Moshe and Malkie Hirsch

By Malkie Hirsch

My kids have superpowers. I haven’t informed them yet and I’d appreciate if you kept this little tidbit between us because they’re young and have a lot more growing up to do.

The abilities they’ve developed aren’t something they were born with. On the contrary, the challenges they faced at their respective young ages were the catalyst for the super powers they exhibit today.

I also know that they would give anything in the world to retrieve what they once had—something that all their friends have, something they know they can’t ever have again in the same way.

That particular loss of their parent is what has caused them to develop abilities that their peers don’t and likely may never have in the same way as they do.

I didn’t know there was a concept that adversity in young children has the ability to bring forth certain behaviors and strengths that will serve them throughout their lives.

But as I read the latest book recommendation from Elisheva, I realized that with every story of real-life hardships came the possibility of leadership qualities, enormous success, and a need within these people to aim for something far beyond expectation, societal and personal.

I see it in certain subtleties only a parent can recognize (moms have superpowers, too, after all), and I want to guide them on the same path towards success in life that I can’t wait to witness.

I know I might sound dramatic and it might sound like I’ve placed my expectations too high. They’ve been through so much lately, why demand academic excellence, why expect them to wake themselves up on a Shabbos morning and get to shul on time without a father being the example and taking them, showing them the way?

It’s because none of it comes from me. It’s a strength coming from them that comes from the disadvantage of losing their father at a young age.

I still sometimes wake up in complete confusion as to how the 18-year-old me has five kids to raise on her own.

It’s a true “how the hell did I get here” surreal moment and I can’t even take credit for being the force behind getting them ready to face each day, getting them out the door on Shabbos morning at 9 a.m., having them not be anxious or shy being there at shul without a father. They’ve skipped over all that, no thanks to some pretty traumatic life occurrences that gave them two choices—sink or swim.

Except with me as a parent, the only thing I did stress was that sinking wasn’t an available option, so it was more like “swim even though you’re uncomfortable and breathless at times and really want to give up, except never give up.”

So they just keep swimming, their little legs moving beneath them, enabling their heads to stay bobbing above the water level, until one day they don’t even realize that it requires any effort.

Because it’s the hard times that shape the character and capability of a person, not the easy predictable stuff we go through. Is it hard to be born to a life of privilege where everything is given to you? Does that guarantee drive and success in the future? Absolutely not.

It’s more likely the person born to little material goods or even with some type of disability who will prove that those difficulties don’t determine what his future will look like. He was born fighting and will continue doing so until he gets to where he wants to be.

It’s losing a father at 11, saying Kaddish for a year and never missing a minyan, excelling in school, carrying on a social life and familial responsibilities, and remaining not only the person he was meant to be but becoming exceptional because of the challenges.

Like the people featured in the book I read who had lost parents at young ages and went on to become pioneers in medicine, world leaders, and famous producers, I sense that drive in my kids. It’s a logic that questions what is to lose if so much has already been lost and we’re still here.

Like these people who all shattered their own glass ceilings, I sense that same drive in my kids. I sense them question the “why not?” to most people’s “why yes?” or “why bother?”

Because sometimes the greatest weakness in a person becomes his greatest strength in life.

Like that shepherd named David who had the gall to volunteer to go up against a 9-foot giant Goliath, not wanting any of the armor other people tried outfitting him with.

He had no time for that nonsense because although he was way smaller than his opponent, although he knew his weaknesses, he recognized that those were also his greatest strengths. He knew the armor wouldn’t protect against a man who could stomp on him and kill him immediately. So he remained in his spot even though Goliath told him to come closer, and he took his shot with a sling and a rock to Goliath’s head.

David might have been small but he knew how to use what he did have to his advantage, and that’s where greatness lives: in the knowledge that positive change is brought forth cloaked in the disguise of weakness and disadvantage. That being born to a life riddled with sadness and true adversity can be the very same thing that catapults regular people into super-humans who achieve so much more in life than they’ve been given.

It’s the lack in their lives that pushes them to do much more than what’s been expected of them. It’s the kids born with dyslexia who can’t read but teach themselves other ways to get ahead and become successful.

It’s having life’s challenges block your path and simply taking a detour and not only ending up at your destination but getting there first.

There’s a paragraph in the book that summed up how I want my kids to view their challenges:

“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.”

So next time you’re faced with something less than ideal that life presents to you, don’t run and hide and don’t deny its existence. Instead, stand your ground and understand that this may be an opportunity to grow into the better version of yourself. It’s the hard stuff that makes you prove to yourself that somewhere inside of you is a super-human waiting to emerge. 

Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.


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