As always, I like giving the good news first. Our dear Chaya Shaina Gold is engaged. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to go to Bnos Avigail, take my word for it, her chassan is one lucky guy. So is Jenny Horn’s (of Neve) chosson. I actually met him, so I can attest to the fact that she also did well. Etty Svei’s wedding invitation just came, and Brooke Mizrachi’s wedding is still recent enough to feel the simchah in the air.
For those of you who don’t know any of the above people, or who are thinking (consciously or otherwise), “I don’t have what they have. I can’t feel anything more than numbness at best, and a hard to describe mixture of self-hatred, angst, and envy at worst, why do you have a need to go on and on about this? You know very well that most of the people who read your letter don’t necessarily know the mazal tov celebs, and even those who do are sometimes depressed rather than elated by the news.)
You have a point.
Years ago, when we were living in Segev, I invited some close friends to spend Pesach with us. The indescribable beauty and awesome silence of the scarcely populated Western Galil was something I wanted to share. They had just given birth to twins (and yes, when you know what twins are like in terms of their constant need to eat etc., the word “they” is in place. No one can do this alone). Getting away from the pre-Pesach cleanup and the holiday cooking was very appealing to them. Then something happened to change the plan. A neighbor who had a tragic history of late miscarriage lost another child. I was with her, and saw the lifeless 6 month fetus after he was born. He was real. Eyes, ears, nose, little fingers. It suddenly was clear, that I can’t create a situation whereby the mother who had just lost another child would see the tiny twins every day. The Moshav was too small to be anonymous. There was no place to hide. My husband z”l asked a well-regarded rabbi what to do in this situation. It wasn’t life or death, but he knew that he had to find someone with a sensitive heart to hear the question. The rabbi told us to rescind the invitation. The twin’s parents would have a hectic holiday, but it would be forgotten very quickly. The woman was fragile by her nature. She had so much to bear and didn’t need to bear still more. The burden wasn’t going anywhere. So now, back to your question. Why am I sharing good news that can feel toxic to those of you who are fragile and in pain?
The reason is that some news belongs to everyone. We are where we are, but it’s possible to at least aspire to being like the Klausenberger Rebbe who after losing 11 children in the holocaust, spent the remainder of his life dedicating himself to the many refugee children, destitute children from families who came to Israel with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing, and saving lives via the famous Laniado Hospital that he founded in Netanya. He would say with his characteristic profound simplicity, “What difference does it make if it’s my child or someone else’s child. They all belong to Hashem; they are His children. What made this profound is that he meant every word.
The heroines of Pesach are both the anonymous women who did everything humanly possible to bring more children into the world, and Yocheved and Miriam who are explicitly mentioned. Who were these women?
Imagine spending your days in despair. Being a slave (even a well-treated one) means living for someone else’s gain and agenda. Your destiny isn’t in your hands, and you have no reason to think that what you do today will have any effect on what your life will be tomorrow. It wasn’t that way in Egypt. It was much much worse. Not only were they slaves, employed to make someone else rich, they were enslaved with the explicit purpose of a slow and steady brand of genocide. Would you want to bring a child into that kind of reality? Be honest. There, days and nights were not their own. They were subsisting on matzah before anyone ever heard of Pesach. What were they thinking?
They knew that human life is the most precious commodity that there is, and they also knew that whether or not they would live to raise their children, they were children of Hashem, and members of His people. They were forced by their circumstances to abandon their kids in the fields, but they didn’t give up. Their sensitivity to Hashem being a G-d of life, who had made promises to their ancestors kept them going time after time. Yocheved was called Shifra (which comes from the word for beautifying. Any of you named Shapiro? Shaffer? Nu so much for Jewish names for today). She wanted them to have beautiful baby clothes and did what she could to make it happen. Miriam was called Puah she would hum melodies to the doomed children to calm them. It would be reasonable to think, “What a waste of time and energy. Half of the babies are going to be thrown into the Nile, and the other half may end up wishing that they were also “lucky” enough to die quickly rather than suffer the endless tedious agony of Egyptian slavery”.
You would be wrong.
Each of those children was a link in a chain. Their lives had meaning in a realm of being that we don’t know anything about, a realm far beyond what we can genuinely know or see. Their mothers are credited with the redemption, since being redeemed (as Maharal says) means being yourself. Nothing is more genuinely Jewish than treasuring life. That doesn’t only mean treasuring the life of doomed Jewish babies in Egypt.
It means your life.
Your life has endless purpose whether or not it worked out According to Plan (meaning your plan. It definitely worked out according to Hashem’s plan). You may feel that if you aren’t in the mazal tov paragraph or if you aren’t in whatever paragraph your yetzer hara composed for you , that you are somehow less, a permanent member of the Unfulfilled. You may feel that I am being patronizing, and lack understanding. You may be right on that count, but you aren’t right on the other one.
Serve Hashem with joy
See Him before you
The beginning of wisdom is awe of G-d
Hashem’s Torah is complete, it restores the soul
Let us know how to count our days
These words are all verses from Tehillim. A friend of mine came by on Shabbos, and we discussed them. These are the verses that Sara Schneirer asked to be engraved on her tombstone. We should only be wise enough to engrave them on our hearts.
Maybe then, we will really be in Yerushalaim next year!