More on `Suffering.'
Two images strike me when I think about "the hard knocks of
life," which is NOT synonymous to suffering! One of them is
the grinning comic-strip figure of "What, Me Worry?" whose
name, but not face -- or attitude, I've long forgotten.
The other, lehavdil x 1000, is R' Zusha of Anipoli, to
whom the Baal Shem Tov sent a disciple to learn about
suffering. I'll spare you the description of his poverty and
remind you simply that he didn't know what the Rebbe was
talking about. "What, me, suffer?"
A good friend of mine, twice widowed, has decided to reply to
our article on suffering. Ever since I've known her, she has
always smiled. Her eyes may be wistful, even tearful at
times, but she is always smiling. A true yarn about a
Ball of Yarn
I knew as a child I would come to Israel someday. I didn't
know how or when but I knew with Hashem's help I would make
it here and I never lost hope.
I was 59 in 1975 when I finally arrived to begin a new life.
My husband had died and we had sent his remains here. I was
all alone in a small town in the Midwest in America. So
instead of suffering there without friends or family, I began
to close down a small business and started packing.
I already had two children married with small families living
in Eretz Yisroel. When I came here I rented out my house in
the U.S. but since my tenants somehow never paid their rent
and had to eventually be evicted, there was nothing to cover
any of my rent here. My Social Security file got lost
somewhere amongst the records so I had no income.
Once, while on a trip to Tel Aviv, I stopped in the Polgat
Yarn Company. I had always loved needlecrafts and knitting
and was always attracted to such places that sold wool,
knitting books and so on. On an impulse, I decided that what
I really wanted to do was start a small yarn business. I knew
lots about wool, but nothing about business but decided to
take the plunge and borrow the 4,000 lira I needed for my
first order of yarn. I then put out signs in my neighborhood
advertising my wool and offering knitting lessons. I charged
five lira per lesson and five lira per ball of yarn.
To run a business, you have to stock all kinds of colors,
textures etc. I filled my whole bedroom with skeins of wool
and slept in a corner of the room. No suffering. I was taking
a positive attitude to everything and enjoying this
immensely. I was teaching a subject I loved and dealing with
people -- something else I also love, especially young girls.
We created beautiful things together and with Hashem's help,
and the help of His good maluchim, I was always busy
with no time to mope. I worked from 8 a.m. till late in the
evening, accommodating myself to my various customers, many
of them young mothers who needed these knitting groups for
creative relaxation. To unravel from a day's work.
We crocheted and knitted a wide variety of items, from
mittens to sweaters to beautiful decorative dolls. It was a
lot of fun and I made dozens of new friends who would always
greet me happily on the street and ask how I was coming
along. No suffering. In fact, I felt very fulfilled; I felt
like a new person, with my lifetime dream of living here
having come true. I was surrounded with wonderful people and
I felt very productive and happy.
I was renting a furnished apartment, if you can call it that.
The legs of my dining room table were broken. The
refrigerator door didn't close. The gas stove had only one
burner working and the washing machine was out of order.
There was a dryer, but of course, it didn't work, either. But
I managed fine.
My unmarried son and I took our laundry to a laundromat and
sometimes I washed by hand. No suffering. Hashem was by my
In the article you wrote, "We are not put on this world for
an easy, comfortable life." "Mind over matter." How true! If
you don't mind -- it doesn't matter!
You write, "Where one has a choice of accepting suffering or
fighting..." I guess I fought. That is, I was determined to
make the best of things and not wallow in self-pity. I
certainly did not resent my situation but was grateful for
all that I did have.
I ran my growing business for about four years until it
became too much for me. And then Hashem sent another
opportunity my way and I was introduced to a widower at whose
side I faithfully spent the last twenty-five years of his
I guess that one could call the past ten years, years of
suffering for both of us. My husband's friends and relatives
abandoned him when he was taken into a nursing home. I could
no longer care for him myself. No one came to visit. He had
always loved people and always responded to the few visitors
that came to see him. At least I was always there for him.
