In last week’s column I published a letter from a woman in her late forties, a physician, who, despite her success, is very unhappy in her personal life. She is the child of a troubled family. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. The separation was traumatic and left much bad feeling in its wake. The young woman was determined to make a life for herself and, in doing so, somehow missed her opportunity to marry and build a family.
In her letter, she expressed her pain, the terrible void in her life, and her yearning to have a husband, a home and children – all of which she felt has passed her by. Sadly, she confided that she would happily exchange her career for the joy of holding her own baby in her arms. She wrote that her painful situation was exacerbated by the fact that her specialty is Ob-Gyn, which places her in the position of bringing children into the world, all the while realizing that she, herself, missed out on that great gift.
In her letter, she indicated that she had resigned herself to her unhappy state and did not write in anticipation of a response. Rather, she had sent her e-mail so that other young women might learn from her example and avoid the pitfalls that had caused her so much grief. The following is my response:
My Dear Friend:
Normally, when someone writes and indicates that she does not require a response, I am more than happy to comply, since I receive myriad e-mails from all over the world that do request answers. In your case however, I felt that it was not only important to reply to your request to publish your letter, but more significantly, to respond to your problem – not only because of your own personal situation, but also because, as you indicated, there are countless other young women who are struggling with the very same challenges.
The shidduch dilemma is one of the most difficult ones confronting our generation. It crosses geographical and cultural boundaries and impacts on singles all over the world. I believe that the most important advice that I can give you and others who find themselves in a similar situation is not to be despondent and not to give up. It is written: “The help of G-d can come as quickly as the blink of an eye.”
This does not mean that I am minimizing your predicament. I am fully aware of your pain and the void that gnaws at your heart. Nevertheless, miracles do happen – I have seen them, and we are never to relinquish hope. Faith is at the root of Judaism… it is one of the pillars of our lives, and throughout history, we have seen it justified a thousand-and-one times.
The crisis that you describe we encounter in the Torah itself. To be sure, under different circumstances, but the challenge is nevertheless the same. Specifically, I am referring to the daughters of Tzelofchad. If you recall the story, Tzelofchad had five daughters (no sons), Somehow, the daughters never made shidduchim, and consequently, he was consumed with fear, “How,” he agonized, “will my descendants inherit the land? I have no sons and my daughters are unmarried.”
His very name “Tzelofchad” (which literally translated means “tzel-pachad – in the shadow of fear” is indicative of the trepidation which filled his heart… and sadly, he died without his fears assuaged. Little did he know that Hashem Himself would champion the cause of his daughters and they would be granted permission, not only to inherit the land, but despite their age, make wonderful shidduchim. (The youngest was 40 when she married.) They were all blessed with beautiful families.
You may of course argue that all of this unfolded at a time in our history when miracles were commonplace, but alas, nowadays, such things no longer happen. But that is wrong. It is written: “Ma’aseh avot, siman l’banim – That which befell our forefathers is a sign to us, the children.” Hashem’s miracles are with us daily, but because we lack emunah, because we lack faith, we tend to interpret them as luck. But that is a huge mistake. That which we believe to be natural phenomenon or “lucky breaks” are all acts of Hashem. Yes, I have seen many “older” women get married and yes, I have seen “older” women give birth to children. I am not suggesting that this is an everyday occurrence, but I am saying that it is possible and that it does happen. So why not you?
May I make the following recommendations?
1) Don’t live in the past! We have a Talmudic teaching, “What was, was.” Move on… learn from your past, but be careful not to allow that experience to paralyze you.
2) Be ever on guard not to develop a negative attitude or become despondent. There is nothing that is more of a turnoff to potential soul mates than a frustrated, bitter face. I have often told singles, “Before you go on a date, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Would I want to go out with me?” Now, quickly put a warm smile on your face and look in the mirror again. If the smile reflects back at you, you are ready to go out.
And now to my final recommendation, which is the most critical of all. I should have put it first on the list, but in order for it to be efficacious, the first two – changing your attitude and freeing yourself of negativity – are a must:
3) Learn to exchange resignation for hope and pessimism for heartfelt, powerful prayer because ultimately, it is only prayer that will help, for it is Hashem who makes matches and unites a man and a woman.
When praying, bear in mind that this past week, in Parshas Va’eschanan, Moshe Rabbeinu, the holiest man to ever walk on planet earth, prayed 515 ways so that he might see the Promised Land, and he would have continued praying were it not for the fact that Hashem told him to desist. And yes, Hashem did answer his prayers (even if it was not as he had anticipated). Hashem did show Moshe Eretz Yisrael and He even allowed him to see the entire panorama of Jewish history to the end of time.
I share all this with you because ours is a generation of instant gratification. No sooner do we make our requests known to G-d, then we expect to be satisfied. We have no patience for continual prayer. We mouth our words and expect to be answered immediately. The teachings of King David – “Kavei el Hashem chazak… – Hope and trust in the L-rd. Strengthen your heart [and keep praying. Do not give up]” eludes us.
As I said, Hashem arranges shidduchim. He is the Supreme Shadchan. Place your trust in Him and ask Him to help you build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael and bring children into the world for His Holy Name’s sake.
As I write these words, Rosh Hashanah is quickly approaching and that is very significant because it was on Rosh Hashanah that Hashem remembered the great mothers of our people and granted them the blessing of children. It is a tradition on Rosh Hashanah to recite the prayer of Chana who became the mother of the prophet Samuel.
May I suggest that you join us for our High Holy Days services and let’s daven together. Our Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur davening this year will, please G-d, be held at the beautiful Essex House in Manhattan where we will also serve our Yom Tov seudos (festive holiday dinners). Who knows, but that during these seudos, I might just be able to introduce you to that special someone you have been waiting for.
And now, for the best part: Believe it or not, since I published your letter, I received countless phone calls and e-mails, all indicating interest in meeting you, now you can see the amazing guiding Hand of Hashem who promises if we daven for others, He will help us first.
You wrote me with the intention of protecting other singles from the pitfalls that you experienced, and in the process, Hashem is helping you. Just absorb that and say thank you to Hashem. May this year be the one in which you will go under the chuppah with mazal and brachah.