Article by Mrs. Hadassa Spalter: Please let’s not assume; please let’s not judge. Please, let’s not take things personally, or make comments because we don’t like someone’s attitude at the moment. We never know how someone’s day was or what they may be going through.
By Mrs. Hadassa Spalter – Los Angeles, California
“If you were in Hollywood , you would be making millions.”
Growing up, I heard this line from my mother countless times as I made my family laugh. She would praise talented frum women – we should get such zechusim, because the world never gets to see these talents. I guess you can say I was the funny one at the table, putting on accents and making shows. My family would be super entertained, the laughter would go on for hours. How much fun we had!
Sometimes, it’s hard to act, to put on a show.
I don’t believe we should walk around being fake – I’m a genuine person – but the world can’t carry everyone’s burdens. We all show up to work and events, and many times we must keep the difficult moments inside. Some days may be harder than others, we are not in the mood, yet we don’t shout it out from the rooftops. We don’t feel that high, but still, we must live, we must do, we must try our best and keep putting our best foot forward. In our challenging moments, we try to be positive and hope that tomorrow will be a brighter day.
But sometimes, it’s hard to put on that show.
At my son Dovi’s bar mitzvah a few years ago, a well-meaning relative pulled me in and asked, “Why aren’t you dancing? You look so out of it.” I mustered every ounce of strength I had to give it my all, to be present at and show care for my son’s simcha. We did care, which is why it was important to us to go ahead with the celebrations as planned.
At that point, no one other than myself and my husband were aware of the news we had received that week. Our daughter Chaya was not responding to her new treatment, and it was only a matter of time. Only Hashem knows why we had to hear it a few days before the bar mitzvah. So many people were coming from out of town, and here we could barely function or breathe…
The pictures show it. I don’t know how my husband got up and made a speech that night, or how I continued to smile and thank everyone for coming, and of course, dance. We didn’t have anything left inside of us, but we did it for Dovi. Chaya herself was so excited, despite the pain she was in when the simcha started; she danced all night!
The guests who flew in had no idea what was going on inside of us, and were able to enjoy the simcha. We understood that al pi teva, this would be our last simcha as a whole family and we really gave it all we had. Yes, we were davening, and turning the world over, holding on to hope and remaining full of positivity until Chaya’s last day, but we were also balancing this reality.
It is now six years later, and we just came back from celebrating a beautiful family wedding in Florida. In sharing the following, I’m going out of my comfort zone; on the plane home, I asked Hashem to please continue to be good to us, and I promised that I would share this personal experience and the lessons I had learned…
My younger daughter, may she live and be well, was having fun with her brothers in the hotel where we were staying. They got a little rowdy, and she was accidentally sent flying into a dresser. Baruch Hashem, she didn’t hit her head, but it did hurt, so we gave her Motrin and she went to sleep.
A day or so later, she began to complain of intense back pain. This was uncharacteristic of her, and she had clearly told us she didn’t hit any part of the back of her body when she hit the dresser; her brothers said the same. The way that she was speaking about the pain brought back traumatic memories for my husband and myself. We just looked at each other and kept on asking, “Where does it hurt? When did it start?” as we tried to help her.
As we arrived at the wedding, she continued to mention the pain. To say it was triggering is an understatement. My husband and I were completely ‘ois mentch’ inside.
We wanted to be present for the wedding and for our kids. We tried to relax as we took pictures with them and attempted to enjoy our time with our big girls who had come in from New York.
A good friend walked in and I quietly told her a bit of what was going on. Not knowing about the injury, she reassured me that it was ‘just growing pains’. With tears in my eyes, I told her “When you have what to rely on b’teva, it’s a good thing. Hashem sent you to tell me this; thank you.”
But as the night wore on, my daughter continued to complain of intense back pain, and we were struggling. As I went to the lobby to speak to my husband, someone commented, “You look so serious!” I smiled, made some small talk and moved on. This scene repeated itself several times over the night.
‘This kallah is my niece,’ I thought to myself, ‘and my daughter’s good friend. Don’t leave yet, make one more effort!’ I pushed myself to go back to the dance floor, to dance with the kallah again. Don’t be that family member… no one knows what you’re going through. Try your best.
