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‘I Wasted My Years’

Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.

 

‘I Wasted My Years’

 

I once received a letter from a woman in her late forties, a physician who, despite her success, was very unhappy in her personal life. She was the child of a troubled family. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. The separation was traumatic and left much bad feeling in its wake. 

The young woman was determined to make a life for herself and in doing so missed her opportunity to marry and build a family. She expressed her pain, the terrible void in her life, and her yearning to have a husband, a home, and children. She confided that she would happily exchange her career for the joy of holding her own baby in her arms and lamented that “I wasted my years.     

 

The following was my response:

 

There are countless other young women who are struggling with the very same challenges. The shidduch situation is one of the most difficult dilemmas confronting our generation. It crosses all geographical and cultural boundaries. 

I believe the most important advice I can give you and others who find themselves in a similar situation is not to be despondent and not to give up. 

We believe that “The help of G-d…can come as quickly as the blink of an eye.”

This does not mean I am minimizing your predicament. But miracles do happen –I have seen them, and we are never to relinquish hope. Faith is at the root of Judaism; it is one of the pillars of our lives, and throughout history we have seen it justified a thousand-and-one times.

The crisis you describe we encounter in the Torah itself. To be sure, under different circumstances, but the challenge is nevertheless the same. Specifically, I am referring to the daughters of Tzelafchad.

Tzelafchad had five daughters (no sons). Somehow, the daughters never made shidduchim and, consequently, he was consumed with fear. “How,” he agonized, “will my descendants inherit the land? I have no sons and my daughters are unmarried.”

His very name, which literally translated means “tzel-pachad” – “in the shadow of fear” – is indicative of the trepidation that filled his heart. Sadly, he died without his fears assuaged. Little did he know that Hashem Himself would champion the cause of his daughters and they not only would be granted permission to inherit the land but also, despite their age, were able to make wonderful shidduchim. (The youngest was 40 when she married.) They were all blessed with beautiful families.

You may of course argue that all this unfolded at a time in our history when miracles were commonplace and nowadays such things no longer happen. But you would be wrong. It is written: “Ma’aseh avot, siman l’banim” – “That which befell our forefathers is a sign to us, the children.” 

Hashem’s miracles are with us daily, but because we lack faith, we tend to interpret them as luck. But the things we believe to be natural phenomena or “lucky breaks” are all acts of Hashem. I have seen many “older” women get married and yes, I have seen “older” women give birth to children. I am not suggesting this is an everyday occurrence but I am saying it is possible and it does happen.

May I make the following recommendations?

  1. Don’t live in the past. We have a Talmudic teaching, “What was, was.” Move on. Learn from your past but be careful not to allow that experience to paralyze you. 

2. Be ever on guard not to develop a negative attitude or become despondent. There is nothing that is more of a turnoff to potential soul mates than a frustrated, bitter face. I have often told singles, “Before you go on a date, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Would I want to go out with me?” Now, quickly put a warm smile on your face and look in the mirror again. If the smile reflects back at you, you are ready to go out.

3) This last suggestion is the most critical of all. I should have put it first on the list, but in order for it to be efficacious, the first two – changing your attitude and freeing yourself of negativity – are a must. Learn to exchange resignation for hope and pessimism for heartfelt, powerful prayer. Because ultimately it is only prayer that will help, for it is Hashem who is mezaveg zivugim – who makes matches and unites a man and a woman.

When praying, bear in mind that Moshe Rabbeinu, the holiest man ever to walk the planet, prayed 515 ways so that he might see the Promised Land, and he would have continued praying had Hashem not told him to desist. And yes, Hashem did answer his prayers, even if not in the manner he anticipated. Hashem did show Moshe Eretz Yisrael and even allowed him to see the entire panorama of Jewish history to the end of time.

I share all this with you because ours is a generation of instant gratification. No sooner do we make our requests known to G-d than we expect to be satisfied. We have no patience for continual prayer. We mouth our words and expect to be answered immediately.

As I noted, Hashem arranges shidduchim. He is the Supreme Shadchan. Place your trust in Him and ask Him to help you build a Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisrael and bring children into the world for His Holy Name’s sake.