The Rest of the Story
by Chana Klein
Is the grass really greener?
Did you ever look at another person and think why don't I have that?
Do you yearn for something that you see other people already have? Perhaps a shidduch? a baby? A good job?
Do you say to yourself that those people look so blessed, so lucky, and then feel less about yourself?
Are we like Cain and Abel where because Abel was blessed, Cain felt cursed. Are we like Rachel and Leah? Where Rachel was favored by Jacob so Leah felt hated. When someone has what we yearn for, is it natural for us to feel worse when comparing ourselves to them? Do you ever ask yourself: what is the rest of the story?
Fifteen years ago, I was divorced and then single. I wanted to remarry. I imagined that if I had a marriage that revolved around Torah, with Torah values, that I would be not just happy, but ecstatic. And of course, when I spent time with religiously observant couples, I felt some envy for each of them in a different way. They had what I yearned for.
I did not think of the fact that people who have Torah marriages also get divorced. I just "knew" that others have it and I don't... and I envied them.
While I was still married, I talked often with my friend Ruth (Not the real name) and she was going through a divorce from a man to whom she had been married for about twenty years. She was my good friend and I supported her through each detail of the decision to divorce and the actual divorce.
About five years after her divorce was completed, I went through my own divorce. Ruth and I were still in touch. The year I got divorced I was introduced to learning in Lincoln Square Synagogue with to Rabbi Weinberg. It was incredible and soul changing, I told Ruth about it and kept asking her to come with me to a shiur. She kept saying no. Finally I asked, "What do you do on Saturday nights?"
"I get a massage," she told me.
I thought to myself, "Is there any less likely way to meet a shidduch?" I knew she was interested in getting married again.
Here I was... Yes, the learning was of primary importance to me. But as a newly single person, I was with so many other singles and felt it as an opportunity to communicate and hopefully meet someone special. Ruth kept saying "no" to joining me.
In one of our conversations, Ruth told me that she put a singles ad in a Jewish newspaper - but just for one day and she said 'If this does not work, I will never try anything again!"
She read me the ad. It was something like - "In search of a tall, dark, handsome, intelligent, rich, creative, stable, wonderful man. That was it - no description of who was looking for Mr. Wonderful. She just delineated what she wanted. And if that didn't work, she was giving up?
I, on the other hand, put an ad in one of the Jewish newspapers and wrote what I wanted and who I was. Of course, I made myself sound irresistible, which to some I really was, and even had a male friend word it for me. I got responses but even if it were not ideal, I made the effort which I believed brought me closer to my goal of finding a Torah husband. I did not want to give up.
Then came a special Shabbos in the mountains of NY that Ruth was willing to go on. It was not for just singles. It was for everyone and she brought her son with her. I was so pleased that she was willing to participate.
There, she met Lazer (not the real name.) He seemed to really like her; he pursued her and they were going out after the weekend.
A few months later she told me that he was asking to marry her. "Why on earth are you hesitating?" I asked her.
Wow, I thought, if Mohammed won't go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed. Here was Ruth, not willing to do ANYTHING to get a shidduch, and here she is with a nice proposal for marriage.
And here am I, doing everything and why not me?????
Ruth got married outside the US so I did not attend the wedding. But I really did envy her. I thought she was so lucky. It hurt.
One evening, a few months after her wedding, I was in the drugstore. I saw her husband shopping there and felt the envy again. I pictured how happy her marriage must be and how lucky she is. But I really had not known the rest of the story....
I went on with my life and forgot about the situation. Ruth and I lost touch.
Three years after she got married, I got a call from her:
"Do you know a local rabbi who can give me a Bracha (Blessing)?"
"I don't know anyone near here who I can recommend for that."
"Will you pray for me?"
Why not pray directly for yourself? Just talk to God."
"I just can't. Your prayers work. Would you pray for me?"
"What am I praying for?"
And then she told me the whole horror story of her marriage - abuse, neglect, broken promises, and more. It sounded awful. It was not even safe to stay in the marriage for her or for her children. I really felt for Ruth and listened and tried to support her. She eventually got out of the marriage and is once again safe and doing well.
But what hearing this taught me is huge. Here I was envying this woman who was suffering beyond bearable. Here I thought that she had a wonderful marriage and such great mazal (luck.) Had she not called me asking for my prayers for her, I may have continued to envy her. I would never have known how wrong I was. I would not have known the rest of the story.
I wonder, how many people I look at who seem so much more fortunate than I are really suffering more than I am. If only I knew the rest of the story.
We can't know what someone else is going through by looking at them or even by speaking with them.
So many singles envy the married person and the married person might be yearning to be single because s/he is suffering in the marriage. So many childless people envy people with children. But they are not at the principal's office when they are being told to get their child under control or when they are totally embarrassed by a child having a meltdown in the supermarket. Then there is the parent with a child who is ill. I was there. The suffering for that is immeasurable. I would not trade it in but it is the rest of the story.
The rest of the story begins as early as the first book of the Torah.
What if you yourself were so blessed to live during the time period of the Torah when Yitzchak and Rivka had lived? Had you been so fortunate to have been invited for a Shabbos meal at Yitzchak and Rivka's tent, you would likely see that Rivka, our matriarch, was a great woman. You might also see that she had everything - marriage, children, servants, etc. She had her soulmate, Yitzchak, out patriarch. How enviable is that? And on top of that, she was pregnant with, not one, but two children, and both boys at that.
You would think from spending time with them that Rivka was truly blessed and had it all. You might even envy her and feel like your life is less because of what you see.
Now, listen to the rest of the story. Listen to Rivka's words that she said to God during her pregnancy:"Lama zeh anochi?" (Genesis 25:22) which means "What am I here for? /Why should I live?" and when her boys, Yackov and Eisav were grown (Genesis 27:46) Rivka tells Yitzchak "Katzti B'Chayii" ( "I am disgusted with my life.")
Just seeing Rivka for most of us who are not yet married or who don't yet have a child, would very likely lead us to feel less than and not as blessed. But that is because we don't know the rest of the story. You would not have heard what Rivka told God during her pregnancy and what she told Yitzchak when the boys were grown, In the same way, I could not hear what my friend Ruth was saying or thinking in her house.
What if you lived, later, during the times of King Saul and Kind David, If you did, then you might have laid eyes on another woman, Michal. Michal had it all or so it seemed. She was the daughter of King Saul and the wife of King David. How lucky she was. She was true royalty. She was born into this. She didn't have to do a thing to earn it. Upon seeing Michal, you might wish that you had what she has. Why not!
Now what is the rest of the story?
Michal was a truly modest woman and when her husband King David danced publicly with the Mishkan, she berated him. (Shmuel II, 6:20). From that moment on, King David ceased being as husband and wife with her and even though she was already pregnant, she died in childbirth of what was to be her first child. (Sanhedrin 21a) Michal did not have children.
Can we envy her now that we know the rest of the story? Would we want to change lives with Michal knowing the rest of the story?
We are all here to learn life lessons. God creates the scenario that will make us grow most. So knowing that, I know that for each person you or I meet, there is the rest of the story as there has been that for each person through all of time.
Each of us is blessed in the way created just for our souls and each of us is challenged in the way specially created for our souls.
Now, when I look at someone who has something that I yearn for, rather than feeling like I am less, I remember that I don't know the rest of the story.
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