“Maybe it’s time to rethink how we do this whole mechilah thing — no pain, no gain!”
Real Apologies Aren’t Easy [The Kichels / Issue 979]
A number of years ago, I was touched when I received an eloquently worded email from a friend, asking for mechilah before Yom Kippur. No matter that I could tell right away it had been sent as a mass message — the concept was new to me, and I was inspired that she took this mission seriously, utilizing technology to accomplish a task so enormously beyond our reach.
Today it’s a different story. Requests come in left and right: “Please be mochel me if I did anything, kesivah v’chasimah tovah.” Is that an apology? Sending out a broadcast generic message to cover your bases? And what if my answer is, “No, not yet” or, “I need to think about it before I can say yes with a full heart”? That would be socially off.
Apologies are painful. With our super-sized egos and deflated confidence levels, an apology that doesn’t hurt probably is not authentic. We have a “minhag” in our home — every Erev Shabbos before my husband leaves to shul, we ask each other mechilah. Some weeks it’s easier and others it’s harder — both the asking and the forgiving! And that’s how we know it’s real.
When I read this week’s Kichels, I laughed along at seeing the “fauxpologies” — and we all know that in every joke, there is a kichel of truth. Maybe it’s time to rethink how we do this whole mechilah thing — no pain, no gain!
A practical word of advice: It’s not easy and sometimes not even feasible to approach every person we have wronged, but let’s start with the people closest to us — who we undoubtedly err with on a regular basis — and go into Yom Kippur with a bit of that weight off our shoulders.
Into Perspective [Rosh Hashanah Edition / Issue 978]
Thank you for a magnificent Rosh Hashanah edition, especially Rachel Ginsberg’s article on the inspiring response of Devory Paley to the death of her two precious little boys and Tzivia Meth’s article on the heroism of those who kept Torah in the midst of persecution.
Thank you for putting all of today’s stormy events into perspective, showing us that we will forever need to fight those who try to keep us from serving Hashem and try to blind us to the truth of Torah.
May you keep inspiring us!
Home and Heart [New Day, New Page / Issue 978]
I was excited to see the picture of Rav Michel Zilber shlita on the cover, and was eager to read the article about this tremendous talmid chacham. It brought back memories of the very special encounter we were lucky to have with him.
As mentioned in the article, Rav Michel and his rebbetzin have a special needs child. While Rav Michel is a huge talmid chacham whose time is so precious, he opens his home and his heart to other parents of these special neshamos, and freely offers chizuk, empathy, and advice.
Several years back, my husband and I made an appointment to go speak to him for chizuk about our own special needs daughter, who was then four years old.
It’s been four years, but I haven’t forgotten the relief I felt on hearing his opening greeting. He told us he knows this nisayon “is kasheh mimaves — more difficult than death.”
Parents who face the nisayon of a disabled child — and yes, it is a nisayon, not just a privilege or a gift! — often find their feelings of grief stand out in stark contrast to the prevailing sentiment, and it was such a stark relief to get this validation from a person of such stature.
Rav Michel then told us that he would sit with us all night if necessary. He shared advice from his own personal experience, answered questions, and let us know his door was open.
To this day, when I try to navigate between my desire to let my husband learn as much as possible and my legitimate need for his help, I draw on the advice Rav Michel gave us during that meeting.
In a beautiful postscript, almost two years later, we met Rav Michel again when he agreed to be sandek at our son’s bris. We have such appreciation for the gift of a healthy baby, and having Rav Michel as sandek gave us a deeply meaningful sense of closure.
May he and his Rebbetzin continue to be there for others ad meiah v’esrim shanah, in good health.
To Feel His Love [With No Strings Attached / Issue 978]
I was so deeply touched by Mickey Feldbaum’s account of the way his struggle with infertility challenged his faith. The conclusion, where he made the poignant parallel to the Mizbeiach that remained unmarred by fire, brought me to tears.
At the risk of sounding like I’m throwing out grandiose statements, I wonder if this wasn’t one of the most important articles Mishpacha has ever printed.
Those of us in the trenches, who know what it’s like to invest blood, sweat and tears; endless time, money, and effort; tefillah after tefillah after tefillah, while hoping to bring about a yeshuah of whatever sort, know just how fragile we can be after yet another disappointment.
I was at a shiur last year, and the presenter asked the audience what we thought the biggest kindness one could do for another is. My answer, which came from the deepest part of my heart, was that the biggest chesed we can do for another is to help him or her feel Hashem’s love.
Personally, when I got such a potch years ago, it took years for me to get over that feeling of seeming betrayal; I had counted on Hashem to help me, and in my limited vision, I felt He had let me down. It took so much inner work, and time (yes, time really does heal) to get to a place where I could feel that He really and truly loves me and will never leave my side.