I never quite understand, to this day, why people never have
time to visit the sick. What a great mitzva this is. I
thanked Hashem for giving me the courage and stamina to
continue to watch over my husband. It was not easy, but
Hashem gives us strength and eases our `suffering'. Knowing
that He is by our side makes every difficult situation easier
There were many days when everything went wrong. I would come
home and have myself a good cry. Then I would sit down and
write my experiences and feelings down in my notebook diary.
Before going to sleep, I would read a poem I loved, "Real
Tears," and be comforted, knowing that Hashem was watching
over both of us, me and my wonderful husband.
And in the morning, in the Jerusalem sun, things would look
bright again and I would find myself supplied with new
strength to deal with this new day.
Suffering? No, not with the knowledge that Hashem is always
by my side.
Mrs. Hoffman has asked me to reprint this
by Sheindel Weinbach
reprinted from Jewish Observer, Dec. '90
They put the big box in my hands,
And said, "This is for you.
A very Happy Birthday, dear,
And many happy returns, too."
I pulled the string, undid the knot,
And lo, inside the box,
I heard a squeak, and lifted it,
"It rolls about and knocks.
It cannot be a mouse," I thought,
"And I don't think it's blocks."
Gingerly, I lifted up
The lid, and lo! Behold!
There lay a doll with cheeks so pink
And silky hair of gold.
A little bottle at her side
Read: "Drink me, little dear,
And when I cry, just wipe my eye,
For I can shed real tears."
"Real tears!" I told my Bubbie
When I showed her my new doll.
"Real tears, dear Rivky? I think not.
Those are not tears at all.
"A tear is something from the heart,
A heart that overflows,
It can express pure happiness,
But usually tells of woes.
"A tear is something left unsaid,
And yet -- it's crystal clear.
It is a dewdrop from the soul.
That is a tear, my dear."
While riding on my bicycle,
I fell and scraped my knee,
It hurt, and even though I tried
To be as brave could be,
I felt the tears smart in my eyes
And trickle down my face.
Then Bubbie kissed me tenderly,
And wiped away each trace.
"Are these real tears?" I asked her then,
And looked into her eyes.
She shook her head and smiled at me,
And said in a voice so wise.
"The tears that one sheds for oneself
Are not the ones that count
Those are the tears that stay on earth
To Heaven do not mount."
Another time I watched my Bubbie
Sitting on a stool.
Slicing onions made Bubbie cry,
How could they be so cruel?
The tears streamed thickly down her cheeks,
As she sliced layer after layer,
And as I watched, I saw her lips
Move in a heartfelt prayer.
"What kind of tears are those?" I asked.
"Is it pain that makes you cry?"
"A pain? I guess so, darling child,
Sit down, I'll tell you why.
"A teardrop is a precious thing,
A gift from Hashem above,
To soften pain, make whole again,
A broken-hearted love.
"Like a raindrop -- a pure tear
Can bring immense relief.
It can make a person grow
Much stronger through his grief.
"And when with sorrow one is faced,
This diamond is a shame to waste.
For if you weep just for yourself,
The tears will not yield all their help.
"So when you cry, think of another,
Of one with pain, an ailing brother,
Think of the ones who cry for bread,
Think of those suffering in bed,
Think of the deaf, think of the blind,
So many tragedies you will find.
"And when you share your tears with them,
Those tears will be gathered by Hashem,
And placed into a heavenly cup,
All the tears of pity will add up.
"And when the world has had its full measure
Of suffering -- then will come the pleasure
Then will we see the glorious days
Of Moshiach's times, a brand new phase.
"And so, my sweet, when you see me peel
And shed a tear -- know it's for real.
For when I cry, I cry for others,
For suffering children, suffering mothers,
For all the pain that is on earth
I cry for all my tear is worth
And pray for a better, happier day
When Moshiach will finally come to stay."