Win Or Lose
Special Note: I have received many inquiries as to where I will be speaking this Pesach. I am pleased to share with you that I will be at the Fairmont Banff Springs in the Banff National Park, in Alberta, Canada.
In last week’s column, I published a letter from a woman who successfully overcame enormous challenges in her life through the power of faith. At the same time, I invited our readers to share with us their own personal difficulties so that others might benefit and be strengthened. The following is one of the responses. If you, dear reader, have story to relate, please e-mail it to me at, firstname.lastname@example.org so that I may share it with others through this column.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis
Thank you as always for your amazing columns and inspiration. Usually I am content to let others respond. I’m sure you are inundated, but I have been struggling greatly on this one and you so generously asked for experiences to share.
You meet so many people all over the world, I doubt you might remember me – I live in _________, and always attend your lectures whenever you are in town (or when I am in N.Y.). I married three years ago today, and two weeks after the wedding I attended your lecture at the women’s learning day.
Now I am 26 and sadly, discovered more than a year ago that my husband was addicted to porn and very involved in some sort of ring and networked online with like-minded others. When after many gut-wrenching months of lies and betrayal, and with great rabbis behind me I decided to leave. What had been purely emotional and “minor” physical abuse became much worse. The “kind” “gentle” “sweet” man everyone knows and I thought I married, terrorized me every time he was home.
I moved to a different basement every week for about two months before being forced by various circumstances to return to the house I was still paying for. One night, I had no recourse but to call the police, and he was arrested for domestic battery.
B”H by the great nissim (miracles) of Hashem I now have a Get, although the civil divorce continues to drag on, despite my attempts and offers to settle this amicably and move on with our lives. But, B”H I have a criminal order of protection and live in relative safety.
When I left, he vowed to make me pay, and indeed I have paid dearly. Most of the people I once called friends and community are no longer in those roles, believing that I made up the abuse to benefit the civil divorce. Some even went to court to testify against me with lies. The slander war against me is very real. I had been supporting both of us (he is also chronically out of work, as many of these types are). Everything my family had given me including large sums towards various purchases including my home was at risk or lost. I even paid his debts from before our marriage.
The man is walking away with tens of thousands for which he did nothing, and I am walking away with virtually nothing (we are still fighting because he wants significant amounts more). I am struggling to keep pace with the bills, mortgage and credit cards. The magnitude of the injustice even just in monetary terms is overwhelming.
And yet, and this is my point – I realized at the beginning of this process that I had only two choices – win, or lose. I could choose to be angry and vindictive, fight him back with words and lawyers, become cynical and crass and stoop to his level. But I realize that if I choose to follow that path, no matter what I won in this world, I would nevertheless emerge the loser.
On the other hand, if I chose to fight this battle with my head high, my Tehillim at my side and emunah in my heart, and daven not that Hashem should rain His justice down on this man, but only that I should be protected from him.
If I chose to keep my mouth shut even though it would make me look guilty to the community, I could look in the mirror with dignity. If I would get up in the morning with a smile on my face, and gratitude rather than bitterness in my heart; if I did nothing to be ashamed of – then no matter what I lost in this world, I won.
This is the choice every person is faced with when confronted by adversity. Recognizing this choice has enabled me to go on and cope with the pain. Whatever the crisis in our lives may be, we have a chance to be either angry or depressed or to bless G-d and be grateful for our lives – and that’s the difference between winners and losers. I realized that I could focus on how difficult it is to pay my bills and bemoan the past, when I used to be able to buy what I needed without worrying about the bill at the end of the month, on how much tzedakah I used to give and now cannot, etc.
Similarly, the woman who wrote the letter could focus on the extravagant mishloach manos that are no more, on her inability to give large amounts of money to her children, etc. Or she can focus on how to win, count her blessings and make the best of her situation. I myself focus on the fact that Hashem did not allow me to have children with him and said “not now” despite my fervent prayers. Hence, I am free to move on with my life and not be chained to him for the rest of it. I focus on the fact that although I almost lost my job due to this entire mess, B”H I still have it when many people are unemployed.
I focus on the fact that I am basically healthy and have been more or less healed from what I suffered at his hands. I picture myself the way it is for many, many women like me – small children, living in a shelter, with no income and no friends, lawyer’s bills they can’t pay and a divorce dragging on for years – or being an agunah, G-d forbid. I think to myself what it must be like for many people in this economic downturn – many children, a house in foreclosure and massive amounts of debt – and suddenly, I am sitting pretty!
I am not done with this divorce, and I can say I’ve made some mistakes and had moments where I was depressed and didn’t know if I would recover. But I can tell you now, even before it is officially over, that with Hashem’s help and blessings, I have won! Despite many injustices, I still have my emunah. Despite financial losses, Hashem continues to support me and I am making it, if barely. I have a job, new friends, a new community that suits me even better. I still have my rabbanim and my own rebbetzin behind me, who continue to guide me, and tremendous hope for the future.
Despite those who would lie in court, I have an Order of Protection. Let me repeat again that I have a Get! I am safe, I am free to be my true self without his constant criticism and degradation, and I even have moments when I am happy! Everything I truly need – I have. Sadly, he is still in the gutter – I hear through friends that he is angry and cynical, with a chip on his shoulder, no job and significant debt and wavering in whatever frumkeit had kept.
Yes, he has made me pay dearly – but I do not gloat in his downfall. I do not wish ill for him. I believe that there is a measure of justice even in this world, and there is a G-d who knows all and ensures justice in the end. With everything he has won, he has lost – and even with everything I have lost, “Hodu L’Hashem ki tov, ki l’olam Chasdo – Thank G-d for His many kindnesses,” and I know that as long as I bear this in mind, I have won.
I’m sorry this has become so long, but I want others to know that we are so much more than our money. Our challenges may be excruciatingly painful but winning or losing is the only real choice we have. Everything is in G-d’s Hands, and it is you, Rebbetzin, who taught me that. This concept has brought strength to many others and me. I have quoted you many times – your words are always with me. “Never look back and ask why, but look forward and ask where to go from here, and ask Hashem what may be learned from this experience.”
Making the right choice sometimes seems to have negative consequences. In my case, I have gotten nailed for continuously choosing not to fight dirty or take revenge, but in the end, the rewards are gargantuan.
To quote your article, “We can choose to accept this challenge we did not want with honesty and humility, we can choose to be a role model to our children; we can choose to focus on what we do have rather than what we do not have; we can choose to open ourselves up to Hashem and ask Him to solve our problems and guide us through the darkness, we can look back and know that we are now richer in spirit because we won the most challenging battle of all – the battle of the spirit, and in the world of truth – that is all that really matters.”
Thank you for reading, listening and giving such strength to so many. Feel free to share my letter on an individual or public level. May G-d speedily redeem us from all of this suffering and bring us Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimheirah b’yameinu.