April 13, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 13, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One of my favorite parts about living where I live is the bustle you feel in the air before any Yom Tov. At the grocery store, it could be fish heads popping into the showcase—some years as early as the last week of camp—to the sink liners and cottonseed oil arriving by Ta’anit Esther. The weather is beginning to get nicer and you might have the time to chat on the street with an old friend as you both emerge from hibernation instead of rushing home from that kiddush like you do on the cold, short Shabbatot. There is an excitement in the air as each new Yom Tov arrives. Mah nishtana haShana haZeh? Well, everything. We haven’t left our house in weeks. We are now fulfilling mitzvot like mesam’each chattan v’kallah as we sit in a car and simply wave. Instead of speeches about inviting guests into our homes, we are reading strict letters from our rabbanim forbidding us to have any guests in order to complete the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh.

I could go on and on about all the ways our lives have changed over the past few weeks and how this challenge is like nothing any of us have ever had to navigate. But no one wants to read about that—we’re living that each day. While a couple of weeks ago, we tried to predict what “this” would be like in the short term and long term, almost each hour “this” is changing and it’s impossible to predict. We are in a sea of the unknown and thinking about it is frightening and daunting. Mah nishtana ha “challenge” haZeh? This one is completely Yad Hashem. Often when we are having issues with a complicated relationship that causes us lots of stress, we blame the other person. When there is an issue with our kids—we blame everyone from the school to their friends. Figuring out a challenge when another person is involved gives us more power. We think we can tackle it and wrap it back up and often pretend like it never happened. It’s almost as if we think we’re in control and we can figure out a way to prevent the same thing from happening again. But even those challenges are all from Hashem. Well, yes, it is, but we are generally lucky enough to find a human to blame for most challenges and we forget the human is just a shaliach from Hashem to give us such a challenge. A close friend is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and mentioned that when you have a concrete enemy, as we did with the Nazis, it was easier to blame them. When you can blame a human, it’s your tactic for coming up with a solution to make the challenge disappear. These days, no matter how hard you look, there is no solution. There are tactics to mitigate the mini-challenges that come up throughout the hour— tefillah, listening to divrei Torah and chizzuk—but that doesn’t work for everyone. And none of these are an actual solution. This challenge—and iy”H the forthcoming solution—is completely Yad Hashem.

Unfortunately, it was my husband’s 13th yahrtzeit as this all was beginning to take shape. My husband was sick for many months. I never knew what each day of his illness would bring. Some days were great and we would almost forget that our new normal was completely not normal. During his illness, and even in recent years, I would often hear “Hashem gives nisyonot to those that can handle them.” Obviously, my cynicism would kick in and my response would be an eye roll, no matter how smart, frum, rabbanic or insightful the person saying those words would be. My candid response was that I wish Hashem would think less of me. As we face this national nisayon, I think about these words more often and I own these words to enable me to have more faith in myself to figure out any issue I’m navigating. While traditional prayer has always been a challenge for me, I have found it easier to communicate with Hashem in a way that works for me. But more importantly, I am reminded that I’m not in control of anything. Every life experience we have happens for a reason. Right now, believing that is virtually impossible. The only thing we can believe is that Hashem is in control. We’re not meant to understand His plan- we’re only meant to accept it. In circumstances like these, for which we have no precedence for how we are “supposed to” respond, each of us put in our personal hishtadlut to handle all aspects of this challenge. What works for you could be awful for me and visa versa. Putting your faith in truly believing that Hashem has got your back is easier said than done when you are wiping up another mess and hearing about another shiva call to make over Zoom. And as much as we are hearing divrei chizuk to inspire us and keep us motivated, some days it’s just not enough. All I can say is that one day—and it could be in the very far future—there will be one aspect of this that will inevitably benefit us in the future. In the past you may have unfortunately had a friend in terrible marriage or with a sick child. In the moment, you are impacted, but it’s hard to really have that “teachable moment” when it’s someone else’s experience. This experience—and again, we still have no way of really knowing what “this” is—is affecting us all and iy”H, despite the short-term pain we all feel, one day it will make sense.

Bli ayin hara, this experience has so far been pretty nice. (And we can discuss the guilt I have about almost-sort of enjoying this experience another time.) We are home and we are safe. I don’t get dressed every day and I take conference calls from my bed. I haven’t even done one virtual museum tour or organized every inch of my house, but I am doing what I need to do to stay positive and relaxed. But then I finally cried. While checking out at Trader Joe’s. I was just overwhelmed by the amount of gratitude I had for everyone in my life for making this experience as manageable as it has been and it was the lady ringing up my groceries who actually heard all my thank yous. I am grateful for all my local grocery stores for staying open and fully stocked, even though I kvetch often about the cooking. I am blessed to be employed by an incredible firm with the most understanding and supportive management team. I am indebted to the hanhalah and faculty of my daughter’s school who ensured her learning experience and achdut would not miss a beat.

I am fortunate to live in a cohesive community with rabbanim and askanim who have done everything in their power to provide for all and who also had the chachma to shut down our neighborhood early. Most of all, I am indebted for family and friends for the constant checking in, the offer to do errands, shared glasses of wine over FaceTime, a sounding ear for moments of stress and slight paranoia, and the love and continued shared belief that we will be able to handle whatever Hashem throws our way. Yet, it was the kind lady with the small magen David hanging on her necklace who was the recipient of my thank yous in tears

And while the bustle of Yom Tov prep is more stressful, it’s only because we are also in the midst of yimot haMashiach. Our outfits are picked out (black slimming dress for me, because, well, you get it). Our family meeting place in the rova decided on (Burgers Bar, because we’ll need to eat) and most of all, our whole soul is ready. L’shavua haZot b’Yerushalayim!


Rachel Zamist has lived in the Passaic community for the past 32 years and has watched it grow and transition. She is the beaming mother of Mimi.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles