REVISED ARTICLE WITH SOMETHING ADDED.
Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
<><>Friday February 25, 2022, Adar Rishon 24, 5782<><>
HOPE – EMUNATH – FAITH –JUST DON’T GIVE UP
A SPECIAL MAZEL TOV & INSPIRATION
THOUGHTS TO CONTEMPLATE ABOUT ONES FUTURE –
YES OR NO, IT IS UP TO THE RIBONO SHEL OLAM
OTHER THOUGHTS ON GIVING ADVICE, TO LISTEN OR BOTH
I received wonderful news about an engagement, between two beautiful people who are truly remarkable and full of faith. The chasan and kallah are in their senior years and each has a diagnosis of and being treated for Cancer. They have been giving each other much chizuk, doing wonderful kind deeds and tremendous support. They have immense faith in the Ribono shel Olam and look forward to the future as a loving married couple, sharing much joy, happiness, and care for each other. They truly share in having a lot of hope. As long as H gives them the strength their desire is to have a meaningful life together. They are a remarkable inspiration to all who know them. The chasan told me “They are affirming life which is a gift from H.” This couple made a decision they felt was important to them. This is the first marriage for both. I sincerely am inspired by their strong faith and hoping only for the best. They care so much for each other. I am mispallel their lives will be filled with blessings of happiness, joy, kindness, goodness ad meah veesrim shana, and each should have a complete refuah sheleima. Mazel Tov to this magnificent couple. (Their names are not disclosed out of respect for their privacy and confidentiality. I also received permission to write the above).
What advice does one give to an older person (I did not say old) who would like to get married, begin a new career, a new relationship? Like many things in life, not just for an older person, but for anyone, there are always questions, doubts, what should I do, etc. Once a person has done his/her research, made the appropriate enquires, if necessary has discussed his/her thoughts and concerns with someone this person trusts and feels confident with but most of all, to be mispallel to H. A person offers his/her bakashos, have faith, hope and emunah that H will guide the person to what is best. It might not be easy for a person to say to H, whatever Your decision for me I will accept? If You want me to get married, even at an older age, even if I might have some aches and pains here and there, I will accept, and if not, I will accept that too. Only H has the answers. However, we should not give up hope, for whatever good a person desire. These questions and others like them have been asked by many through the generations such as who will marry me at my age, or who will marry me with my aches and pains, or who will marry me with my partially bald head or grey hair and so on and so forth? If H wants it to happen it will happen. How does one know what H wants from a person? Only time will tell. Living with worry, with doubt, with too much anxiousness, can’t get one’s mind off what to do is not a healthy way of life. It is important to have a healthy amount of self esteem, of self confidence. There is an important word a verb, doing ones hishtadlis. Proceeding with helping oneself, in a meaningful and positive way. Not to go overboard, no need to go full steam ahead. Just use ones seichel, and proceed cautiously, but with a head lifted high feeling positive about oneself, but always with faith in H and hope for all the right reasons.
With extraordinary joy and simcha the following was announced in this weeks Matzav online news, February 23, 2022
“There is great joy in the Botei Ungarin neighborhood of Yerushalayim upon the engagement of Chaim Menachem Manish Hoizman, a 64-year-old bochur in the neighborhood who has gotten engaged. The chosson is a longtime talmid of Yeshiva Liflagos Reuven in Yerushalayim. His kallah is Sarah Koren, age 50. The chosson is well-known in Yerushalayim and beloved at his yeshiva. He often attends the gatherings of Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern and Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg.Menachem is a son of Rav Shimon Aryeh Hoizman, a member of Yerushalayim Shel Maalah who was niftar several years ago. The vort took place at Menachem’s sister’s house in the Meah Shearim neighborhood of Yerushalayim.”
In the USA, the AARP is dedicated to people 50 and older. The mere fact that the kallah is 50 and the chasan 64 years old was important enough for Matzav to publicize this happy event. If a person who was never married, divorced, widow or widower in their 50’s and older would like to have a relationship, why not? Too much emphasis is placed on those who have their opinion on what is the norm. Even those who choose not to get married – it is their decision, not the world’s. Why did the kallah or the chason wait all these years? Truthfully, it surely is not anyone’ business. There could be many reasons. What is most important is giving thanks to the Ribono shel Olam and bestowing this couple with our blessings. Evidently, they never gave up having hope.
Here are other thoughts on giving advice, to listen or both. Listening, reflecting what a person is sharing, helping the person convey his/her thoughts, fears and personal interpretations is hugely beneficial. Helping the person to be at ease, in a nonthreatening or intrusive way to help uplift what might be a person’s concerns is important. Advice can be meaningful and sometimes it might be out of place. An opinion might not be what a person is seeking. A person might want his/her concerns and thoughts to be validated.” I’m not asking you for your opinion, just listen to me, give me encouragement, but don’t even suggest I am making the wrong decision or not” I’m sharing with you my most inner thoughts. I don’t want to be told I don’t know the right thing to do, or to tell me to hold off because I am making a mistake.” All I wanted was for you to listen, for me to bounce off my thoughts, but not to be told just the opposite.” These are just some scenarios of what a person might be feeling or want to say. Even if the person is making a mistake, one must weigh the pros and cons of what to say or just validate what is being shared. Not everything is meant to be fixed.
