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Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Rebbetzin

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 11:41 am

 Ask me please what I love most about my Rebbitzin role. Because I love sharing it. Just talking about it makes me happy😊.

It’s the PEOPLE. The exquisite souls I have the good fortune of interacting with on a daily basis. That includes you😊. Each and every one of you.

And that is why while my day- to-day involvement in Chabad activities and programs has waxed and waned depending on what my children were up to and how much they needed me at that particular period of time (think Colicky Cotlar babies..), there is one area that I never wanted to cut back on. The time I invested in my personal relationships with our community members. Be it coffee dates, heart to heart talks about a challenge they were facing, or a one on one learning session to discuss a new Mitzvah they hoped to take on as the next step in their Jewish journey. AHHH! Each of these are a true labor of love thank G-d.

And so as you can imagine, I have made some interesting observations over the last decade (Can you believe we moved here when Rivkah was just a year old?? But I digress😊..) One observation that has really stood out for me and I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: THERE ARE MANY, MANY SENSITIVE SOULS OUT THERE. More than you may realize. In fact, you may not even realize that YOU too are one of them. I’ve seen it in all ages and stages: from toddlers to seniors.

And let me explain what I mean by sensitive. I do not mean easily hurt or offended. I do not mean timid. I do not mean frail and vulnerable with no backbone. The best definition I have yet seen for sensitivity is by Elaine Aaron in her books The Highly Sensitive Person and The Highly Sensitive Child (If you haven’t read them- I highly recommend!!!)

One of the characteristics that she uses to define sensitivity is “Depth of Processing”. In short, she describes it as a keen awareness and deep, thorough processing of everything, even the most subtle and intangible, going on within themselves as well as outside of them.

And guess what happens when said sensitive person meets the Rebbitzin. The Rebbitzin (who herself identifies as a Highly Sensitive Person-wink emoji) sees another key element at play: a soul craving spirituality and an authentic relationship with HaShem. Thirsting to connect with his/her own soul, the soul of the world, and the soul of others. This thirst runs deep. Because to the sensitive person, a life devoid of these elements isn’t life. They simply aren’t satiated by what many would consider to be a rich and happy life: school, work, family, vacations, eating, sleeping, exercising, even going about the motions of religious observances and traditions (operative word here being “motions”) like attending High Holiday services or eating latkes on Chanukah. They are too in tune to the deeper meaning of life, to the soul that lies at the heart of everything, to just accept life at face value. They demand more. They need to connect to the essence of life. To its purpose. To its soul.

They are craving authentic Divine spirituality. It is not a luxury for them; it is absolute necessity. It is life itself.

But often they are oblivious to the cry of their soul. All they see and feel are the symptoms: The feelings of anxiety, sadness, resentment, overwhelm, tension, and confusion that begin to fester. They struggle to understand why they find themselves internalizing the most subtle stimuli around them. A flicker of sadness in the eyes of another, saying good bye to a parent leaving on a business trip, the cry of a baby at a Bris, an aging uncle, looking at baby photos of their children. Why life often feels so dense and heavy.

 (NOW A VERY VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER HERE: Many of the symptoms mentioned above are real, must be taken seriously, and often require a trained professional. Nothing I am saying here is intended to take the place of a licensed professional. However, what I am saying is that there is a spiritual element to these symptoms as well that begs to be noticed and addressed.)

Unlike your favorite Teflon coated pan in which you love to fry your eggs, things don’t easily bounce off of these highly sensitive souls. They are take it all in. Think deeply into it. And take it to heart. And the sad part is, they often walk around wondering what is wrong with them. Why they cant hear a friend talk about a problem without feeling drained. Why separation is so hard. Why they cant be satisfied with the typical routine of life that the others around them seem to be handling just fine. They feel handicapped and different. Because unfortunately our society doesn’t really promote or value the sensitive soul. Calm cool and collected seems to be the name of the game in our world today. And so often their voices aren’t heard. But there is so very much that is right with them. Their souls shine brightly through the physical body and world that houses them. Souls that cannot accept the sorrow, the pain, the superficiality of this physical world. Souls that demand more. Need more. Cannot live without more.

They crave an inner peace that only an authentic relationship with HaShem can offer. A relationship comprised of prayer, Mitzvot, and Torah study. A relationship that sheds light on the purpose of life. That reveals the essential goodness in all of Creation. That trains us to see Divine Providence- G-d’s Hand orchestrating every minute detail of each individual’s life. That throughout the challenges, tears, and trials, lifts us into the Hands of HaShem and reminds us that He and He Alone carries us, watches us, and waits for us to call to Him with all that is in our hearts and minds. That beacons us to live with the security that we never ever walk the path of life Alone. That we were designed by a Master Artist- HaShem Himself- and intended to be just the way we are; we can relax and feel comfortable in our own skin.

Each Mitzvah we do, even (and especially!) the ones that we find more difficult or intimidating, are nourishment for the soul. They quench a deep thirst that it has to connect with the essence of Life- HaShem Himself. It plugs us into our Source. Even if you didn’t feel especially inspired by that particular Mitzvah; your soul was nevertheless nourished. It is fuller. It is feeling an overall satiation. Like it is home where it belongs.

(As a side note, I will venture to say that even if your experience with religion has not been a positive one up until this point, don’t confuse the messenger with the message. Perhaps finding a new teacher or mentor to teach and convey the message of Torah to you is in order. It can make all the difference.)

So treasure this gift of sensitivity. Don’t call it a mid life crisis. Forget the red convertible (winking emoji). If you feel overwhelmed by the world around you, this may be part of a very special package HaShem gave to you, as well as to many of the people around you. The gift of a fine tuned soul. That feels and internalizes. That needs to connect to the essence of Life in order to live Life. That is yearning for an authentic relationship with HaShem through Torah study, prayer, and Mitzvot.

True, it may sometimes feel easier and lighter to be Teflon coated. But there is a depth and richness to life that sensitivity brings with it. It is a gift. A blessing. Celebrate it!

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