Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Shevat 5763 - January 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Ball of Yarn: A Perspective on Suffering
by Tzipora Hoffman

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 side!

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 life.

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 to bear.

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

Real Tears

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."


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