The Forgotten Ones
Much has been said regarding the “shidduch crisis,” no doubt a very large issue in our community. If I may, I would like to present a most inspiring view of this “crisis” as I got to see it this past Shabbos.
I attended a Shabbaton this past Labor Day weekend that had a mix of singles in their late 20s/30s and approximately half were “mature adults” (in their 40s and 50s). I myself am in my mid-30s and date women in the 20-30s range.
What I saw and internalized was amazing. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to have met with such beautiful individuals. Having interacted with men and women of all ages (that is how the program was set up), I now realize that I was in the presence of greatness.
We often think of a “holy” person as having a long, flowing white beard. This past Shabbos I witnessed first-hand the triumph of the spirit of so many holy (single) souls. The exposure was so profound that it still brings tears to my eyes. Reflecting upon my experience, I realize the valuable lesson therein for the Y’mei HaDin upon us.
I saw men and women, many past their prime, presenting themselves as best they could, in an effort to find their bashert. They reminded me of the soulful Chassidic stories of the seemingly simple water carrier or maid servant who were considered great and holy in the heavens, and, in fact, were very often the reason the entire populace was judged favorably on the Yom HaDin. The ones keeping us afloat were the very people that we would never have given a second glance.
These “mature singles” were people whose trials and travails were numerous, and yet they were doing their best to counter the past and to move forward.
I was touched by the sincerity of two attractive looking neshamos I struck up a conversation with. (They were clearly not in my age range.) During the course of our conversation, the revelation that they were direct descendants of the Baal HaTanya (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe) surfaced. I, as a direct descendant of the Baal HaTanya’s Master and Teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch, was drawn into a series of stories regarding the great Chassidic masters. I had to laugh to myself – never did I imagine that these people would be familiar with these stories, let alone offer me insights I had never before heard.
I was touched by a Yeshivish-looking fellow who came along a few moments later, it turns out he learned in Lakewood while Reb Shneiur Kotler, zt”l, was still alive. (I had seen him all Shabbos but did not think much of him, especially since we were on different sides of the room – I with the younger singles.) When he decided to chime in on our conversation, I was blown away.
He might not have realized that his white shirt was faded and looking more yellow than white, but his storytelling of gedolim, and in particular Rav Shach, zt”l, coupled with his simplicity and sincerity, was so wholesome that I considered being in his presence a privilege. He smiled the whole time and showed such a simchas ha’chayim (love of life) despite the hardships he is certain to have suffered.
I was touched by a fellow who spoke at Seudah Shlishis who is hard-of- hearing, and yet so audible. His words of Torah came from his soul and pierced ours. As it turns out, he and I went to Mirrer yeshiva, albeit he preceded me by 15 years. His stories of my principal, whom he credited with having left the greatest impression on him, brought back fond memories.
I was touched by the fellow who, divorced twice (having been married for over two decades), had the guts to sit at my table with the younger crowd, without scaring or “traumatizing” any of the ladies – who, in fact, drew others to him as he sang beautiful zemiros.
I was touched earlier in the day, when after Shacharis prayers I overheard some ladies sharing a sentiment – that as singles without family obligations, missing a Shabbos davening in shul would be missing an “opportunity” to grow (this despite the fact that women are clearly not obligated to daven with a minyan).
I was touched and inspired by yet another “mature” adult, one whom I’d not have credited with knowing the basic “aleph beis” – and yet who stated with conviction that the presence of a shiur/class in mishnayos locally was “a big pull and factor” in possibly moving to the area. Many singles at that stage, I thought to myself, have long given up on having a learning seder, and this was a ” big pull and factor ?” Wow!
There were others whom I regret not having had the chance to speak with.
What are we singles all searching and yearning for in our bashert? At the end of the day, we all seek a few moments of peace of mind. Our aim is to contemplate our surroundings and the Creator in all His glory, and to live a life of Torah and mitzvos. Well, I had the honor of spending a few fleeting moments with some of G-d’s holy and glorious children this past Shabbos, and the experience has given me a new set of lenses with which to view the colors of the spectrum.
It is often the small and seemingly insignificant among us in whose merit we keep going, even when we fail to realize it. Many times, it is the small and seemingly insignificant acts and occurrences that have the most meaning. So it is with the silent and the forgotten ones among us. They are the ones who keep their heads above water in turbulent times… the ones who keep smiling and laughing when they have no reason or strength to do so… the ones who manage to keep warm during the cold long years of singlehood. That is holiness; that is greatness.
With a new year upon us, we look for inspiration and for the opportunity to turn a new leaf and receive a second chance. Klal Yisroel is blessed to have these souls in their midst. Yes, we hope that they all find their respective zivugim very soon, but in the meanwhile, the lessons they teach by their perseverance is a valuable lesson for us all.
The spectrum of light in which I now see these “mature singles” is one of holiness and greatness – akin to the greatness of the simple wagon driver or water carrier in all the Chassidic tales that we have been weaned on.
We are blessed and should take stock of the chizuk and strength of these individuals – a lesson for our own lives. Many times the “mature” element of the greater “singles crisis” is forgotten and overlooked. They had their chance, we quietly mumble, and there is nothing we can offer them or glean from them. I respectfully disagree. We have an opportunity to learn from their level of mesiras nefesh and holiness.
I was touched and honored to have been given a glimpse of that strength and greatness, and I hope you will be, too, the next time you meet a “mature” single.
Kesivah V’Chasimah Tovah . . .
Yakov (Jacob) Hirsch Esq.
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