I have said this several times, it is not necessary for the rabbi, rebbetzin or chaplain to know the answer or the right direction for the person to take. It is ok to respond with “I hear what you are saying, I feel for you, I validate what you are telling me, what direction would you like to take or what direction would you consider taking, I hear what you are telling me, it sounds very challenging, is there anything you would like me to share with you, is there anything you feel I can do for you, I myself feel challenged what you have shared etc”. If requested to give an answer to a question you might not have, it is ok to say I have to give it some thought, at the present time don’t have an answer but with your permission will do my utmost to try and find out for you. It is important not to be condescending. Not to make light of what is being shared and not to make a joke or say something funny unless something meaningful in a smiling manner would be appropriate. Even saying “WOW you shared with me many important things, or oh my gosh, shaking your head in disbelief.” All showing and affirming you have listened and validating what has been shared. It is helpful to interrupt making a gesture, say I hear what you are saying, please go on etc, to show you are listening.
What about those who feel offering or giving advice is really helpful. I was at a conference some years ago, when the presenter, a Jewish liaison who works with administration at a well-known hospital shared the following. A person visiting a patient in the hospital after listening told her “Oh my gosh, my mother died from what you will be having” Another visitor told a patient not to listen to the doctor and not to take the prescribed medicine as it can cause serious side affects. Here is another one, the family of a patient finally through the efforts of this liaison, was able to get an appointment with a specialist the family desperately was hoping for. He was booked solid. Yet this liaison was able to set up an appointment. The doctor after his complete analysis and consultation agreed to do the procedure. His secretary made all the arrangements for the special procedure which is what the family was hoping for. On the day of the procedure, the doctor and medical staff were ready to accept the patient in the procedure room. They waited and waited and then found out the patient went AMA against medical advice. The patient left the hospital to go to another doctor instead. Why? Because the family listened to the advice of someone who convinced the patient and family were making a wrong decision. The doctor who was to do the procedure had an excellent reputation as well as the hospital and in fact was the doctor and hospital of the family’s choice. “This liaison who did everything possible on behalf of that patient and family was “left holding the bag.”
Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl would give appropriate brachos. Whatever he gave for my wife A”H, myself or our children was always meaningful. He always knew the right words of hope, faith, or emunah was immensely helpful to all of us. He often just listened to my wife, to me or to our children. He just knew when it was time to speak and what to say. Even on the morning when my wife was nifteres, when my stepsons went to Rav Dovid and Rebbetzin sol zein gezundt for advice what to do, they gave them chizuk and advice what the halachos are to follow. They especially conveyed chizuk to me refusing to leave my wife’s side even after death.
We should never give up hope. Here is a story about parents who never gave up hope for their daughter to return to her roots and to her home. By Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky from his book Inspired in Artscroll and in the Flatbush Jewish Journal January 27, 2022, page 112 “Go Home” “When Chani showed signs of going off the derech, her parents were devastated. They knew she was struggling with her Yiddishkeit and did whatever they could to make her feel welcome, but they didn’t know what to do to help her feel happy with her identity as a bas Yisrael. Torah and mitzvos didn’t seem to interest her anymore. She dropped out of school and there wasn’t much to do other than daven to H to bring her back.
On Shabbos, Chani would go off to have fun with her friends. To her, the day no longer held any holiness. When Rosh Hashanah came along, her parents hoped that the spirit of the day would wake her up and perhaps she would join them for davening in shul. However, even the Days of Awe stirred no awe in Chani. She had other plans.
Nevertheless, Chani’s parents set a place for her at the Rosh Hashanah seudah. At least if she came home, she would see that she was welcome. However, Chani didn’t appear. Instead, her parents sat at the table looking longingly at the empty place. In shul, her mother shed many tears, praying that Chani would come back.
Meanwhile, Chani was with her friends in Manhattan. She had no plans to go home, but suddenly felt a spark of kedushah. It’s Rosh Hashanah today, she thought. I should at least hear the shofar like I do every year. She mentioned the idea to her friends, but they laughed her off. Nevertheless, Chani was determined to see if there was a way for her to hear the shofar.
Out of nowhere, she suddenly saw a Lubavicher chassid walking around with a shofar in hand. She went over to him and asked him if he could blow the shofar for her. He told her to come to the side, where he skillfully blew the ancient sounds of the shofar into the air. Instantly, the piercing notes penetrated her heart. She decided to leave her friends and walk all the way home to Flatbush.
Her parents had already begun their meal when there was a knock on the door. Running to the door, Chani’s mother allowed herself a glimmer of hope that her daughter would be standing there. When she opened it, there stood Chani, he eyes shimmering with tears. “Mommy, I want to come home” she said.
