Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Brief Biography Of Our Lives

Lizchus someone close to me who is having a very rough time - Hashem should help him out of his distress. 

So goes life [Note - This piece is written from the male perspective because that is the persuasion of the writer. With slight modifications it applies to women as well. Mevakesh is for both genders and all Jews]:

A baby boy is born. He has a bris. Dozens come to welcome him. There is much joy. He is the apple of his parents eye.

Years go by. He has his ups and downs. Family dynamics are always complex. But now is his Bar Mitzvah. Hundreds come to celebrate. He receives many gifts including checks. All he had to do to earn it all was turn 13. WHATTA DEAL! He is truly the star of the day. 

Years go by. He is just another kid. One of hundreds of millions. Adolescence is a very difficult period. The body changes. There are strong urges that he may not satisfy. [Some do and feel really guilty]. His is trying to forge his identity. Adults seem strong and at times very intimidating. It is only after one becomes an adult that he realizes that adults are filled with flaws and are to a great extent still children in many ways.... 

He gets a little older and meets a girl he thinks he knows and thinks he loves so he marries her. Hundreds come and dance around him. For 7 days his praises are sung. Gifts are given in abundance. Parents and in-laws give large amounts of money for the simcha and after. 


Then he starts life. Nobody is dancing around him anymore. He will hear more praises about himself during the aufruff and sheva brachos than he will for the next many years to come. He is no longer the star. 

Marriage isn't easy. The sweet girl he dated screams at him and can be very critical and hyper-sensitive. Children come and with the joy they bring also come problems. Each child is a story. This one has a physical condition. This one has learning disabilities. Sometimes they don't get along. Having a pregnant wife is hard not only on the wife but on the husband as well. Some pregnancies involve complications. Even those that don't aren't pleasant. 

Then there are tuition payments, car payments, mortgage payments and limitless other payments. Work is hard and pressuring. Different organizations ask for his time and money. In childhood it was an "all expenses paid" deal. Now it is also "all expenses paid". The difference is that now, HE is the one who is paying the expenses. And he has to pay WHETHER HE HAS THE MONEY OR NOT. That can be distressing. 

Where are all the people who danced around him? Busy with their own lives. He needs financial help? Go to the bank. Maybe they will help. With interest of course. Can't ask parents - they have other kids and in addition, they know the situation but aren't helping. He is an adult and must fend for himself. Party's over. It ended long ago. He needed to be held when he was a baby but now his doting mother has other things on her mind. He is on his own. 

Parents get older which involves many health issues. Then one by one  - they go.  

In short - life is never simple.  

Then - HE goes.

The funeral? Dozens maybe hundreds. When the average goy dies a lot fewer people come than to the average frum Jews' funeral [so I hear] because we have stronger, more consolidated communities - the schools, shuls etc. bring us together. The funeral won't have a bad turnout.

Shiva - lots of visitors. Lots of praise. The last time people took the trouble to say nice things was 60 years before during the wedding period. 

A year passes. Barely a minyan shows up at kever. 

Gone - and almost completely forgotten. Life goes on. 

This world is for the living. Just yizkor and some learning and tzdaka li-ilui neshama. 

So it goes. 

May I quote Thoreau [I spent a lovely Shabbos in "Gush" 25 or so years ago. That must be the hashpaah...:-)]?

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

Quite distressing. 

What is the answer?

This is what I think.

Ultimately - we will indeed be forgotten. We are very small and people pay little attention to us when we are alive and even less when we are dead. Just a few minutes in the sun. Our problems are ours and ours alone. Maybe a lone person here and there who is there for us. Maybe. If we have a good spouse and a close friend or two then we are very lucky. But we will often suffer alone. 

What we CAN do is forget about ourselves. Decide that our task in this world is to bring light and kindness into the lives of every person we meet. A smile, a kind word, a ride, a check. 

I had a Rebbi back in my youth named Rabbi Chaim Flom. He was REALLY a tzadik. He COULDN'T TAKE IT, couldn't take it, when his car was not full. So he stopped at every bus stop and asked everybody if they were going in his direction so that he could give them a ride. So tens of thousands enjoyed his chesed. 

His daughter once had to go to  the emergency room because part of her finger had been ruptured. On the way there he saw a policeman giving tickets to parked cars whose meters had run out. So he got out of the car and quickly filled up the meters one by one so that they would be saved the fine. One story of thousands. 

When we die Hashem judges us. Who were we living for? Ourselves or others? How much did we care? How much did we care about Hashem? How did we take rough times? With Emunah and simcha [they go together] or with complaints and depression? 

Life is short. Nobody gets out of it alive. 

Decide to be bi-simcha regardless. Resolve to do good to everyone we can. Look for opportunities. When you learn - learn in order to teach and do. Not for the tremendous intellectual satisfaction it brings. That will be a necessary by-product. Learn because your job is to cling to Hashem and learning His Torah is the best way.

Daven hard. Not only for yourself but for others. To want for yourself is easy. EVERYBODY wants for themselves. Want for others with the same passion and intensity that you want for yourself. 

Then - your life in this world will be filled with meaning and joy. In the next world - beyond belief. People who were here for others end up with the greatest amount of bliss. That is the paradox - the more you are for yourself, the less you will receive. The less you are for yourself - the more you receive. But your selflessness is not in order to receive reward because if it is then it is about you again. That is poison. 

Sweet friends - a day filled with light, simcha, hatzlacha and tremendous help from Hashem in enjoying your millions of brachos and dealing with your many challenges. 
Bi-ahava rabba mei-halev,

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