(Names and circumstances changed)
Last week I told the story of Chaya Leah, a well spouse. Chaya Leah had cared for her son’s friend, Moishe, while his mother was sitting Shivah. She had had him over to play with her son, Dovid, gave him dinner and entertained him until his mother could come for him late each night of shivah. Expressing her immense gratitude and promising to someday return the favor, Moishe’s mother’s words seemed to be quickly forgotten.
One year later when planning that Dovid, Moshe and another friend (Ari) would all fly to summer camp together, making the experience safer and less frightening for the young boys, Moshe’s mother changed the plans by taking her son and only Ari to spend the week before camp on a vacation in the city that the camp was in. They would live for the week with Moishe’s married sister, explore the city and generally have a great time. As Moshe’s mother and her daughter felt her apartment was too small to accommodate three boys, but could hold two nicely, Dovid was to be excluded from this.
Chaya Leah knew her son was more active than the other two and felt it was the real reason her son was rejected from the trip. She was angry that her son Dovid seemed to be “good enough” for Moishe and Ari to come over to play frequently. He had certainly been “good enough” for Moishe to spend the week at his home when his mother sat Shivah. But, now suddenly there wasn’t room for him and he was left out of the trip.
Worse still, she would have to put him alone and frightened on a plane, in order to get him to camp, as she couldn’t leave her chronically ill husband, to take him. She wished that someday Moishe’s mother would understand what it felt like to be in a similar situation, to understand the pain of having your child rejected and terribly hurt by someone else’s heartless decision; to feel the frustration and injustice to your child and be unable to help him.
* * * * *
Chaya Leah told me that 20 years had passed since that awful summer. She had lost touch with Moishe and his mother. Yet each time she heard of them the pain of her son’s rejection and hurt was felt all over again. Her son was now happily married and she had heard that Moishe was as well. Moishe’s sister now had children of her own.
One of these children had some learning difficulties and often, as is the case with LD children, he was “more active” than his peers, causing the family to feel much frustration. As a result of his behaviour and learning difficulty, the only local Jewish high school in the city refused to let him attend. Instead, he had to attend public school, and through no fault of his own, he was being rejected, separated from his peers and deprived of the experience of a Jewish education.
Chaya Leah told me that when she heard this story, it did not make her feel good. Even though she had “gotten her wish,” one that was expressed so offhandedly and without thought during her time of pain, she wished she had never said a word.
It gave her no satisfaction knowing that the rejection of her son by these people had come full cycle and that Moishe’s family was now coping with the same feelings of frustration and hurt for their child and grandchild, just as she had. Instead, it haunted her.
She couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps her wish, one made through those tears of hurt by a well spouse, was heard as clearly as the tears of an orphan or a widow – all those that have no security or support and are heartbroken.
As we discussed the situation in the support group, we all came to accept that the Ribbono Shel Olam handles the retribution. The payback is His to give, or not. We need to accept that each of us experiences what is meant for us. The real question we need to look at is not “why is she doing this to me?” (In this case, why was Moishe’s mother doing this to Chaya Leah and Dovid?)
We must consider a more important question: what am I to learn from what G-d is having me experience? If that is how we see it, then forgiveness of others comes more easily than seeking revenge. Chaya Leah regrets ever having wished the same situation on those she felt unfeelingly hurt her and her son. She feels that if her wishes are in any way responsible for what happened to this innocent child, now deprived of a Jewish education – she has much to atone for.
Instead, she should have looked at the situation as a way to strengthen her son’s resilience and confidence and as a way to heighten her own method of coping with her situation. Or, it could be just a way of accepting life. Chaya Leah is the first to admit that it is not easy, but she told us that she wishes she had kept her anger in check, and left vengeance to G-d because, just thinking that her wish could have been responsible for what happened to Moishe’s nephew, made her feel awful.
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