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How one difficult conversation changed a woman’s life.
“Can I tell you a story about your mother?”
The young woman approached me after a recent lecture. I am always happy to hear another story about my beloved mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, obm. It’s as if I am receiving precious regards from Above.
But this anecdote was different. It’s a message to all those who are dating or know someone contemplating marriage.
The woman explained that she was ‘an older single.’ After running to too many single events, endless dating online, and meeting countless shadchanim/ matchmakers, she was ready to give up the search. What else was there left for her to do?
A family member suggested that she attend a monthly lecture that my mother gave. Perhaps meeting in person would help bring about a successful connection.
At the end of the class the woman worked through the crowd to speak to my mother. “Rebbetzin, can I talk to you for a few moments? I think someone called to tell you that I’d be here today.”
“Yes, of course. Follow me. Let’s have a conversation outside in quiet while I gather my things and get ready to go home.”
They walked together until they reached a private spot.
“I am dating for marriage but I feel as if I’m not getting anywhere. Here I am still single after all these years and still…..nothing.”
Not a minute went by before my mother responded.
“Sheyfelah (sweet dear), I am known to tell it like it is. If you need to improve your makeup I will tell you to go for a makeover. If there is a run in your stockings I will tell you to look yourself over and get a new pair. And if you have bad breath I will tell you to brush your teeth. So now I am going to tell you something. You need to change.”
“Rebbetzin, I must tell you that I try so hard. I take really good care of myself to look good. I always keep an extra pair of stockings handy just in case. And my bag is filled with breath mints whenever I am on a date.”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean your attitude needs changing.”
“My attitude? Why do you say that? What needs to change?”
“You do. You give off this really tough attitude.”
“The entire time I spoke you sat there with your arms folded. I know people and I am telling you that you need to soften up. There is a tough attitude you’re giving off and it’s not good for dating or marriage.”
“But that’s how I sit.”
“Sheyfelah, I’m telling you that I’ve been a Rebbetzin for many, many years. I see things. If you’re honest with yourself you will know what I’m talking about.”
“I went home,” the woman told me, “closed my door and sat for a long time. I may have even cried a little because I realized that if I wanted to be totally truthful, your mother was right. I was tough. I had just been dating a sweet and wonderful guy. And you know what I told him? Just that week I had said, ‘Listen, this is not going to work. You’re great but you’re just too nice. I can’t relate to such a super nice guy.’ What was I thinking?”
She paused for a moment and then gave the clincher.
“That night I called him up and I told him that I’d like to try again. And here we are ten years later. We got married, have adorable kids and he is just the best husband a girl could ask for. I never would be having this conversation with you today if your mother didn’t wake me up that day. She gave me the best advice I ever got. I needed to seriously change my attitude. “
I told her how impressed I was that she took my mother’s advice to heart.
“Well to tell you the truth, at first I felt that being single is hard enough and I didn’t need someone telling me what to do or how I need to change as if it is my fault. But then I took a quiet moment to think and realized that it’s not about blame or fault. It’s about being brave and strong enough to take on a new direction.”
I asked her permission to share and she, herself, felt that it was crucial. Perhaps somebody else could transform their lives the way she did.
There are times in every person’s life that one needs to take a good look in the emotional mirror and be truthful. Whether it is a tough attitude while dating, looking down on a spouse, being harsh with family members or condescending with people in our lives, it becomes easy to push people away. Without realizing it, we build walls and then wonder why we feel stuck.
Change requires real courage. Not many have a person who will be the spiritual compass pointing to which direction is now needed to transform one’s life. And even if you are fortunate enough to have someone with that wisdom, you then need an open heart and mind to take the necessary steps to change.
When Adam and Eve found themselves hiding among the trees in the Garden of Eden, God asked a question of just one word.
“Ayekah – where are you?”
More than a physical awareness, it was a spiritual perception that God was trying to relay. Where are you? How did you get into this situation? What happened to you?
The Torah tells us that Adam was afraid. He felt ashamed. He hid.
‘Ayekah’ is the question we are obligated to ask ourselves when we feel as if we stand alone and nothing is going our way. But instead of falling into fear, shame or seeking a place to hide, we must seek the truth and recognize where we need to change to bring about hope and healing. We can challenge ourselves to climb higher and look for people who will bring goodness into our lives.
Confronting ourselves is difficult. But once we make a decision to do better we can then live better. Take a moment, contemplate where you would like to change, chart your course, begin today. You can transform your life.