Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Pesach is only days away. I expect that it will be the hardest day yet excluding the funerals and burial. I have tried to push my thoughts and expectation regarding Pesach toward the farthest recesses of my mind until now. As the Pesach looms closer, the fear and grief get stronger. My wife can't understand why the Seder night is so difficult for me. Perhaps it is the same way why I can't see why pre-Pesach is so difficult for her.

Men and women mourn differently.

We just need to recognize that. Pesach is in the air. The days that had the most meaning

beforehand become the most painful days now.

BTW: If there is anyone out there listening, and wants to post a comment or 2, it would be appreciated. Or if there is any topic or aspect that I should focus on,please let me know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Letter to a friend who also lost his daughter

Dear *****,

I write this letter with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes.Your words in the past have given me so much chizuk. I can feel how much you cared and continue to care for us. You and your family have been on my mind and that of my wife and have dominated most of our conversations, dreams and thoughts for the last week. I have replayed your words from this past week in my mind countless times -“I could never understand your pain until now.” Only someone who has lost a child, Hashem Yerachaym, can understand the extent of the tzaar from the loss. The pain is overwhelming and all encompassing. It is physical, mental and emotional all at once. I write this letter bToras “ Devarim hayotzei min Halev.” My heart pours out to you and your family. And I feel a stronger kesher to you than ever before.

There are many aspects to the mourning period that follows the shiva. There is a strong mixture of emotions ranging from the warm feelings of pleasant memories of a time before the pain to the nagging pangs of guilt and lingering feeling of fear. The strongest pain is the one felt when you experience the separation, the shock that something unnatural has happened. For me, the pain of the separation is like experiencing death itself. When a child passes, a part of the parent dies as well. A shutif, partner, can split a field with his neighbor 50% each or they can each own every part of the 100%. Losing a child is not like losing a limb or losing half the field but it is like a little part of every part of you dies. In a poetic book titled “ A thread of Blue” by Mrs. Belsky she discusses the guilt that every parent who loses a child experiences. She talks about the guilt metaphorically as a big gray balloon that floats. The balloon gets larger and larger until one day she realizes that subconsciously she is the one blowing air into the balloon. She was one the one giving life to it and she pushes the balloon away. It has been said that a grieving parent creates his or her own guilt. It gives us a feeling of control that somehow we caused the loss to happen. Nothing is more fearful to a person than recognizing that they have no real control. Wanting to be a better person is good as long as it leads us to becoming one. Guilt is always bent on destroying a person. Dr. Norman Blumenthal says, ”The pain never goes away completely. But over time you move from being your pain to having your pain.” In the beginning, the thoughts of the nifteres dominate most of your waking hours and all of your sleeping hours. As time passes, you allow yourself to think of other thoughts and aspects of life beyond the nifteres begin to take on importance again. Most importantly your family and friends.

If I love my child and recognize that Hashem is doing what is best for me and my child, then why does it hurt so much? At a recent Chai Lifeline retreat for bereaved parents, I asked the fellow question to my fellow bereaved parents “If given the opportunity to bring your child back, would you? If you know that she is in Gan Eden, would you bring her back?” It was interesting to note that although there were different answers, everyone could relate to this idea. On one hand, there is an emotional side, which is overwhelming. We miss our child so much that it hurts. On the other hand, there is the spiritual-intellectual side that tells us that Hashem loves us. There is a more permanent world. Hashem orchestrated these events with a higher and greater purpose in mind. It has my absolute best interest in mind and the best interest of my family and of the nifteres. In reality these 2 sides (emotional and spiritual) are not contradictions at all. My Emunah can be pure and real and yet still miss my child to the extent that it physically hurts. This idea is one of the most significant issues that effect bereaved parents. There are those who cannot bring themselves to believe that there is a higher purpose and yet others who cannot forgive themselves for hurting so much. At the retreat, there was a man from Boro Park who lost his son. He himself was a child of a Holocaust survivor. He couldn’t forgive himself for being in so much pain. I asked him “ Why is the fact that you miss your son so much of an affront to your yiddishkeit.” Another gentleman was offended by any talk about the idea that anything that happens is for the ultimate good. He felt that recognizing that there is a higher purpose somehow cheapened the loss of his son and his pain. There are 2 parallel tracks emotional and spiritual. They live side by side.

