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You have no idea how much chizuk your wise words deliver on a weekly basis! I hope you continue to do so for many years to come because there are many out there who need your wise advice.
You have printed letters with subjects deemed untouchable, and by doing so you have broken through the darkness that has enveloped many members of our community. Thank you for being in a place where others refuse to go.
If you deem my letter worthy, perhaps you will print your answer in your fine column. If not, I will understand. Merely unburdening myself after so many years may prove therapeutic.
Today I am 58 years old, have three beautiful daughters, seven grandchildren, a lovely home and a loving husband who always earned a good living. My family is healthy, B”H and we lack for nothing. So why am I writing?
More than 40 years ago, when I was 15, a young man (17 at the time) from my neighborhood fell madly in love with me – though it took him almost two years to build up the courage to tell me. We became an item for the next two years, though our feelings were not in sync (or so I thought). For him, the whole outside world didn’t exist.
He was shy, good-looking and gentle, with a heart as wide as the world; he was sensitive, knew what to say and meant every word he uttered. Though insanely crazy about me, he kept very careful physical distance for all of the two years we were together. In retrospect, I wonder how that was possible! He wrote me letters and poetry that overflowed with love and devotion. I was his world, the only thing he ever cared for.
Somewhere, somehow, we fell apart. I was 17, young and careless. I refused his marriage proposal because I didn’t have that intense love for him that he had for me. I was too young to fully comprehend the burning love he exhibited in everything he did with and for me. “We are too young, I need time,” I said. But that was not what he expected to hear. He was totally devastated, never imagining that his love was not equally reciprocated – or at least hidden in my heart. I watched his shining eyes dim as a look of tremendous pain settled on his face. Without another word, Rachel, he walked away, never looking back.
I tried calling him that night and every day after, but he never answered my calls. I saw him only once more when we bumped into each other about a month later. He pulled his wallet out wordlessly, handed me a folded piece of paper and walked away. The note read: “When you get married, my love, physically you may be his but your heart will forever belong to me. And if the person who’ll share your life will love you with only 10 percent of the intense love I have for you, your life will be paved with gold.” I cried for days.
I never met him again. The letters I sent him were returned as “undeliverable” after a few days. It was as if the earth had swallowed him up. At one point I heard that he moved to Israel and joined the Army.
Three years later I married and built a family. In the 40 years that have passed, I haven’t had a moment of total peace of mind and heart. For after getting that note from him, I realized that I do love him. And ever since, I think, breathe and smell his name and image. The hurt and pain I saw in his eyes has stayed with me.
Everywhere I go, I see his face. I hear his voice in the whisper of the leaves or the gentle breeze, and I always wonder, what if? I did love him after all, though I was too naive and too young to know it then. I had simply not sorted out my true feelings. What would my life with him be like? I wonder and wonder.
I’ve never spoken of this to anyone. My husband doesn’t have the slightest idea of where my heart lies, because I never gave him reason for doubt or suspicion. I do my best to be a caring, loving wife, mother and grandmother. The enormous effort is known only to G-d. I have kept it buried deep inside, as I dream of my first and true love.
I love my husband dearly and wouldn’t want to hurt him in any way. But in the thick of darkness, I shed buckets of silent tears. At simchahs, I wish he were by my side; when I walk in the pouring rain, I imagine the raindrops as a million drops of his tears on my face.
Simply put, Rachel, I feel totally engulfed by the love I have for him and silently embrace the deep love he had for me, and I wonder if he suffers still.
I know your advice will be to make the supreme effort to forget him. But after 40 years plus of such deep-rooted love, I can never, ever do that. In fact, I don’t wish to ever forget him. I just hope that someday we’ll meet again, for a moment, so that I can beg for his forgiveness and tell him how I wish I could turn back the clock. If that never happens, perhaps when I pass on to the next world, someone will let him know so that maybe he’ll come to my tombstone to tell me that he forgives me for hurting him, and to tell me that he still cares. That is all I wish for.
Thank you for letting me unburden. Perhaps, if you print this letter, he may read it wherever he is and forgive the hurt and pain I stupidly caused us both.
Response to follow…