I don’t judge or view myself against others — except when I interact with Tova
I have a friend, “Tova,” whom I’ve known since my teenage years. We went to seminary together and embarked on a similar life trajectory: got married, moved to a kollel community, and worked while our husbands were in kollel and our families grew.
Fast-forward 20 years, and we’re still friends and still live in the same community. But life happened in the meantime. I cut back on my working hours as my family grew and my husband went out to work. Tova’s husband is a respected rosh chaburah in a large kollel, and she works long hours to support the family. The number of children they have is in the double digits, and she seems to maintain a perfectly managed house, with her kids always looking put together — despite having almost no outside help.
I am, baruch Hashem, very happy. My husband and I made life choices based on our circumstances, with the clear direction of daas Torah, and I don’t have regrets. In general, I don’t walk around with complexes. I don’t judge or view myself against others — except when I interact with Tova. Every time we speak or spend time, I’m left feeling inadequate.
Tova reminds me of all the dreams and visions I had when leaving seminary. She’s lived up to everything I aspired to, and she’s the perfect poster child for those dreams, while I made adjustments in so many areas that weren’t what I envisioned years before. In short, the life my friend is living is one I imagined I would. Until I didn’t.
I’ve thought about our relationship, my view of myself and my life, and without a doubt I’m happy with my choices. There are plenty of other people in my life whom I admire and are more successful than I, whether in running a house, the amount of help they need, their chinuch, their jobs, their ruchniyus… I admire them and learn from them without feeling inferior.
So why do I have such a strong complex and view my life choices as compromises when I’m around Tova? How can I overcome these feelings?
Or should I just surround myself with other friends whom I feel comfortable with and keep my interactions with Tova to a minimum? She’s a friend and a good person, and I probably shouldn’t let the friendship go. Is there a way to hold on to the friendship without feeling bad around her?
Mrs. Yael Kaisman is an educator and kiruv professional who counsels individuals and couples in Lakewood, NJ.
Before we discuss this relationship, let’s discuss dreams and their places in our lives. Let’s recognize them for what they are: she’ifos are wonderful and produce something great — they help us maximize our development. They don’t guarantee what Hashem hands us or the results.
Sometimes, those dreams are based on external, social indicators of success. That tricks us into thinking that they’re ruchniyus-based, but when we peel away layers, we might find that external pressure can be a bigger factor than we realized. In addition, women who dream of long-term learners often hope that the dedication of the learning years will translate into their husbands becoming roshei yeshivah or maggidei shiur.
Yet it doesn’t seem that Hashem wants every single husband to be a lifetime learner. He guides us to a different path via the circumstances He sends us, or through our discovery of our or our husbands’ realities. He redirects us from our dreams because he doesn’t need us in that role — He (kivyachol) needs us for something else.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 681)
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