Dear Debra: Not A Mentsh?
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There is a man who is well regarded in our community. He makes generous donations to various local causes. On the surface, one would think him a mentsh. I’ve had dealings with him, and he’s totally dishonest. When I see him at High Holidays, it makes my blood boil knowing how highly he is regarded and how dishonest he really is. My kishkes (insides) are still roiling when I think of another High Holiday spoiled by the sight of this man.
— Roiling Kishkes
Jewish sages teach us that the first question one is asked in the world to come is not “Were you kind?” “Were you good to your family?” but “Were you honest in your business dealings?”
That’s the importance Jewish ethics places on how we conduct our business.
Although this man is known for his philanthropy and not his underhanded dealings, he knows who and what he is. He has to see himself in the mirror every day of his life. In some corner of his consciousness that cannot feel good.
Of more concern is that you are allowing your outrage to ruin your own spiritual experience. The High Holidays are a gift that each of us is given to review our behavior, to atone to those whom we have wronged, to be grateful for the past year’s blessings and to pray for one more year to do so again. I know this man drives you nuts. But you need to focus on you and let the Divine Judge mete out the proper sentence to Mr. Dishonest. Even if he’s a goniff (thief), don’t let him steal your peace of mind, your well-being and time better spent with the good and upright friends and loved ones who matter.
My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over a year. Our friends are all in various phases of creating their families. It is getting difficult to attend baby showers, britot and baby namings and share the joy when we are struggling so. It also doesn’t help when well-meaning (but unthinking) people turn to us and say things like, “So, when are you two going to get going?” We have not talked to many of our friends about this, but each month it grows harder to be there for our friends when they have what we so dearly want as well.
— Still Trying
Dear Still Trying,
My heart goes out to you and your husband. Although I know it is of little help, you are not alone in this. In fact, Hasidah, an organization dedicated to helping couples struggling with infertility, writes on their website (hasidah.org), “for the Jewish community, the rates of fertility impairment are likely closer to 1 in 6 [instead of the 1 in 8 figure generally used].”
There is an unfortunate curtain of silence that settles around couples struggling to conceive. Not only can it distance friends from one another but well-meaning strangers and others unintentionally cause additional heartache. I’m not saying you should tell the world, but you might want to share with your closest friends and family if for no other reason than they will know what is truly going on in your life. For all you know, the new parent friends might have struggled to conceive as well. They among all others would meet you with knowing compassion.
But none of this addresses your original question about attending baby events. For the first time in three years, I am truly at a loss.
Part of me wants to say, “Steer clear of anything that is going to drive you to greater grief.” Another part of me wants to say, “Don’t isolate yourself! Celebrate with your friends. Welcome this new little spirit. Your day will come.”
If you cannot imagine going to all the simchahs you’re invited to, consider attending those of your closest friends. Or visit new mom and baby at a quieter time, which might be less of a drain on your inner resources.
Most of all, I send you and your husband compassion for what you are facing and my deepest hopes for your hopes to be realized.
Readers? What would you advise my letter writer? Use the online form or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share answers in a future column.
Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at debradarvick.com.