The entire family was rushing frantically to finish getting dressed and close the suitcases. The van was scheduled to arrive in less than 15 minutes, the kugel still had to be removed from the oven and put in some type of a container, and the baby’s diaper had to be changed – again.
In the midst of what can only be described as a whirlwind of activity, my 10-year-old granddaughter Fraidy (not her real name) sat on the sofa, looking miserable and doing nothing. My daughter noticed some funny-looking spots on Fraidy’s face. A closer look revealed that the spots were also spots on her arms, and her legs, and, well, everywhere. And they looked like (drumroll) CHICKEN POX!
My daughter called the car service and asked them to come later. Then she called the doctor. As expected, the receptionist told her that there were no appointments available. “The doctor will try to fit you between the other patients,” she said. “But you’ll have to have patience. It might be a very long wait.”
But this was not an ordinary Erev Shabbos. My granddaughter, sister of the “poxing” (how’s that for a new word?) 10-year-old was getting married on Sunday, so this Shabbos was her chassan’s aufruf. If the as-yet-unidentified spots really were what my daughter thought they were, then (OH NO!) a lot of well thought-out plans would have to be changed. Quickly.
My daughter explained the situation to the receptionist. The receptionist giggled at the absurdity of chicken pox erev aufruf and told her that she would get her in immediately.
My daughter’s diagnosis was correct. Fraidy really did have chicken pox. Which is how I ended up having, in addition to my granddaughter, the Kallah, chicken-poxing Fraidy and her mother for Shabbos.
Several times during that Shabbos (as well as throughout the hectic few weeks prior to the wedding), my daughter asked me, “You know, Mom, I really don’t understand how you did it. How did you manage to take care of all the details involved in making a wedding and setting up a new apartment without family to help you?”
Truth is, I don’t know. It was hard, really hard, especially since all my Israeli neighbors had large, extended families, but somehow, we — by that, I mean all of us Americans who were living in Israel without our families — managed. And I’m glad that today, my offspring don’t have to go through what we went through.
I’m glad that my children have it easier than I did, but at the same time, I know that overcoming those challenges built me as a person. It strengthened my spiritual muscles — bitachon, emunah, being happy with what I have.
Every Monday night, I attend a middos workshop in my neighborhood. (Well, I TRY to go every Monday night, but I’m not always successful.) It’s a great group of women, from newly married to great grandmothers, yet, despite the vast age difference, we share a common denominator: we love to laugh and to talk, and we are serious about our self-growth. The women are hysterically funny as they honestly talk about their challenges, and triumphs. It seems that that no matter what middah we are working on, the path to attain it includes a realization that whatever we are going through is exactly what we need for our optimal growth. In other words, what we have, is exactly what we need.
The challenges I face are the ones I need to grow and strengthen my spiritual muscles. When I was marrying off my children, I needed the challenge of living in Israel sans mishpachah for my personal development, and my daughter needed the challenge of chicken pox erev chasunah for her personal development. And yes, I survived my challenge, and even came out stronger for it, and my daughter survived hers. My granddaughter got married (yes! MAZEL TOV!), and if it wasn’t for the wedding pictures (a 10-year-old with premature acne!), the story would most probably have been forgotten by the last sheva brachos.
Last Shabbos, when I was walking home with a couple of friends from my Shabbos shiur, one of the ladies shared a “bubby story.” “Bubby,” her 6-year-old grandson had said, “you’re so lucky. You’re so old that you don’t have a yetzer hara anymore.” Although he was right on one account (no, not that his bubby is old, but that she is one very lucky woman), he didn’t realize that no matter how old a person may be, he still has plenty of challenges. We all have a yetzer hara, and we all have work to do. We all have it within ourselves to use those challenges as stepping stones to growth.
We can do it. Yes, we can.