At five o’clock in the evening yesterday, I was laying on my couch. Loveseat, actually. My feet were up on the arm, since I am tall enough to not fit while reclining. I hadn’t closed the blinds yet and from my vantage point I could see outside. It was dark. Dark dark. As my toddler, would say, “darrrrrrrrk.”
I remarked to my husband that it made me want to crawl into bed.
That’s a feeling I’ve had a lot recently. It’s what I wanted to do instead of writing this.
But staying in bed is rarely an option. It’s a luxury that is, in the end, not luxurious at all. It’s fatiguing and leads to lethargy. Avoidance is not a long-term solution. Not a good one, at least.
I’d forgotten about about winter. I’d forgotten about the darkness, the cold, the feeling that the sun only comes out for a few fleeting moments for months at a time. That all my movements and actions are connected to a feeling of restriction and discomfort.
How easy it is to forget, and to become sidetracked by the new stage and let the discomfort overwhelm me.
That happens to me, generally speaking. I let discomfort overwhelm me to the point where all I can think about is my own hardship. It dominates my thoughts, which leads to it dominating my actions, or, should I say, my reactions.
I’d also forgotten about Marcheshvan. This month. This bitter month. This month which is known for the flood of Noah and the death of Rochel Imeinu. This month which is defined by what is not in it – holidays. A month of what seems like no opportunities for spiritual growth. A month where we could absolutely wallow in the darkness and the loss and the bleak, bleak reality of exile and disconnection.
But that would be short-sighted. Not a long-term solution.
Because in this month the waters of the flood also subsided. In this month Rochel was buried in a place which continues to be a location that we flock to to pour our hearts out in prayer.
The descent into darkness contains the seed of light.
This is how I have felt in every instance of personal struggle and pain in my life. Not at the time, mind you, not in the heat of the pain and the terror and the anger and the bitterness and the resentment. Not then. Those are all emotions which demand attention, demand to be acknowledged.
They are the party guests who do not leave when they should. They linger.
But once they have been plied with food and drink and their grievances aired and heard and validated, then the growth comes. The acceptance and the acknowledgment that difficulties in life are hard and unpleasant, but the final result can be a thing of beauty.
Growth. Improvement. Greater sensitivity to others who are struggling. The ability to listen and to help. All that stuff.
One of my piano students mentioned to me that part of the strength of Rochel Imeinu, and of us, as Jews, is that we pray for each other. That we go outside of our own struggles, our own darknesses, our own difficulties, and think about, pray about, the pain of others.
This is what it means to be family, to be connected. To know that in our times of darkness, when we are consumed by our troubles, that our family is thinking about us and keeping us in mind. And to be accountable so that when we are in a position of relative ease, of a certain lack of immediate crisis, we turn our hearts and minds to those who are in the thick of it.
Every Friday night, after I light my Shabbos candles, I say two yehi ratzons, first a prayer for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the final one, and then a prayer for my children and their descendants. After that, a prayer for my husband, and then I pull out a sheet of paper where I have written the names of those who are in need of a refuah, or a shidduch, or hatzlacha, or shalom bayis.
There is so much need in the world, so much. And this need is something that connects us. Because we all need something. Even those people who look like they don’t need anything, they still need something.
Remembering this fundamental truth of the world, that we are all lacking, that we are all struggling in some way, helps soften my heart. I long for connection, for a feeling of unity. Of kumbaya, if you will.
If I can keep in mind that everyone if missing something, everyone is carrying around a pain of some sort, it shifts my focus from how people are jerks to remembering that people are only jerks if they are carrying around some sort of pain, some lack. Maybe I’m wrong, that’s certainly possible. But it helps me.