula and events. Ruthie lives on the Upper East Side with her husband Max (a semicha student at RIETS), their dog Momo (a high-strung pup), and their daughter Mila (a high-energy baby).
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