11 Tishrei 5781 / Tuesday, September 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
 
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Lag B'Omer  
 
HomeHolidays and Fast DaysLag B'OmerOn Haircuts and Accountability
 
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On Haircuts and Accountability    

On Haircuts and Accountability



My thoughts returned to my newfound friend. I virtuously continued, "Turn it over to God. Pray to Him, do what you have to do to rectify the situation...

 



When my husband's friend decided to become a shochet, someone asked him why he doesn't go into the family business instead. His answer: "At least this way I know who's the shochet and who's the one being shechted. In business you never know."
  
* * *
 
In honor of my grandson's chalaka, first haircut, our family traveled to Tzfat for Shabbat, to be close to Meiron for the Lag B'Omer celebrations. My daughter made the arrangements, renting a one-room apartment with a large sleeping loft in the Old City, not far from the main Breslov shul, complete with a small kitchenette and air conditioning. The owner of the apartment, however, forgot to mention that he was renting the other seven rooms to a girl's Yeshiva, and that they would be eating and "hanging out" in the large common area located right outside our one bedroom/kitchen/living room.
 
My husband and I, and my son, daughter-in-law and their six-month old daugther, arrived in the early afternoon, several hours before my daughter and son-in-law with their three small children, the oldest of whom would be getting his first hair cut on Sunday, Lag B'Omer.  The moment I realized that we would be spending the weekend in a girls' dormitory, I knew that something had to be done! On the one hand, the girls had every right to enjoy themselves, which of course, meant lots and lots of singing and dancing, and that, of course, would take place right outside our bedroom/kitchen/living room door! On the other hand, my son-in-law is a tzaddik and would feel extremely uncomfortable (to say the least) to be in a situation where he would be forced to hear females singing throughout the night, although, since they would be singing in a group and we would not be able to recognize them, it was halachically permissible.
 
I had one friend in Tzfat. I somehow managed to find my way through the winding streets of the Artist Colony to her studio apartment, a one-room combination bedroom/living room/kitchen located in the Old City and told her the entire story. She spoke with a friend of hers, a retired professor, also living on her own, who agreed to let my son-in-law use her house while she and my friend, together with a few other single women, made a "slumber party;" camping out in sleeping bags in my friend's one-room combination bedroom/kitchen/living room.
 
Shabbat morning, the woman who had so kindly vacated her apartment needed something from her "kitchen." Since I had the one and only key, I accompanied her there.
 
As we walked through the treacherously steep pathway to her house (actually a one room combination bedroom/ kitchen/living room), she told me about her life and about a very difficult challenge that she was presently facing. "My daughter shouldn't be going to that school," she explained. "I made all the arrangements, everything was set up; she was supposed to be here, in Israel, with me, instead of in the United States, so far from me …"
 
"It's so difficult to be separated from a person whom you love so deeply" I tried to commiserate with her misery. Then I piously continued, "But although it's up to us to do everything possible to make things go right, sometimes they just don't. We just have to accept that."
 
Hypocrite! Who am I to lecture? Me, the big tzedekes?  
 
Last week I received a letter from my literary agent. Over 300 copies of my book, Bridging the Golden Gate were damaged in shipment. He sent a claim to the insurance company, who offered to compensate him for the damage at $.75 per pound. Then he unthinkingly handed them the books for them to "examine the extent of the damages," without realizing that in doing so he was actually giving them possession of the books. In exchange, the insurance company sent him a check for a few hundred dollars (my precious book at $.75 per pound?  I pay more for tomatoes!). Then, to add insult to injury, the insurance company sold the books to a salvage company, who tried to resell them to Jewish book stores at a rate far below cost price. "Not only will that undercut our sales," the agent explained, "but since we're the sole distributor, the stores will return the damaged copies and ask us for a full refund. To minimize our losses (???), I (he really meant me, since I'm the one paying for it) purchased the damaged books back at $1.50 per book, basically four times the amount of money that the insurance company paid us for them."
 
I was fuming. Fuming at the trucking company that damaged my books and then refused to take responsibility for the damage; fuming at my agent who so unthinkingly handed the books to the insurance company for them to "examine," without realizing that they would try to undercut him and that I would end up paying for the mistake; fuming at the Israeli printer who shipped the books for not taking out sufficient insurance. It was a chain of mistakes in which no one was accountable, and yet everyone was responsible.
 
