At the outset, allow me to say how profoundly sorry I am that (part of) my response to your first letter caused you additional suffering. Your clarification in last week’s column of your earlier correspondence (Chronicles 5-16) sheds somewhat of a different light on the devastation that you’ve been made to endure for all of these long years.
Though we are taught to do teshuvah every day of our life here on earth, we are also admonished to serve Hashem with happiness and to believe that He is a merciful Father eager to forgive our wrongdoings. Having suffered so unbearably, for so long, you must surely believe that G-d has forgiven you for the foolishness of your youth and that your ocean of tears has by now more than wiped your slate clean.
Forgiving (yourself) does not have to mean forgetting. Though you never got to communicate to Aaron in this world how much you care for him, reciting a verse of Tehillim or giving tzedakah l’iluy nishmas is an act of tremendous chesed and of immeasurable benefit for his neshamah.
Getting back to your letter, who of us could possibly begin to fathom your pain? No reader could have been left untouched by your heartbreaking portrayal of how your children were taken from you.
You say your babies were too young to have retained any memory of you. Today, however, they are adults and should have, by now, been apprised of their true parentage for their own physical and spiritual wellness; physical – for genetic accuracy in case of medical urgencies, and spiritual – because a Jew in his/her lifetime is always referred to by mention of his/her mother’s given name, as for example, “Yitzchak ben Sarah” (exceptions: when called up to the Torah; in a kesubah). Moreover, one’s mother’s name is not ever interchangeable.
Such revelation, if not, heretofore, made known, becomes obligatory before the child is escorted to the chuppah. Yes, your sons could have been lied to with any number of fabrications to effectively cancel any motivation to find you.
Yet there is good reason for you to let emptiness and bitterness give way to hope and optimism – hope of being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and of whom you were so cruelly dispossessed. Presumably there were other people involved, if only as onlookers, and someone out there knows the truth – that the children you gave birth to were taken from you against your will under extenuating circumstances.
Even if your ex brainwashed everyone around him to believe that you were truly insane and incapacitated as a mother, there is still hope. For now that you have finally allowed your oppressive pain to seep out, your story is being read by countless people globally. Anyone recalling an incident similar to the one you have described will alert someone else and so on.
It is well documented that adopted children generally grow up with an innate curiosity about their roots. That craving is even more prevalent among our people and many have left no stone unturned in trying to unearth details of their birthmother. G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent − a kesher not easily broken.
During the Spanish Inquisition, when Jews were tortured and burnt alive if discovered practicing their religion, there were those who succumbed to coercion and converted in order to avoid heinous persecution. One particular Jewish youngster joined a monastery and grew up to be a most vicious member of the clergy who sent many Jewish souls to the stake to be burnt alive.
An elderly Jew caught observing his religion was once brought before this rasha who, to his consternation, found himself literally unable to convict the old man. The words simply would not come out of his mouth. After repeated attempts to pronounce a death sentence came to naught, he took the Jewish man to a private room and questioned him about whether he had ever lost a child. When the Jew confirmed that he had, a description of a birthmark proved them to be father and son. The son was so shaken by this episode that he escaped shortly thereafter and did teshuvah.
The first step you must take is to stop castigating yourself. If you will succeed in freeing yourself of the guilt that has been eating at you, you will be able to stand a little straighter, believe in yourself a little more and subsequently realize that the torment you’ve undergone has cleansed you of the transgression you so readily confess to. (Even Gehennom, a “purifying” process, is limited to a year’s duration.)
You end your letter by expressing a sense of relief at having released a bit of your onerous load. Why not consider penning a manuscript of your story (a project that can reap benefits beyond expectations)? Besides serving as a catharsis for your overburdened heart, it would be a bestseller and possibly lead to a reunion with your children.
Ask any male or female who tragically never knew his/her mother, due to tragedy, what they wouldn’t give to be acquainted up close with the woman he or she shares an eternal bond with. (Keep in mind that your children’s father was able to maneuver their direction in life for only as long as they were minors under his care.)
Time not only heals . . . it also alters many things. It’s time, Esther, for you to recognize that you, too, have grown. You have become a better and wiser person who is deserving of the finer things that life has to offer.
If only we could abolish the ugliness of hatred in our hearts and learn to replace intolerance with compassion, benevolence and understanding, the sadness of Tisha B’Av would soon be replaced with a day of rejoicing. If only.