by Mushka Gopin, M.Ed @MotheringMindset | www.MyMotheringMindset.com
Is this how it started for you, too?
We were worried over Yom Tov, hearing rumors. We grabbed our phones and tried to figure out what was going on. Hours later, totally shell-shocked, we emerged in a daze to face the mountains of laundry and dishes that suddenly seemed unimportant. We cried. We lay awake at night. We snapped at our kids.
We keep checking our phones. The most horrific verses of Eicha and the worst prophecies from the Navi are happening right now, in 2023. We are living through history. It’s so bad you can’t look away from it.
You must look away from it.
How could we? We feel guilty drinking our morning coffee. Reading the latest headlines makes us feel like we’re doing something. It helps us empathize with what’s going on, so that our davening is more heartfelt. We honor the victims and kedoshim by reading their stories, watching their faces and remembering their names.
None of this is true. This is all an illusion of control. The truth is, whether or not you load a news site, open social media or check your Whatsapp group, things will happen without you. In fact, they’ve already happened. By now, you’re just catching up.
Real control is something you do that’s deliberate, purposeful, intended. Not a frenzied reaction driven by a spiral of unprocessed emotion. This collective trauma is too big and too intense to absorb right now. It’s like feeling the drop on a roller coaster that you didn’t even realize you were riding.
The war will go on without you checking in on it. Can your household go on without your presence? Can you serve the kids breakfast, go to work, and converse with your husband if you’re anxious and afraid? Can you care for a baby or play with the kids with a racing mind?
Following the news doesn’t make you more in the know. It just makes you more absorbent to whatever “they” want you to think. (Also, who is the source? In school we learned the name for news during wartime: propaganda.) If the news is coming from Hamas… then they’re turning you into a psychological victim.
Hamas wants to make you a victim of terror. They want to crush our spirit. But we don’t have to let them into our homes. Shut the front door. Get off the news.
Don’t expose yourself to their acts of terror. Sure, the world needs to see. Ben Shapiro wants his viewers to stare evil in the face. But we are not the world, or Ben’s audience, or the ones who need to be reading and responding to hateful comments on social media.
We don’t need to see photos to generate empathy. We are nashim rachmanios, Jewish mothers. We do not need to be convinced of evil’s existence. We know the face of evil. We feel it; it’s in our bones and our DNA. We need to fight it.
Our battle in this war is a mind game. It’s to remain laser-focused and mentally sharp so that our mind is not taken hostage by terrorists. Our spiritual fight is not just to say Tehillim or give tzedakah. It’s to remain strong against a yetzer hara that wants us doom-scrolling and spiraling into fear.
The opposite of fear is emunah. Without anxiety, you can access bitachon. To have avodas Hashem, we must remain b’simcha, not become depressed and anxious. (So no, you don’t need scary news to “empathize” for a more meaningful davening.)
We feel helpless because we “cannot do anything”, but the opposite is true. Without sirens outside, able to maintain a daily routine, we are in the most powerful position possible. We can opt out of the collective narrative of fear. We can rise above it. We can tap into the spiritual energies of emunah, bitachon, and simcha. This is what it means to fight a spiritual war.
We can only be victorious if we refuse to become victimized.
Remind yourself: to the extent that I can control it, I am in charge, not the news, the media or the picture that shows up on my feed. I can decide what diet my soul is consuming. We need energy to be the frontline spiritual soldiers here. We need energy to protect ourselves, and our children, from what’s happening.
We must remain vigilant gatekeepers, choosing what enters our home. Rather than jumping to “talk to your kids about what’s going on”, try first to make them not even realize that something is. Turn off the news, don’t show them images, stop adult conversations around little ears. Let them remain kids – innocent, naive, blissfully unaware of the evils of the world – for as long as possible. Childhood ends not with a birthday but with a turning point of knowledge. Protect them from this knowledge (much like you probably want to have un-read or un-watched something).
(Once they’re exposed, you absolutely should give them words to make sense of what’s happening. Kids will always misinterpret information in the scariest way possible and let anxiety overtake any logic… which is why we should work so hard to protect them in the first place.)
It’s true we are seeing horrific Biblical prophecies come true, but we already know how this story ends. The ending was written way back at the start of the story. The ending, no matter how long the Author drags out the tale for, is Moshiach.
Not because we need him, like a magic genie wish. Not because we want him, like a desperate fantasy. Because we were promised he would come. We were promised horrible atrocities, and they are coming true. We were promised an ultimate, awful war between Gog and Magog, and it is happening.
We were promised Moshiach, and we will see this prophecy in real life, as well. May it be right now!!
Questions to ask yourself:
- How much capacity do I have / how much can my nervous system take and still be attuned and present for my family?
- How is reading the news serving me? Does being in the know empower and inspire me, or leave me feeling helpless rage or grief? Does it help me empathize or numb me? (Does it benefit me or my family to feel that?)
- Is it called “being there in spirit” if it leaves me stressed out, high-strung and anxious?
- If a home was destroyed physically, must mine be affected emotionally as well?
- In all honesty, how much do I need to know, and for what purpose?
If you do want to keep yourself updated:
- Schedule 2-3 set times throughout the day. Make sure you have buffer time afterwards – not right before a meeting or as you wait in the pickup line at school.
- Set a timer – on your microwave, oven, alarm clock or anywhere you will physically have to get up and turn it off.
- Access news sites only. Not photos or videos, not social media.
- Follow with an activity that brings you back to your five senses (a walk, the gym, 5 minutes of journaling).
Practical steps you can take
- Purchase a letter in Sefer Torah for your children (www.KidsTorah.org) and for yourself
- Recite the 12 pesukim at your supper table
- Put an alarm on your phone to recite Tehillim (20, 22, 69, 122, 150, 81-90) and give tzedakah
- Uninstall social media apps, especially Instagram and TikTok. Archive or leave Whatsapp groups.
- Remember, you are not the audience for social media activism.
- Maintain routine. Give yourself time to fall apart, like while taking a shower or before the kids get home.
- If you get home with the kids, take a longer drive home. Play music. Let the car idle in the driveway and model taking deep breaths before entering the house together.
Addressing children’s questions
- Ask clarifying questions before responding. “What did you hear? What do you think that means?”
- Respond to what they asked, remaining calm and factual.
- Follow their lead – give more information as they ask for it.
- Do not shut down their question. If it’s not a good time to talk, let them know when you can. (“That’s a good question and I really want to discuss it with you. Let me first give the little kids snack and then we can talk in the kitchen.”)
- Don’t be afraid to speak to their deepest fears – they’re thinking those thoughts, just as you are. Giving words to them helps them understand the emotions. (“It can be really scary to think about if that would happen here.”)
- Thank them for coming to talk to you
- Remind them you are always available to chat
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