Special Note: Several weeks ago, I published a letter from a young father, Akiva Shapiro. Many years ago, Akiva discovered the world of Torah through Hineni. He not only became part of our organization, but a leader and an activist. I was also privileged to introduce him to his aishes chayil- his soul mate, and today, he and his lovely wife are the proud parents of a beautiful family.
Even as many others, Akiva was hard hit by the economic crunch. In his letter, he described how he lost his business and his home, and how he had to confront a new reality and find new ways to support his family. Instead of crumbling and becoming despondent, Akiva, like Rabbi Akiva of old, greeted all of life’s painful, difficult tests with “Gam zu l’tovah- This too is for the best.” This Akiva also rose above his crisis and demonstrated his faith in Hashem. His belief that G-d was guiding him and that ultimately, it would “all be for the best” was conveyed most powerfully in his letter. I requested his permission to publish it so that our many readers might benefit from his experience.
In response to his story, I received many letters, and I am pleased to share one of them with you.
I am an avid reader of your column, and I have often read in your articles that there are no “coincidences” in life. As a matter of fact, on one occasion, I recall you writing that the Hebrew word, “mikreh – coincidence – happening,” really means, “Kara min Hashem – It happened from Hashem.” The older I become, the more convinced I am of the truth of that teaching. There is no other way to explain the unbelievable things that are befalling us these days.
As I said, I read your column regularly. It’s one of my Shabbos afternoon pleasures, but this past Shabbos, I did not think I would have the time, because my children and grandchildren came to visit, and that, as you can well imagine, is a “pleasure” that demands all my attention. As things turned out, however, my son and daughter-in-law decided to take a walk, and asked me to watch the baby. I accepted happily, but I was also certain that I wouldn’t have a minute to even scan The Jewish Press, but lo and behold, the baby fell asleep while playing on the couch and I didn’t want to move him for fear of awakening him. Nor could I leave him alone on the couch lest he fall off, so I sat next to him and picked up the paper.
I turned to your column and read the story of Akiva, which inspired me no end. I decided that as soon as the children departed and I got the house together again, I would write you a letter in response to Akiva’s story. I must tell you that, for the longest time, I have been thinking the very same thoughts that Akiva expressed in his letter.
I was deeply impressed by Akiva and how he responded to the things that were going on in his life. Despite the economic crisis that he was undergoing – the collapse of his business, the loss of his home, his faith remained constant and more, he found the time, energy and the desire to say three little words, “Thank You, Hashem!” How powerful those words are. How amazing his courage, and how beautiful his faith. Despite his ordeal, he stands tall and straight and moves forward.
I remember from my own childhood – I was just a little girl when I was overcome by an all pervasive feeling that told me that there was a G-d who runs the world and controls everything, even though at times, we may think that we are in charge.
But it was not until I was much older that I fully understood what faith is really all about … that life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we find ourselves in a deep valley; sometimes we are on top of the mountain, but no matter where we are, no matter where life takes us, our faith must remain constant. In illness or health, in poverty or wealth, in war or in peace, there is only one reality, and that is Hashem. If I remember correctly, I read that in one of your books.
Personally, I have gone thought a lot in my life. too long a story to tell .. But one thing is certain – without the presence of Hashem, I would never have made it.
My beloved father recently passed away. He did not have an easy life, but he had much emunah and bitachon – faith and trust in G-d. He was in a concentration camp for over three years, and all the while he never gave up, even when he was beaten (and that happened many times). He accepted his suffering without complaint …he lost half his family … . he came to America broken, but never broken in spirit.
In those days, many people changed their names and assimilated. My father never gave up. Torah and Shabbos remained the focus of his life. At one point, he lost his job because he insisted on going home from work early on Fridays. He never doubted what he must do, so he picked himself up and went on to the next job. Time and again he was fired until he went into his own business, but he never faltered. Just like Akiva, he never stopped believing, even during his most trying days, he thanked Hashem.
My father never sat with his hands folded … he took any job that came along even if he had to sweep floors – anything that would put food on the table for his family. No job was beneath his dignity – he was determined to make his way and refused to live on handouts.
I remember when I got married. A year later we had our first child and my husband lost his job. We did not even have money to bring the baby home from the hospital. Did we cry? Did we ask our parents to support us? No, we asked Hashem for help. Like my father, my husband did not sit with idle hands. He tried everything, no matter what it was. Long hours and hard work did not frighten him. Coming home just in time for Shabbos and leaving minutes after Havdalah… working two jobs – nothing intimidated him. I remember my friends asking me how I could let my husband do this. “He needs to be home to help you out!”
“No,” I would answer, “he should make a living and put food on the table so that we wouldn’t have to resort to taking help from others. We have to do our part, and Hashem will do His.”
I am not big on davening, but I always talk to Hashem – three little words. “Please help me!” Two little words – “Thank You!” You don’t need special knowledge for that – just a Jewish heart.
I say thank you for a good day. I also say thank you when my days are not so good. There is always something to say thank you for. I even said thank you when I had a terrible accident and fell and was in pain for months. I said thank you when I did not have a job and when I had no money. I thanked Hashem for giving me the ability to find a new job.
I look around and I see today’s generation and I’m sad to say that this faith, this willingness to work, to take on any job that is available, is sadly missing. This is a generation that is pampered and spoiled. They sit with folded hands. “This job pays too little…. This job is not appropriate for me…this job requires that I start too early… This job ends too late…. Me sweep floors? That will never happen!!”
People feel that they are entitled and can make demands on others – and worse, they make demands on Hashem, never realizing that Hashem does not owe them anything, but they owe everything to Him!
So to you Akiva, I say … I admire you. I respect you. You give people like me chizuk – strength, and I thank you Rebbetzin for never giving up, for never stopping…for going forward …for writing your powerful articles and your inspirational books. May Hashem give you long years and the strength to keep us on our toes, to awaken us from our sleep. I thank all those people who are at your side and who help you. …
From Someone Who Never Gave Up