Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Reconciliation of sorts

This year, instead of going to my parents for Rosh Hashana I stayed in the city with Bina. It was days before her wedding, so I organized meals for us as a sort of shabbos kallah.

On the first night, we were walking to our dinner hosts when we passed a young boy on Amsterdam Avenue -- 10, maybe 12 -- walking on crutches because he was missing part of his leg.

I wouldn't have given it much thought, but a few minutes later we saw a young girl on West End Avenue with her family. At first I thought she was married and wearing a big floppy hat to cover her hair. Then I saw she had no hair.

I said to Bina, "I think Gd is trying to send me a message. I had a pretty lousy childhood, but I never lost a leg and I never had cancer."

It really started me thinking about putting my life and my rotten luck -- illness, injuries, dating exhaustion, bad business and job experiences -- into perspective.

Then we passed the West Side kollel. I'd never davened there before, but my friend wanted to try it. Turned out that our host that evening, who has a beautiful tenor voice, was leading davening.

The liturgy for the High Holy Days is haunting and evocative. It's meant to inspire repentance, and for me, it really did. Because listening to him chant the prayers, I thought, "I want to come home." And I wept. It was like the I.L. Peretz story "Yom Kippur in Hell" -- minus the sarcastic endnote.

It's going to take more than a moment of clarity to help me mend my shattered soul, but I am on my way. The rest of the holiday was truly blessed, and I felt more at peace with myself than I have in a long time.

I have decided to concentrate not on what I get but on what I give. I have been privileged to organize Bina's bridal shower and help her with many other things related to her wedding. She recently said to me, "I hope that this year you get as much as you give, because you give so much." I appreciate that, but I'm going to try not to focus on that, though, and just try to give as much as I can.

The community mental health programming is starting to come together; that's something exciting and challenging that I can help create for people who really need it. I'll keep you updated, constant readers.

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Mermelstein, lost her mother. I had wanted her to comfort me about my injured knees, but given her loss I couldn't impose on her. Yesterday I paid a shiva call. I couldn't think of anything to do or say, so I brought her and her family some really spectacular fresh raspberries that I'd bought. I thought that something healthy and special would make her feel cared for.

Walking to her apartment, I let myself fantasize that she would be struck by the beauty of the berries and feel comforted by my concerns for her well-being, but I honestly didn't think that in her grief she'd really take much notice of them.

Well, she did. She and her whole family were honestly delighted -- far beyond anything I could have imagined. The berries were a huge hit, and I was so glad to really be menachem avel.

So whether it's a small thing or a big thing, I'm going to try to do more for others. Volunteering is known to have positive effects on depression. I'm going to keep that in mind, and try to give back more than I receive.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. I'm so glad that this Rosh Hashana was so good for you. I hope that the good thoughts only grow and continue!

    Sometimes, even when we don't think we can make a difference, we do.

  2. Anonymousless9/27/2006 1:43 PM

    Wow. I'm humbled. My RH wasn't remotely as inspiring and brought very little introspection. I was late for shul the first night; the baal tefila didn't know the tunes the second night. Only the first day's davening brought me any happiness. Second day was a washout. I have to think hard about doing more, as you say, instead of waiting for things to be done for me.

    Glad you had a great yomtov, though, and looking forward to seeing you soon!