In the seven months since Esti Hamilton launched her Instagram page, she has taken her throne as social media’s favourite virtual mentor. Known to her followers as ‘Rebbetzin Esti’, the mother of six has garnered close to 3,000 followers, and it’s hardly surprising, considering the pearls of wisdom she imparts on a daily basis.
‘I’m trying to create a positive impact in the world through teaching Torah and inspiring people. Everyone does Instagram. Everyone is scrolling every day. I wanted to add to the content in an inspiring way, to create a positive impact in the world.’
The daughter of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kimche published her first post just before the UK went into its second lockdown, and since then she has been a constant source of inspiration to many. Exploring a range of Covid-related topics, from mental health to home-schooling, Rebbetzin Esti’s audience has been equipped with a wealth of tips to navigate through these unprecedented times.
‘We need to accept that we don’t have control of our lives and Hashem will drive us to exactly where we need to be. The pandemic has taught that to everyone. It’s a huge lesson that Hashem decided the whole world had to learn.’
Whilst no one has been spared from the challenges that Covid-19 has brought with it, there is no denying that it has hit some harder than others. Family members have died, jobs have been lost and the toll on many people’s mental health has been huge.
‘Everybody’s struggle is very deep and very painful. Life isn’t going to go exactly the way we think it is. We need to meet our challenges by saying “Hashem chose me to have this struggle” and by asking “what can I physically learn from it?” and “what can I do to help others now that I’ve been through it?” Your struggle has a deep meaning for your life, and you need to make that struggle your purpose and give it the significance that Hashem wanted you to give it. Everybody goes through things that bring them to their knees and everybody wants to know “how do I get up from my knees?” and “how do I realign my faith when I feel like Hashem has given me so much pain?”’
For Rebbetzin Esti, it’s important that people understand that living a committed, frum life does not mean you will lead a life free from troubles.
‘What it will mean is that all the struggles you go through will have purpose. You’ll be able to build yourself through your struggles rather than be defeated by them. There needs to be a paradigm shift in our relationship with Hashem. We live in Hashem’s world; Hashem doesn’t live in ours. When we stop asking why this is happening to me and we start asking what I can learn from this, we can grow from our pain.’
Rebbetzin Esti herself is no stranger to adversity. At the tender age of 21, her eldest child, Doniel, was born disabled. It is Rebbetzin Esti’s work to destigmatise disabilities and educate her followers on life with a special needs child that drew me to her page.
‘When Doniel was born 18 years ago, somebody asked me, “Are you going to tell anybody you had a disabled child?” From that moment on I decided there’s going to be no shame around this. If Hashem gave this child to me, then Hashem decided that this was the best for that child and the best for me. I’m not embarrassed.’
The chizuk that Rebbetzin Esti’s transparency has given to other parents dealing with similar circumstances is obvious. She is fighting the prejudice that has for far too long forced struggling parents to hide behind a suffocating wall of self-consciousness.
‘There is a shame that we feel about pain and struggle because everyone tries to give off an image that their life is perfect. I want people to know that my life isn’t perfect and that there are times I have cried myself to sleep. All of this is called normal life. All of this is called being a human being. Whether we go through challenges when we are 20 or 40 or 60, nobody gets away without them, and if you think you know somebody who has got away without having any struggles, they just haven’t told you what their struggle is.’
Every post Rebbetzin Esti shares carries with it a lesson. She is a woman who finds depth and meaning in every facet of her life, no matter how mundane, and her gratitude for all that Hashem has gifted her is palpable.
‘Having a son like Doniel has shown me that everything in my life is a gift. When I wake up in the morning, I can climb out of bed, dress myself, brush my teeth and walk down the stairs. I have already done more things in just a few minutes than my son will ever be able to do. It is the difference between my life and other people’s lives that enables me to be joyous. I live in a gratitude space. I feel happy that I can climb out of bed, because I have to carry my son out of his. If when you get out of bed and in the first five minutes of the day you’re not already grateful, you’re already losing.’
For Rebbetzin Esti, the pandemic presented her with greater hurdles than it did for most. She shared with her followers a poignant picture of her visiting Doniel through a window, a precaution taken to prevent the spread of the virus. It is difficult to fathom how such a devoted parent coped with such an unnatural separation. The picture was heartbreaking enough.
‘I was very depressed about the situation, but not in a way that made me ask why bad things happen to good people. I was depressed about it because I wanted to be with my son. I was just a mother missing her son; it was never more than that. Sometimes, when we go through a nisayon, we ‘awfulise’ it, and when a person attaches their whole self to their difficulty, it becomes all consuming. Once normal visits resumed, I was able to appreciate the general noise of life. Whenever you spin something to a perspective of gratitude, you lift yourself out of your negative thoughts and become more connected to the reality that Hashem runs the world and that even if you cannot see it, it’s for the good.’
Lockdown is easing and life as we once knew it is returning. As we approach 21 June, and the abolition of all legal limits on social contact, there are glimmers of hope for a restored and healed world. For many, closing the door on the pandemic era cannot come soon enough. But this door is something that Rebbetzin Esti urges us to keep ajar.
‘Through this pandemic, we have all been changed. To say that we are going to go back to normal is exactly what I don’t believe about any challenge that any person endures. When you go through a nisayon, you come out of it a different person, and now that this pandemic is coming to an end, we must evaluate the ways we have changed and consider our newfound values. We must ask ourselves, “What do we want to bring with us into a post-lockdown world and what do we want to leave behind? Is it healthier for my family to eat alone every Shabbos, or should I go back to hosting an army of guests? Do I want to return to my pre-pandemic spending habits, or is a more frugal lifestyle, without the need to frivolously spend, more favourable?” Priorities have shifted.’
Rebbetzen Esti is right. Lockdown has forced people to re-examine their lives and decide what’s worth keeping and what’s worth discarding along with the face masks and doorstop drop-ins.
It’s lessons like this which are typical of Rebbetzin Esti’s ability to find beauty in even the bleakest of scenarios. In a world where social media has reared its ugly head too often, Rebbetzin Esti’s Instagram account is a needle in a haystack, a rose among thorns. It promises to recentre you when you’re feeling uninspired and guide you along the positive path of life—and all of this by lunchtime if you’re lucky.