Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nisan 5766 - April 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

How to Reach the Summit
by R. Chadshai

I am quite content with being a housewife. Although my house is not spotless, it runs smoothly. We have a hot meal every day, and the children are neat and clean. Yet when I look at my neighbor, my efforts pale into insignificance. The oldest of her seven children is only nine, yet she goes out to work and her house is incredibly clean and tidy. She serves gourmet meals to her well brought up children and even manages to do voluntary work once a week. Is it any wonder that I feel of no consequence compared to her?


Pearl, like her name, is a real jewel. She comes from a broken home, and grew up in very difficult circumstances, yet she married a Ben Torah and together they have built a warm Jewish home. As a young girl, she was determined to raise her children without the tribulations which she herself had suffered. To her dismay, they do not appreciate her efforts and demand more patience and attention than she can possibly give them. They are not interested in how she used to live and that the luxuries they desire are above the parents' means.


A bedroom cum kitchen cum dining room was the accommodation in which my grandmother, together with her husband and many children, lived. She never complained about the inconvenience and lack of space. How did she remain strong and cheerful all through the vicissitudes of war, hunger and extreme poverty, and the loss of two infants who died of pneumonia, as there were no antibiotics yet, in those days? Would any young woman cope with these hardships in our day and age, while still maintaining her courage and good humor?


"Aren't you lucky," remarked Yocheved to her neighbor, Avigail. "You always look so trim and slim. Are you on a perpetual diet? Just look at the size of me; I am no older than you are." Avigail laughed, "Everybody has their own weaknesses and food does not happen to be one of mine. In fact, I often forget to eat altogether."


Comparisons threaten us from birth. Is Baby within the right limits on the curve in his developmental milestones? What if some babies follow their own curves, and are not in the required centile? Then the children begin comparing . . . why do they have more clothes/ toys/ . . . why did he get such a big piece of cake . . . why do you always help just her with her homework?

In their teens, they continue. Teacher gives back test papers and two girls both have a mark of 80%. Next to Channie's mark, the teacher wrote, "Well done, keep it up," whereas Naomi's mark was accompanied by the comment "What happened???" The second girl immediately complained of favoritism. What she did not take into account was that Channie's average mark was in the fifties, while she regularly got 100%.


"Mommy, it's not fair. I've been so careful for a whole month and have only lost a few pounds; I feel a failure." "I think you are doing very well, why do you feel a failure?" "My friend Miri can eat whatever she likes, yet she wears a size eight. I have only gone down from an eighteen to a sixteen."

"Perhaps you are built differently; you can starve yourself day and night and will become weak and gaunt, but you were not made to be petite like Miri."


They tell the story of a group of climbers who decided to tackle a particularly difficult mountain, to reach the summit. When things began to get too difficult, some of the climbers dropped out. The others were determined to succeed but misfortunes dogged them on the way. Some of the men paid with their lives. Disaster followed unforeseen disaster until there were only two men who were determined to reach the summit.

When they finally arrived, they were astounded to see a child of three playing up there. After they had recovered somewhat and realized that it was not another mirage, they asked the child how he had managed to get up there. He did not understand the question and said simply, "I was born here." How can one compare a child who was born on the peak, to one who was born at the bottom of the mountain? Each person has his own starting point.

When a tortoise suggested a race between himself and the hare, in Aesop's famous fable, the hare laughed scornfully, yet nevertheless agreed to the challenge. The hare set off at a sprint and lay down to sleep on the way, confident that he would win anyway. The tortoise plodded along slowly, past the sleeping contestant, and won the race.Unfortunately, in real life, the 'tortoise' would not have the courage to suggest such a race. He feels a failure from the outset. The organizers of such a race would have to fix conditions; for instance, that the hare has to run a meter for every centimeter which the tortoise covers.

Each person in life has to be measured with his own yardstick. A young man in Israel got a free tip (very unusual!) from a friend in the property market. They were starting a new building project outside Yerusholayim. If this young man would put his name down for one, or even a few flats, before the prices went up, he would become very rich, since when others heard of the project, they would started buying. The young man answered that there were two conditions to such a purchase: siyata dishmaya and the necessary capital for a down payment for even one flat. He was usually grateful if he managed to get through a month without borrowing money for bread and milk!

If we take two boys, one of whom has learning difficulties, and the other who is almost brilliant, we have to look at which of them achieves his potential, not at the one who gets the highest marks. You cannot compare a child who has been in a road accident, and by dint of sheer hard work and physiotherapy, finally manages to run, to a normal little boy who runs automatically.

A woman invited a girl who wanted to become frum, to stay over Shabbos, stipulating that she had to dress modestly. The girl arrived in a high-necked long sleeved dress, yet the girls whispered that she was not modest. Their mother hastily explained to them that she was very tzniyusdik compared to how she had been dressed till now.

Rabbi Dessler writes that we all have our own base line and our own peaks. We have our own freedom of choice to continue on the path to which we were born, and should not to try to reach the peak of someone else. We are meant to think, 'When will my deeds be as good as my ancestors,' but everything is relative. We are not expected to live like Soro Imeinu nor even like our grandmothers.

Each generation has its own problems and trials, with its own base lines and summits. Once we understand that there are no comparisons, as we each set out from a different starting point, we will have peace of mind and serenity in our own lives.


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