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October 2, 2023

Timshel or The Most Important Word for Me

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.

She felt it on one starry night.

She was sitting on a wooden log, staring straight towards the lake, lit by the light of the full Moon.

Ever since she was a kid, she loved the outdoors. She would play hide and seek in the corn with her cousins. She would fly fish in the Atlantic with her buddy after break ups. She would run on green forest trails barefoot. She would climb the tallest mountains and sit on moist logs at each break, taking in the smell of rain and staring as far on the horizon as her eyes could let her.

She came again last night. It was dark and quiet in the forest. She closed her eyes. She heard the buzzing of cicadas, the discussion of the owls, the whish-whoosh whispers of the trees and the little footsteps of a fox. She snapped her eyes open. Silence again.

The forest is filled with a world of its own. A separate universe, if you wish. That’s why she loves it so much. And the forest has much more to say than the sounds she hears when she closes her eyes.

It broke her heart to realize that she has forgotten that the forest is her true home. The only church she really accepts where she feels the presence of a force that runs through everything: God, as so many call it.

But what broke her heart the most was that she knew that she had chosen to forget that. Her busy life had made her choose. Despite she works in the forest day by day, she isn’t present in those moments. Not like when she closed her eyes and give her full presence to her surroundings.

Tears run down on her Moon lit face as she thought about who she became. Not the person she used to be, not the person she wanted to be, not the person she really is and not even one she actually love. She felt guilty when she understood it is all her fault. She gave her power away when she let someone she doesn’t like dictate her mood, or rather she let her feelings of annoyance and irritation take the lead and drive her to dark pits of her soul from where it is hard to return.

Again, as she thought about this person and just by the single thought of her, she became so angry her hands started to shake, her breath became shallow and she felt suffocated from inside by the icy hands of a ghost. Her heart turned cold and mean.

She looked at her reflection in the lake and didn’t recognize the person looking back. It wasn’t the cute little forest fairy full of love, looking back at her anymore. It was a bitter, old and ugly swamp witch staring back with a fiery, hate filled gaze.


There is a Hebrew word “timshel” which was first introduced to me by my favorite author John Steinbeck through one of my most favorite books, East of Eden. Timshel can be translated as “thou mayest”, reflecting the opportunity to resist the urge to sin. (The accuracy of Steinbeck’s transliteration and representation of the Hebrew word is subject to a question.) For me, timshel became equal with the phrase “you always have a choice”.

Personally, I love the line :

“But I have a new love for the glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed — because “thou mayest.”

I love the idea that we are never destroyed or fully broken. There is no ‘life ending mistake’ because as it turns out life is a pretty resilient thing. Regardless of what we experience in our lifetime we are only as broke and damaged as we choose to be. We can be overwhelmed but we always have another choice coming and we get to choose whether to stay besieged by the problem or to rise above it. If the way is open then you can both succeed or fail. That option is what makes life special. The risk. The choice. The ability to triumph or fail on your own. Despite the consequences of the past or our current circumstances we have the power of choice and that is a glorious thing if we embrace it and use it to enhance our lives. Many people will shy away from the responsibly of taking charge of their own life. It’s a shame, But in the end the choice is our own to make because- thou mayest.

All this irritation, annoyance, anger and negativity I feel against this person was sitting on my shoulders and became more and more heavy. It was time to put it all down and continue with a light heart. Because that is who I really am, when I am really loving and enjoying my time on our little Earth: a joyful, cheerful, light-hearted person who goofs around in the forest. And I want her back.

I looked at my arm where I have this Hebrew word engraved for the rest of my life: Timshel. I always have a choice.

Nurturing the art of being my authentic, true self and having fun, regardless of the circumstances, is a skill that requires practice. So I wiped my tears off and said goodbye to the reflection of the ugly witch I became and decided to remove the torn that caused me pain and intoxicated my soul with bitterness, hate and rage. Life is way more easy and fun if you are not attached to specific outcomes.

We always have a choice. And if this person chooses to dislike me since the moment we met and treat me rude or ignore my presence, it’s their responsibility.

But I have a choice, too and I choose to be myself, to be happy no matter what. I choose to take my power back and take ownership of my feelings and thoughts.

And I also choose to walk back home from the forest and have a talk with this person, and offer her the choice and see if we can solve this.

At least I tried and I my feelings and mood don’t depend on someone else’s behaviour towards me, anymore. It took a bit long to realize this, but it’s a learning process and I love to grow even if it’s painful at times.
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