The next day, the pain was still strong. I called her pediatrician, who suggested we wait to see how she is in a few days; he recommended against taking x-rays of her spine. We davened for clarity and wrote in to the Rebbe, and I promised I would write about the important lessons, just please continue to give us revealed good. As we rethought the events of the past few days, we became convinced that it was a result of her incident with the dresser in the hotel; relief washed over us. The Rebbe already answered us…
When we arrived home, my daughter took Motrin and went to sleep. The next morning, I again gave her pain medicine and sent her off to school. When a call came from the school a few hours later, the memory it triggered wasn’t easy. Her back was hurting, and the secretary needed permission to give her something for the pain. I didn’t hear from the school again; unfortunately, by the time I picked her up from school, she was in agony.
For whatever reason, we were meant to continue going through intense agmas nefesh. We needed peace of mind and an answer that night, and our daughter needed relief. I davened mincha and wrote to the Rebbe. I gave her a quick dinner and whisked her off to Urgent Care, not knowing how long it would take.
As I glanced over and saw her lying back in her seat, I took a deep breath. I’ve seen this too many times; this torture isn’t for humans! I said tehillim the whole way.
As we sat in the waiting room, I looked at my phone. It was כג סיון. There was a message that the Rebbe taught us about this auspicious day of כג סיון, about Hashem being the King, and we the scribes; we can decree anything we need to be inscribed. It had been circling social media throughout the day, but I was busy and hadn’t taken the time to focus. This was clearly the right time to see it. We had walked in as the doctor left for a dinner break; we had plenty of time.
I hate wearing a mask, but at that moment, I was glad. I needed it to hide my whispering, my praying and talking to Hashem and the Rebbe nonstop. I learned that I was a scribe that day, and so I decreed and decreed again. I showed my daughter what it said and explained the significance of what we daven for that day. Right then, I already felt that it would be good; I just needed confirmation.
The doctor felt the area next to her spine and said it felt tight, like a muscle spasm. Though I was sorry for my daughter’s pain, I was grateful to hear this news. We were sent in for an x-ray, and once again, I davened, saying hers and the Rebbe’s kapitlach over and over again.
It felt like eternity until they called us back, and another eternity until he re-entered the room. I told myself again and again, כל עכבה לטובה. Every delay is for the good.
Baruch Hashem a million times over , it was confirmed – our daughter had suffered a back sprain, which is excruciating, but we were able to put our fears to rest.
I can’t express in words the private agony my husband and I went through. I want to publicly thank Hashem, and the Rebbe for being a רועה נאמן in every sense of the word. When we try to do what we can in regard to the Aibeshter and focus on the Rebbe’s inyanim, we can leave the rest on the Rebbe’s shoulders.
This isn’t the first time we have had agmas nefesh, fear or concern since our daughter Chaya passed away, but I PRAY that it is certainly the last!
My point in sharing the above is this: we NEVER know what someone is going through. He didn’t respond to my text; she didn’t thank me after all I did; she didn’t respond to my smile; she was out of it again. She didn’t speak to me, but she did speak to someone else.
There are myriads of things coming up in people’s lives every day that can be very challenging, painful and stressful. It might not always be something traumatic – hopefully it’s not! It can be something simple that throws them off and leaves them frazzled or overwhelmed.
It could be debilitating news that literally knocks the wind out of them, yet they still got dressed and showed up. Sometimes, a person can’t show up and fake it; they’re not up to it.
Or maybe it’s because they forgot, or were tired, or put the event into their calendar on the wrong day – let’s hope! Does it need to be something more than that?!
I spoke to one woman at the wedding who looked so happy and beautiful, was so positive and warm. She is going through some painful things with her children, yet she had shown up and was so present! It was mind blowing.
Please let’s not assume; please let’s not judge. Please, let’s not take things personally, or make comments because we don’t like someone’s attitude at the moment. We never know how someone’s day was or what they may be going through!
Let’s just thank Hashem that at least we are okay and able to enjoy the moment, even if someone else doesn’t seem interested in enjoying it with us. For whatever reason, Hashem wants us to experience and grow from this encounter, even if it seems unpleasant.
Moshiach will come when our ahavas chinam is flowing and complete. Being Dan Likaf Zechus is judging favorably, ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’. What I’m talking about is taking it a step beyond: recognizing that we don’t know what being in their shoes even means. I don’t know why this person ignored me, or wasn’t warm and responsive, but I will still be kind because I don’t know what this moment is for her right now.
Let us as a klal try to really live this, and keep reminding ourselves of this truth. And in that zchus, may there be no more reasons to wonder! May we share in only joyous times together as we greet Moshiach speedily.