On a similar note, since the year Family First printed the Unlock Your Heart series in conjunction with Penimi, I’ve been rereading the articles each year. Just yesterday, I reread the article about Yom Kippur (“The Heart in the Sea”) which discussed how even in the ocean, reminiscent of tohu v’vohu, we can find Hashem there. And again, like every year since I first read it, it brought me that same sense of comfort and consolation.
Wherever we are, whatever happens to us, and no matter how much we may feel we have fallen, our essence is always pure, and we are always in Hashem’s embrace.
An Employee, Not a Slave [Inbox / Issue 978]
I was sorry but not surprised to read Avi K.’s letter detailing his experience in starting his own business. He approached his boss to inform him of his plans to start his own company in an unrelated field, hoping that his boss would help him create a plan to scale back at work as he trained a replacement and built up his business. Instead, his formerly easygoing boss became “a different person,” telling him (incorrectly) that his contract stated that he could not open this business, and giving him an ultimatum.
I’m glad that everything worked out for the letter writer, who opted to resign and go full-time into his own business, which is thriving. But there are all too many employees who feel stuck, having been told that it is illegal for them to go out on their own, having been coerced into signing overly restrictive contracts, or having been threatened by their employers when they gained a whiff of any plans to go independent (regardless of whether or not they were competing).
Employees: A job should be a mutually beneficial experience in which both the employee and employer are grateful for the other; it certainly is not a life sentence, and your employer does not own you or the rights to your life. (Remember, slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment way back in 1865.)
That uber-restrictive non-compete you were given, as well as many other verbal and written limitations, are actually often illegal and unbinding, and if you feel they are limiting your prospects, consult with a rav and a lawyer.
I’m not advocating for wholesale rebellion against The Man; I’m a grateful employee myself who’d hate the entrepreneur life. But having seen too many people who feel stuck in dead-end jobs that offer them no room for growth and stagnating salaries, I feel it is vital that every employee know their rights, their worth, and find a job that allows them to appreciate both.
Baruch T., Baltimore MD
Key Role [Blood Brothers / Issue 977]
I read your fascinating article about the Renewal kidney organization and some of the amazing people who created that organization. I’d like to highlight one additional human being who plays a key role in this organization, my mechutan Reb Shlomo Zalman Anhang from Toronto, Canada.
He’s a busy CFO, he has a large family, he’s involved in many community organizations, devotes tremendous time to kibbud av v’eim, and learns constantly.
He decided, though, that he still needs to do more chesed and that donating a kidney would be the ultimate chesed. That was back in 2009, when Renewal didn’t exist in Toronto so he flew to New York — several times — to lay the groundwork for that donation.
He had a surgery in New York and his eishes chayil, Yocheved, left her young children to fly in and to assist his recovery. When he returned to Toronto, he reflected on how difficult it was to fly in to be a donor. So this busy man took it upon himself to open Renewal’s now vibrant Toronto chapter.
The rest is history.
We’re so fortunate to have extraordinary mechutanim who live and breathe Torah and chesed.
With much admiration,
Leah Dina Weber
At My Side [Blood Brothers / Issue 977]
Thank you for your article about Renewal. I am proud to be affiliated with this worthy organization. I donated my kidney over a year ago, and Renewal stood by my side throughout the process.
It’s interesting to note this article was published shortly before Rosh Hashanah, when we talk about life. Renewal, and all those affiliated with this organization, give life every day.
If I could do it again, I would in a heartbeat.
Evoked Our Own Memories [One Step Ahead of the Nazis / Issue 977]
I read with great interest Dr. Joseph Sungolowsky’s account of his experiences during the war. Similar to Dr. Sungolowsky, my mother a”h was in hiding in France during the war. Baruch Hashem her immediate family was never deported (unfortunately this was not the case for a great majority of her aunts, uncles, and cousins), but the family was constantly fleeing from one hiding place to another along the French countryside in and out of small villages, farmhouses and cellars. There were many close calls with the French gendarmes, but my grandfather always managed to elude them.
I was amazed, however, when I read of Dr. Sungolowsky’s summers at the yeshivah of Aix-les-Bains. It is rare to hear of someone referring to that yeshivah. After the war ended, in July 1945, my family moved to Aix-les-bains, a town located in the Alps. There my grandfather, Rabbi Emil (Menachem Mendel) Klein, took a position as director of the yeshivah.
Even though their time in Aix-les-Bains was rather short, my mother would speak about her memories of Rav Yitzchak Chaikin, as well as some of the other prestigious rabbanim who were there. She would often recall with a sense of wistfulness how beautifully the bochrim sang the Shabbos zemiros on Friday night. Having been so sheltered during the war years, it was so joyful for my mother to see these young men openly and proudly practicing Yiddishkeit.
Thank you for a beautifully written article that evoked memories of my own family’s experiences during the war.
Kew Gardens, NY
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 980)
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