My thoughts returned to my newfound friend. I virtuously continued, "Turn it over to God. Pray to Him, do what you have to do to rectify the situation, and then let go. The rage will take you no where. The main thing is prayer." Even as the words left my mouth, I wondered how I, who was literally turning the world upside down to rectify a chain of mistakes and lack of accountability, could speak so piously. Am I really such a self-righteous, holier-than-thou good-goody? Who am I to speak about trust and acceptance, when I am raging inside at the sheer injustice of it all? How could anyone have the gall to damage my property, and then not pay for it?
 
The woman had tears in her eyes. "But I want my daughter to be here, with me, in Israel. I worked so hard to make it happen, and I prayed so much for Hashem to let her be here. I miss her, and I want her with me." 
 
I smiled sweetly and continued (it's fun being a tzedekes), "Pray for your daughter's benefit, not for what you want. You want your daughter with you, but who says that is really the best thing for her? (You hypocrite!) We can't understand Hashem's ways (Who am I to say those words?) and we never know what is really for our, and our family's benefit. You want your daughter to be with you, in Israel, but maybe she really needs to be there. You've done what you can; now turn it over to your Creator and let go."
 
You hypocrite!
 
That was the end of our conversation. I returned to my family, and she returned to her friend's house.
 
The following day we were supposed to leave Tzfat to Meiron at seven o'clock in the morning, before it became unbearably hot.
 
It was after twelve by the time we arrived in Meiron. The heat was oppressive; the crowds were impossible. My son-in-law, husband and three-year-old grandson rushed up the hill, while my daughter and I slowly climbed the mountain to the gravesite. But we were stopped by a spontaneous fire. Somehow we managed to circumvent the fire but an ambulance was blocking our way to the area where the haircutting would be taking place. We thought we found a way around the ambulance, but ended up farther away than we had been before.
 
My daughter was pushing a stroller with a toddler and new-born inside. I was dragging behind her, slightly delirious from the combination of heat and lack of fluids. We saw some trees and grass to the left. It was the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva campus; a perfect place to rest, feed the babies and hopefully find something to drink.
 
But although it's up to us to do everything possible to make things go right, sometimes they just don't. We just have to accept that. Turn it over to God. Pray to Him…
 
Who am I to have said those words?
 
By the time we were ready to leave the Bnei Akiva campus and go to the where my husband and son-in-law would be dancing, bearing my newly shorn grandson on their shoulders, someone had locked the gates at the main entrance. Everyone else was able to duck underneath, but the stroller would not fit through.
 
Half an hour later, after trudging up and down stairs and maneuvering our way through a long a narrow pathway, we succeeded in finding a back route to escape the Yeshiva campus and found ourselves back down at the bottom of the hill, far away from the area where the men would be dancing with my grandson.
 
At that point I gave up and decided to return home (but first I made sure that there would be someone to help my daughter manage with the two babies). I felt terrible. I had traveled so far, wasted so much time, spent so much money, to be able to pray at the Tzaddik's grave and rejoice in my grandson's chalaka, yet I did not succeed.
 
Several hours later I arrived home, jumped into the shower and threw myself onto the bed, exhausted. I was physically and emotionally drained, and bitter that I had wanted, I had tried, I had moved heaven and earth, and yet I had failed. 
 
…But although it's up to us to do everything possible to make things go right, sometimes they just don't. We just have to accept that…
 
What a hypocrite!
 
A few days later, I was sitting at my desk at Breslovworld, editing Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter's article for the website. The words seemed to jump out at me:
 
"The question is not how tough we can be in business, but how tough we can be with ourselves. Can we be patient and forgiving when people treat us unfairly?  Can we relinquish control and expectations when things don’t go our way?  Can we accept all this in love, realizing that it is for the sake of our eternal good?  That is the real “business” of life.  For that is how we will repair our souls, and all the supernal worlds that are connected to us."
 
It was no coincidence that I was reading those words just then, when I so much needed to hear them.
 
"All right!" I almost shouted at the computer screen. "I'll do what I have to do, I'll protest the lack of accountability, I'll insist that I receive proper compensation, but if it doesn't go my way, well, I'll have to accept that, too, with love. It's for the sake of my eternal good."
 
Oh, and by the way, we're instituting a new custom in our household. Instead of accompanying the children to Meiron, from now on, our little princes will return from having their hair cut in Meiron to Bubby and Zeidie Shapiro's house, where they and their parents will be treated to ice cream and cake and plenty of cold drinks.  




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