Mother and daughter embraced and simcha filled the air as her mother called out to the family, “Look everybody! Chani’s here! Her little brothers and sisters were so excited to see her that they, too, came running to greet her.
Chani’s heart filled with the contentment of being embraced once again by her family. H had found her on the sidewalks of Manhattan and brought her home. Now she knew that He had been by her side all along, no matter how far she had drifted.” “Every test we face is really a calling from H. He wants to get our attention to remind us that even when we fall, we must get up again and try to jump just a little higher “.
Rav Dovid’s shita for parents of a child off the derech, the love is still there as a parent. It is up to the child to want to return to his/her roots and home. The parent just like Chani’s will be waiting. Never give up hope. The door will be open for that child.
I received the following laminated given to me as a gift by one of my patients. We shared many thoughts of hope. (Author unknown)
“Hope looks for the good in people
instead of harping on the worst
Hope opens doors where despair
Hope discovers what can be done instead of
grumbling about what cannot.
Hope draws its power from a deep trust
in G and the basic goodness
of human nature.
Hope “lights a candle” instead of
“Cursing the darkness.”
Hope regards problems, small or large,
Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield
Hope sets big goals and is not frustrated
by repeated difficulties or setbacks.
Hope pushes ahead when it would be
easy to quit.
Hope puts up with modest gains,
realizing that “the longest journey
starts with one step.”
Hope accepts misunderstandings
as the price for serving ‘
the greater good of others.
Hope is a good loser because
it has the divine assurance
of final victory.”
The trust we have in H is up to us. Rabbonim, Rebbetzins and Chaplains with hearts of gold, with sincerity, with honesty, with care for others, for each other, for ourselves can make the difference in the life of those who seek our confidence, our guidance, our hearts, and our ears. Life can and often is challenging. We look to the future and contemplate on what it holds for anyone. Are we naviim/prophets? Do we know what the future holds for us? For some, their lives can be difficult, maybe even earth shattering with many ups and downs, but we have to have hope, we have to have that faith in H, but we also have to find the resources, the help that is needed, and learn to overlook and overcome those difficulties that can make or break a happy and meaningful life. We don’t know why things happen the way they do. Sometimes those things that we desire doesn’t come easily or at all. Sometimes we can feel rejected, disappointed, even sad when things don’t always work out the way we want it to or for what we pray for. Having hope is helping find another goal in life which maybe will ultimately come to a fruition in the way we were hoping for.
There is a famous song called “Que sera sera- whatever will be will be. That the future is up in the air and whatever is going to happen is going to happen” This song some say was in Spanish and others originally in Italian. Many well-known stars used to sing this song. However, for us “it is not just wherever the chips will fall let it be” The future might be up in the air, but only H knows what will happen. Nothing is by chance. Everything is through and by Hakadosh Boruch Hu.
So, do we discourage an older person who wishes to marry for the first time, or remarry following a divorce or the passing of a loved one his/her spouse because he/she is older? Of course not. If there is realistic hope, a possibility of a happy, meaningful life, to find comfort and joy with a new spouse why not. There are even shidduch groups and shadchanim who specialize for those with medical challenges. It can and does happen. This is not just for the older person, but for any adult age. Where there is hope, faith and emunah, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Is it not possible for a child off the derech to return to his/her roots and home? Of course. Does it always happen? Maybe not, but we can never give up hope. We believe whole heartedly that H runs the world, He runs the universe, He makes the decisions. Don’t give up hope! Rabbis, rebbetzens and chaplains are ambassadors of good will, of hope and convey the essence of kindness for each person. What ever is meant to be will be.
The Thirteen Principles of Faith (1) “I believe with faith that is complete that the Creator blessed be His Name- He creates and guides all that were created, and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything that is made”.
(10)” I believe with faith that is complete that the Creator- blessed be His Name- knows all the deeds of human beings and all their thoughts as it is said, He Who fashions together in their hearts, Who comprehends all their deeds”. (G knows man’s thoughts and deeds. Man’s individual deeds are important to G and so are the hopes and thoughts that drive him. G is aware of everything man thinks and does”). Translation and explanation Artscroll Siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd).
In the fourth blessing recited in Birkas Hamazon, G’s goodness Hatov Umeitiv
“The King Who is good and Who does good for all. For, every day after day, He did good, He does good, and He will do good, to us, He was bountiful with us, He is bountiful with us, and He will be bountiful with us forever with grace and with kindness and with compassion. With relief, rescue, success, blessing salvation, consolation, sustenance, support, compassion, sustenance. and support, compassion, life, peace, and all good: and of all good things may He forever not deprive us.” (Artscroll translation. Siddur and Tehillim Mesorah Publications Ltd)
Thank you. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank.
Please note: This article is not the venue about what to do should someone have knowledge of a shidduch, a business venture, a medical procedure for instance that might be problematic. That is a discussion for rabbonim or poskim to address.
Let us be mispallel for peace, and Klal Yisrael should be safe.
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