One of the most difficult aspects of the loss is sometimes referred to as triggers. These are events, even seemingly minor events, that suddenly remind of the nifteres. It might be a song or a picture or seeing someone who reminds you of the nifteres. Recently a friend was bemoaning the excessive amount of money that people spend on bat mitzvahs these days. I found myself feeling choked up as I had always wished that Nechama Liba had lived to have a bat mitzvah. I wanted to scream “I would have made the biggest bat mitzvah possible were I to have had the opportunity.” These triggers come and go and sometimes they come out of nowhere. Fortunately, the pain dissipates and life moves on.

I think of the loss in another way as well. When a child dies, a tremendous energy is brought down to the world. It is an energy that cannot be contained. A bereaved parent will never be the same person that they were before the loss. This awesome ball of energy will either drive the bereaved parent to self-destruction or somehow bring greater meaning to their existence. There is no complacency. Chas Vashalom, the death of a child has the potential to bring about negative consequences. On the other hand, it has the ability to bring families together. It also has the power to give greater meaning to one’s life. For example: Over the past 6 years, my other children did not get the attention that they deserved. Now, every time that I spend extra quality time with one of my kids, it somehow gives meaning to my life. After Nechama passed away, one of the greatest challenges for both my wife and I, was relating to my other kids. Nechama was extremely mature in all areas of life. Even her “big sister” from Chai Lifeline used to tell Nechama about her shidduch dates. My other children act according to their ages. In another way, Nechama had the ability to decipher whatever we said. One of the greatest pieces of advice that we got was to speak to the children directly, that children are not always adept at symbolism and subtly. This is especially true at this stage of the grieving process. The kids need to know that we are there for them but we need to speak to them directly. In order for us to expect them to open up, we need to open up to them. We need to tell them how we feel and be as specific as possible. This will give them the opening for them to feel comfortable to open up to us. This is no simple task.

As I strive towards becoming a better, more sensitive person, it gives meaning to my life. When I walk in the streets, I recognize that people look at me and think, “ there is the guy who lost a child.” If I smile, if I just go on, it will be a source of inspiration. When I accept my situation because Nechama Liba accepted her situation, it gives new meaning to my life and also strengthens my connection to her. In a sense I am living in her footsteps, living, as she would have wanted me to live.

The road ahead is a long journey with several “bumps in the road”. There is pain left to endure. A parent never forgets his child and the longing never goes away. There are new opportunities for growth. There are still new and undeveloped aspects of personality to explore. As you said to me a few days back “Together we will get through it.”


Monday, April 18, 2005

Estimation of our Potential Final Part

Humility means that we realize that Hashem is infinite and we, as humans, are limited. Webster’s Dictionary defines jealousy as “hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.” It means that we feel that it is unfair that someone else has an advantage that we do not. We blatantly announce how unjust and unfair it is that someone else has something that we wish we could have. Why should my neighbor have more money that me. a nicer house, easier children, more friends or whatever. In essence we are proclaiming that G-d is not fair and that He does not know what is best for us. It also means, although sad to say, that we are so wrapped up in what we want and what we convince ourselves that we deserve, that it prevents us from being happy for the other person. When we feel like taking revenge, we are again proclaiming, chas-Veshalem, that Hashem does not administer judgment properly and therefore we need to takes matters into our own hands. We convince ourselves that only we can fairly punish the person for what they have done. Perhaps one might say that people believe that even someone who is vengeful believes that Hashem will exact punishment but they want to witness it. However there are 2 problems with that. Firstly, if we were confident that Hashem would exact punishment then we would not need to see the person being punished, knowing that the person will get exactly what they deserve would be enough. Secondly, it is quite egotistical of someone to feel as though they can justly punish another person. However, most likely, they wouldn’t mind if the “guilty” party received a little more punishment than they deserved and conversely, most people wouldn’t mind if they themselves received a little more reqrd than they deserved. Similarly, Anger comes from feeling slighted or ignored. {quote here} We get angry when we feel as though we have been treated unfairly. Something has happened to us that we do not deserve. If one looks hard enough, he will see that all middos have their root in a lack of humility. On the same token ,middos tovos such as Respecting others and their property ,talking nicely to others are rooted in humility.
If someone feels that he is limited and that he is no more important than the person next to him,( note: no less important either),then he will say to himself” who am I to talk not nicely to my neighbor for he is just as important as me. When we complain about a difficult situation and I am not saying that it isn’t natural to feel this way, we need to put it into the proper perspective. We need to say that Hashem has created this situation specifically for me and he knows what is best for me. I cannot understand why this is happening and it seems completely illogical that I will ultimately benefit and it hurts and makes me sad and I would be so much more productive as a person and as a Jew if I wasn’t in this situation. After all the logic and the proofs and the frustration and pain, we need to understand in our hearts that we must place ourselves in G-ds hands, confident that this is for our own good. And that is what makes difficult situations so much harder because we like to be in control. We like it when things make sense and they are easy to explain. In today’s society, we are so sophisticated that we feel foolish if we can’t explain the things that we do. There must be a logical reason for everything. We have a right to know why something is happening to us. How dare G-d put us in a tight spot without explaining it first. I do not mean to imply in any way that life is easy and I do not dare even imply that it is easy to feel confident that G-d knows best when we are put in tough situations. This is especially hard when it is amongst the pain and loneliness and fear and frustration and the hopelessness.
Life is so fickle that in moments our lives can be changed forever and that feeling that we are not in control is frightening. However we must overcome and transcend that which is so natural to us.
When we put our trust in G-ds hands during the tough times, against everything that we know in our minds And we allow our hearts to trust G-d like a baby trusts his mother, then we really are worthy of having been created.

