A mentor once said, “Hachaim Zeh Lo Picnic” which translates to “Life isn’t Easy.” I was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during Sandy. We didn’t lose electricity, barely felt a thing. This was not the case for our neighbors in Seagate, the Five Towns, Teaneck and many other places. Many from our community have volunteered and we are in the midst of completing a $1 million communal campaign to help make a tiny dent in all the financial ruin.
Despite these efforts, connection for me only comes when I reflect on the birth of my oldest child, who surprisingly and shockingly entered our world with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Those first few days were incredibly difficult. All thoughts of the future were frightening and overwhelming. The challenge for us was to stay afloat (no pun intended) and re-gain equilibrium – as I imagine the challenge for many is at this very moment. The good news is that with time things got much better and much easier, even though it’s not always a picnic.
I think it crucial in times like these that we share our feelings and express ourselves. It’s healthy to acknowledge the fear and doubts and to lean on others for support. Chazal teach, “daaga blev ish yasichenu l’acher – worry in the heart of man should be expressed to others,” a source for the field of listening professionals or minimally to have good friends and solid family relationships.
Yaakov introduced Maariv, the evening prayer. In the darkness of night, when there is a tremendous lack of clarity, Yaakov, who represents us, Bnei Yisrael, cries out to Hashem. Hashem is the address we can always turn to no matter how dark the darkness and despair. The synthesizing of chesed with din, the enmeshing of these two phenomena emanate from our father Yaakov, who prayed from the darkness.
My daughter, who is six, informed me she voted in her mock school election for Mitt Romney. She said he’d be a good friend to Israel and “lower the price of taxis.” Unfortunately, the prices of “taxis” or “taxes” are likely heading in the other direction, at least for those in higher income brackets. Even so, one must remember the maxim introduced by Rav Yitzchak Hutner z’l in a famous letter to a struggling student, “lose the battle, but win the war.” We have lost some battles of late, but we must always keep our “eye on the prize” and fight to the finish where a splendorous redemption awaits us just beyond the horizon.
About the Author: Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen, Esq., M.Sc. is director of synagogues for Manhattan, Bronx, Westchester, and Connecticut and director of community outreach for Yachad, both leadership roles at the Orthodox Union. His book is available at rabbidovidmcohen.com.
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