May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So many times we see a friend after a painful experience and the person somehow seems different. People might say, “that experience really changed them.” I’ve never really understood that. I’m one of those who tend to believe that people don’t really change.

Most of us have probably been asked at some point in our lives to describe a family member or friend with just three words. I wonder if you would ask that question about each person every five years or so if those three words would be the same. In my opinion, most of which makes us unique is really a more detailed description of a broader concept of who a person is. In other words, people don’t change.

But does our perspective change, or broaden? Of course—but generally it’s after some sort of deeply painful experience or an emotional or spiritual event that likely hit on a painful experience that occurred in your life previously. At the core we will likely remain the same being, but our actions and reactions to different experiences will now have a different perspective than ever before.

As our world gets tinier, with so many outlets to share details about our personal lives, we are hearing about strangers’ tragedies as if they were our own family. We can see their pain within the words of email, blog post or story on Instagram. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a text to say Tehillim for someone or donate to a tzedakah cause. I imagine there is a certain level of comfort that someone must feel when opting to share their pain publicly.

An integral part of pain, in my experience, is the isolation of the experience and how no one is capable of feeling what you feel. So I imagine when one is actually able to share that pain there is some level of comfort toward the sharer that would be expected. But once you open yourself up it can also open you up to criticism and everyone else’s (essentially unsolicited) opinions: Why does a person need to hang their dirty laundry? Shouldn’t they be over this crisis already? Or better ideas on how to manage their pain—”You need a different herapist/doctor/rav/medication,” or my favorite,“You will be fine—my friend just had the same disease and they are fine.”

There certainly are some “haters” out there who will criticize for the sake of criticizing. I am definitely guilty of looking at others’ painful situations and wondering why they can’t seem to just power through. Maybe it’s because externally it seems that the immediate crisis seems to be over or the pain has dissipated, so now you are done and I no longer have to give you empathy for the pain I decided you no longer should be feeling—because now there is someone with a crisis way worse than yours.

It’s a universal truth, however, that no one has any way of truly knowing the effects of emotional or physical pain that can linger on the inside for many years. Ever have a cavity filled and still feel uncomfortable the next day? Ever mention that you still don’t feel great the next day to a bunch of colleagues at work? I promise there’s always going to be that one person who insists that you should be feeling fine, just like he or she was feeling after having a cavity filled.

It’s like they don’t believe you, or really, they just can’t bear to give any sympathy because in their minds they have decided you are no longer allowed to feel pain. But in my heart, people really do share their opinions on other people’s lives because they really do feel like they are helping. The other side is that so often people look at other people’s pain and don’t know how to deal with it. It’s almost a natural instinct to be a part of the pain so you can help your friend in need. It’s like we’re faced with a massive jigsaw puzzle.

Do we know anyone who really has never experienced pain? Between all the crazy stories we hear about others and how it seems these days that everyone (or their sister-in-law) is related to everyone else, we just can’t seem to escape it. And if it’s not personal, it’s communal, as we hear about rockets being shot in to our holy Land of Israel almost every day. There’s some compulsion to figure out how it all fits together and explain why it’s happening in the first place.

In a world when we Google the answer to almost any question, we will never be able to get an answer to why we need to have pain. It’s almost like if we figured out why the pain is happening, we feel that preventing it from happening is in our control. I have a clear memory of dropping my cell phone outside my parents’ house one Tu B’Shvat. (Why I specifically remember why it was Tu B’shvat is a whole other story.) For anyone who has cracked the screen of an iPhone, you can relate to the pain. That moment feels like a tragedy when just thinking about all the time and money it will take you to get that phone fixed, and the mental energy you will spend thinking about having the phone fixed at the kiosk at the mall. Until my phone got fixed I was consumed with just getting it fixed; I was so incredibly frustrated and I was not pleasant to be around. From then on I really committed to never getting out of my car with my phone in my hand and making sure it was always in a bag or pocket.

I had experienced pain and I didn’t want to feel those feelings again, so I did all I could to figure out what caused the pain and how I could guarantee the pain to never exist again. Since that moment, I have never dropped my phone and it’s been in great condition. But that is not how life works. We can’t always figure out the underlying source of the pain or find ways to prevent it, and even more so, we’re not supposed to question it. That level of acceptance is a level of emunah I strive for, but don’t actually see it as something attainable within the next 10 years.

We’re at a time in the year when most of us are starting to get scared of the upcoming Yomim Noraim. We’re a few weeks away from standing in front of Hashem and asking Him to bless us with a year of only good things. I’m sure there are those who really just daven for everything to stay status quo. Meaning, whatever challenges you have so far been thrown over the past couple of years you have a pretty good grasp on how to handle them. And while things may not be as amazing as you once had hoped for, the “I’ve got this” attitude could mean you are in a much more healthier and emotionally stable place.

Or, you could be finishing up a year that was just crisis after crisis and you just need it to end and look forward.

Maybe you feel like you went through all this and you don’t feel like your perspective on all aspects of your life have been affected at all.

Or if you’re anything like me, you just feel like your perspective is healthy enough so now you just don’t need to have any more pain because there is just nothing left to gain. It’s almost as if I expect that life is supposed to be easy but really have no reasonable source that confirms that I ever should have had the expectation to just coast our way through life. So maybe it’s healthy not to have answers to everything, but maybe it’s even healthier not to even question at all.

By Rachel Zamist


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, an eighth-grade student at Rachel’s own alma mater, YBH.

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