Secondly, if we were never faced with hardship, probably this would be a world without challenge, without cheshbon hanefesh.
When we suffer, all of our capabilities are put to the test. It tests our faith, patience, self-control, compassion and the ability to rise above the situation, which tries to control us.
May Hashem give us strength to endure the tests that are placed before us.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Estimation of our Potential Part 2

I once said that if I created the world, I would create it without sickness or poverty. I would make the world without loneliness or fear. A world without death, without strife, without pain. The first thing that I realized was that, although I may have my own opinions about how the world should have been created, I did not create the world. G-d did. This may seem like an obvious point but think about how many times we question Hashems’ judgment. Think of all the times that we were jealous, angry and revengeful. In truth, all middos raos come from the same root. That is why it says in Gemara : Avodah Zarah, “Anavah Gedola Mecoolam”, the characteristic of humility is greater than all of the other character traits. That is because the key to having good middos and staying away from bad ones is humility. When we feel these negative emotions, especially if we act on them, aren’t we saying that I know better than Hashem. That he is not the true judge and creator, chas-veshalom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Estimation of our Potential Part 1

A secular Jew once asked me how I would feel after 120 years, chas vashalom, if I found out that all that I had dedicated my life to, that all the sacrifices that I made were for nothing. What would I say if I found out, chas vashalom, that the Torah was not the true blueprint for life.

I told him “the doubt that he has” tugs at the core of our existence and is an integral part of our reason for being. However his premise is wrong and his question is really not a question. Exactly the fear that he has is the basis for the purpose of creation. Every moment of our lives we are faced with that question. It is that quantum leap of faith, which is the reason why we exist. That doubt is necessary, for without it there would be no test. We would be nothing less than melachim. Every moment of our lives we are faced with that question and if we pass that test, if we choose to believe even amongst great hardships, then we have, at least for that moment, fulfilled our purpose of existence.
One of the most amazing things that we experience in this world is when we are faced with a test. The harder the test, the greater the potential for growth. One thing we need to make ourselves aware of is that the ability we possess to actualize our potential is greater than we think. How many times have we surprised ourselves when faced with a hardship that we promised ourselves we could never handle, yet we overcame with flying colors. Hashem constantly tests us. Without these tests we would never be able to realize and actualize our potential. We underestimate ourselves. It is through the tests and hardships that Hashem gives, we realize our capabilities.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Life's Challenges

Usually, happy occasions come with preparation and advanced warning. Dating precedes an Engagement. Birth is preceded by pregnancy. More often than not, bad news comes out of nowhere. No preparation, no warning signs. Suddenly your life is changed. There is no looking back and you feel like you’ve been living with this problem since the beginning of time. Often you cannot remember a time when you did not have this problem.

During difficult times you may experience a wide range of emotions. Fear, despair, loneliness and anxiety are among a few. Although these are normal reactions, if prolonged these emotions can become destructive .Bad things that happen especially medical ones, tend to take over our emotional, mental and physical well being. As in the case of an illness in the family, these experiences are difficult not only for the patient but for those people closest to the patient. For much of what I write it applies to both the patient as well as those around them especially family. Unless explicitly stated it can be assumed that the topic applies to both.

I think there is still a stigma about getting psychological help especially among many religious communities, but I am sure this extends itself to all cultures. This stigma applies to people of all ages but even more so when the person who needs help is a child. That is because adults tend to underestimate our children’s’ ability to understand what is going on around them. Children have real feelings just like adults. This makes sense, since typically, people underestimate themselves. This is both a symptom and a cause of widespread low self-esteem. There are several purposes of this book. One purpose is for patient and family to help them understand how they can, although at certain points may not believe, become normal and even happy again. This is also a guide for friends and relatives to know what to say and what not to say. As well as to point out which behavior is appropriate and the behaviors that are not appropriate in dealing with a family in crisis.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thank You Letter to Community

Within the days preceding the 15 of tamuz, Nechama Liba was hospitalized. A brief phone call to a neighborhood friend and a powerful speech by the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv started the wheels turning. By Motzei Shabbos, as her condition took a serious downturn, the wheels were already in motion. All it took was 1 phone call and tehillim groups formed immediately. Looking back twelve hours later, a miracle had transpired. Against all conventional medical thinking, bchasdei Hashem, she survived the night. Without realizing what was happening, a revolution of sorts was brewing.

The next six weeks were the most difficult of our lives. They were the culmination of six long years. It felt like 6 years squashed into six weeks. Day melted into night, one frightening episode after another… one miracle after the next. Daily tehillim groups and constant acts of chesed protected us from the daily life threatening episodes. As the "3 weeks" progressed so did the seriousness of the situation. Each time that a "major" episode occurred, all it took was one phone call to start off a chain of phone calls that formed into tehillim groups. Once the nightly tehillim group finished the sefer tehillim 6 times in one sitting. The acts of chesed were without boundaries. Time after time, Nechama survived the impossible.

Acts of chesed, shmiras halashon, making meals both at home and in the hospital, tomchei Shabbos and the hundreds of private kabalos hamitzvos. One person brought breakfasts every morning and pastries for the nurses. Another person brought lunch and supper. The siblings were always taken care of both day and night. Hundreds of people learnt in her zchus forfeiting personal comforts to do so. Can anyone forget the all night learning at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv followed by the Yom Tzom?! The revolution was in full force. She survived not 1, not 2 but 3 major episodes of crisis. No single person with her medical condition ever survived that. Never. Can we be so blind as to not see what is directly in front of us?!

As it says in pirchei avos " lo alecha .....vlo ata ben choren..." We cannot predict nor orchestrate the outcomes, but we can do our part. As we look back upon this revolution of ahavas chinim... this unprecedented movement of love for each other, one can envision the rectification of the sinas chinim for which the 3 weeks is known for. Each act of chesed is another brick in the beis hamikdosh and brings us closer to the coming of moshiach.

Dealing with an illness is an all-consuming experience. Although we were forced to abandon every other part of our lives, the Far Rockaway and 5 Towns communities made sure that no aspect of our lives was neglected. No need whether it was physical, spiritual or emotional was left unfulfilled. It is impossible to imagine how we would have made it through this difficult period without the help and support of our friends and family. As long as we continue this revolution., . Nechama will never to be forgotten. Her legacy would always live on. The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether we want to be a part of it. We cannot deny the miracles that we have witnessed nor the power of the tefilos that caused them .Therefore, we must continue to daven for those who desperately need our tefilos. There are people in our communities who need us just like we needed you. The need will always be there. We need to search for it or choose to ignore it.

From our slowly mending hearts and healing wounds, we thank each and every one of you. Words are not enough but they are all we have to express our gratitude. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu repay you a thousand times over. Remember that each time that you do an act of chesed and think of Nechama it is a zechus for her neshama , for yours and all of clal yisroel.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Moving On

This is my first blog test. I hope to share thoughts and ideas of my own or that I have learned from others. I hope that these ideas will have meaning and will benefit others.
My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.