Blessings are not always easy to receive. In fact, they often present a challenge. It’s a documented fact that marriages, births, holidays, vacations – even birthday parties! – are times of tension. They require planning and cooperation and when entire families are involved, each with their own needs, style and desires, differences of opinion are bound to occur. It’s a perfect setting for spats, quarrels and hard feelings.
We were recently blessed with a spate of family semachot (weddings, lots of sheva brachot, a bar mitzvah, births, britot, one pidyon haben and one chalaka in Meiron!) over the course of two months – the two busiest months of the year (Adar/Nissan which translates into Purim/Pesach). It was, to put it mildly, hectic. The only alleviating factor was that with so much to take care of, no one had time to insist on doing things his or her way.
Nonetheless, there were glitches. When the manager of the wedding hall announced two days before one of the weddings that the hall would be shut down the next day because of a legality, well… I need not describe the mayhem that ensued! (The matter was settled and the hall remained open, but my daughter’s nerves took a rough beating.) Then there were the invitations that never arrived despite having been sent out a month early. And the bride who swooned and almost fainted under the chuppah. (Good thing there were people around to catch her. Someone should make sure the bride eats something on her wedding day!)
But in the end, everything turned out well, baruch Hashem. One curly-haired little boy got his first haircut and became a little “man”; two babies were lovingly greeted as they entered the world, and eight days later, entered into the Covenant; four young adults started two new batim ne’amanim b’Yisrael; and somehow, everyone managed to put together fancy mishloach manot and celebrate Purim (two days of celebrations for the Yerushalmim) and actually have everything Pesachdik and in place by the night of the Seder. It was an overwhelmingly joyous time. And hectic. And tiring. Very tiring.
During all this activity, I sat on the side and did what I do best. I worried. After all, if no one is worrying, how can anything turn out right? And there was much to worry about. Clothing, makeup, hairdos, time schedules, money, meals, gifts to buy, travel arrangements, Shabbos arrangements, sleeping arrangements and staying awake despite all the crazy hours we were keeping. Since I wasn’t responsible for most of the serious stuff (being a grandparent has its perks) I didn’t actually do too much arranging, but as I said, while everyone else was busy running around and taking care of one thing or another, someone had to worry.
I suppose someone calmer than me would never have worried about minor details in the first place but I am made to solve major global difficulties. I can easily advise the UN (although Nikky Haley is doing a pretty good job without me). I am perfectly capable of handling Putin, Assad and Khomeini. I could even give Mr. Trump a few tips. (Too bad none of them ever gave me a call…) But when it comes to arranging things on the domestic front, I am often overwhelmed with anxiety. I am sure that if I don’t keep my eye on things, “things” are bound to go wrong.
In addition to my general anxiety, I was also suffering from a case of guilt. People joke about the Jewish mother implanting a sense of guilt in her unfortunate children but here the kids were all fine; it was the bubby who was feeling guilty. Why? Because I was the recipient of so much Divine blessing, and instead of feeling joyously grateful, I was feeling anxious and stressed out. What justification was there for my lack of composure, serenity, tranquility? My lack of emunah that all would be well? Was I worthy of receiving so much goodness? It didn’t seem like it. I had no doubt that the blessings were simply a manifestation of God’s overflowing chesed, even to those who are not deserving of it. I felt like an ingrate with a great debt to repay. It was a heavy responsibility to shoulder.
To top it all off, this angst was affecting my sense of simcha which only added to the guilt trip. A Jew is commanded to worship God in a state of joy at all times, and here I was, in the best of times, getting bogged down in ridiculous details that didn’t seem to bother anyone else but me. Even the Prophets were disqualified from prophesying if they were not joyous! So I decided to face my dual Guilt/Anxiety Syndrome head on. I would practice quiet, relaxing meditation and remind myself of all the wonderful things happening in the midst of the noise. I would accept God’s gifts with humility and gratitude and joy and wouldn’t second guess His plans or try to improve them.
Life is full of challenges, even blessed ones. To be worthy of them, we must accept them gratefully, including all of the “mini” blessings that make up our day: the buses we don’t miss, the parking places we find, the colds we don’t catch and the sicknesses we don’t have; food in the frig, electricity in the wires, a car that runs; the smell of spring in the air and lovely cloud formations in the sky. The sound of children learning, laughing, praying; homes, jobs, salaries, family and friends; eyes that see and ears that hear and fingers that move and feet that walk. Take away a single one of the everyday “mini-blessings” and see how miserable things become!
We rarely wax eloquent over all the countless, unending good things God showers upon us, so at the very least, we should try to refrain from worrying or complaining about whatever mishaps He sends our way. Somehow, in the great scheme of things, they too are for the good, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
So my sage advice to all celebrants (may there be many) is to take a deep breath and do the best you can. Then sit back, relax and let things take their course. You’re bound to run into a few hitches here and there, but most simchas turn out well, even if things aren’t absolutely perfect. Who needs perfection anyway? Imperfect beings that we are, we wouldn’t know what to do with perfection if we bumped into it! The main thing is to be happy, be grateful, keep the peace and count your blessings!