By Malkie Hirsch
About a month after Moshe passed, my friend’s sister reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in meeting with a well-known rabbi and speaker in the Brooklyn area. At that point, I was brimming with raw emotion; I could barely contain myself and I knew I had to go speak to someone who might have some insight on how to deal with the overwhelming feelings of sadness, panic, and fear of the future for myself and my children.
He had only one appointment at an impossible time, on a Sunday morning when my kids were home. I arranged for babysitting and arrived at his house, not sure what to expect but hoping for some answers, or perhaps some pointers on how to deal with my new normal.
He sat down and crushed me by saying, “I don’t have answers. I’m sure you were hoping for something, anything, that could give you an idea of why this happened, but I’m not G-d, and only G-d has the power to give you that information.”
“But I’m going to ask you one thing and it might not register now, but I assure you, it’s something you’ll think about in the coming days, weeks, and months from now.”
He paused and looked at me and said, “Are you in or are you out?”
I’m pretty sure I sat there staring at him, dumbfounded at his question.
What does this mean? Is there a deeper meaning to the question? How do I answer?
I think I responded with a muffled “I don’t know…” and maybe gave a nervous laugh.
He went on to tell me about some personal struggles he’d been through in his life, things that possibly aren’t publicly known, but about which he freely spoke to me. They were things that would prevent a boy at an impressionable age from going on to live a successful and meaningful life.
And maybe at first it did. But at some point, he had an epiphany that this was a choice he was making; he had the power to change his life if he wanted to instead of being a victim. He could stop blaming the circumstances surrounding the bad choices he was making to be self-destructive and not live up to his fullest G-d-given potential.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and becoming the victim he could have been and expected to be, he decided that he wasn’t going to be that person, the person who would turn to medication, alcohol or other drugs to dull the pain he felt inside.
He was going to do the most powerful thing that G-d bestowed upon us humans to do — change his mind.
He would instead go on to counsel others who found themselves in similar scenarios as he had been, open schools to help others on a larger scale, and become a successful businessman.
It’s been six months since Moshe passed away. Six months since he’s walked into the house at 7:24 on the dot, relieving me of some of my daily responsibilities even after a grueling day at work, because he knew that I needed a break, so he’d forgo a little downtime to help me.
Six months since my kids stopped what they were doing to jump up and run to the door to greet him as he walked in. Six months since he joked with his friends on erev Shabbos, as the men assembled for minyan. Six months since he’s made a difference in every single life that he touched, and there were a lot. And in a way, I know he’s still making an impact every day.
Here’s what I learned in those six months:
- There’s a lot of love out there. If you’re open to saying “yes” time after time and accepting (receiving) help, you’ll be lucky enough to see that, too. It’s humbling at times to admit that I need help, but it’s helped in my family’s healing in so many ways that words really can’t express it.
- Happiness is a choice. Yes, I have so many reasons to be miserable. I could feel cheated out of the life I was supposed to have, bitter for my kids who lost their father, for myself who lost an amazing husband. But I have more reasons to be grateful, to be happy. And I choose the latter. And my kids will choose it, too, because who wouldn’t choose happiness over misery? Count the ways you’re grateful every day. Practice it with your children, too. It’s life-changing.
- G-d is good. Faith can be tough, especially now more than ever. I wonder often how I’ll make it through Rosh Hashanah davening and if I’ll even be able to stand there and pray. My emotions are highly charged and still so raw, and I don’t know if I could stand there without completely breaking down. But I do recognize His hand in so many different things we’ve been through as a family during these last few months. The fact that every Shabbos has been nothing but calming and beautiful. The fact that I always have the right support and people around us at the right times. The fact that people have come forward in this most devastating time, a time I wouldn’t want to be around me on some days, and with their actions said, “Lay all your sorrow on me. I want to help.” I’ve met beautiful people through this experience whom I never would’ve met otherwise. And for that, my kids and I are so thankful.
- Pay it forward. Unfortunately, what’s happened to our family has happened to others in our community and in other locations at a pretty frequent pace lately. When I have questions as to why this is happening, and come up empty, I find myself yearning to help the men and women who have suffered this tragedy even more recently than I did. So I do things I never thought I would: I go to shivah homes of people I don’t know, who don’t know me. And I help them the way I was helped. I look at them and tell them that right now it’s inconceivable that things will be OK or happy. But it will be. And their kids will be resilient and they’ll have new friends who know exactly what they’re going through and that’s going to get them through this.
The rabbi looked at me and told me about Moshe Rabbeinu having to do his tafkid, knowing he would meet his end once that was complete. But he never once hesitated. Never once, even knowing that he wouldn’t get to see Eretz Yisrael after all the work he’d done for Bnei Yisrael. Knowing that he’d have to give over the joyous task of leading his people to the Holy Land to Yehoshua.
Moshe Rabbeinu was in, all the way.
Moshe Hirsch was in, for the 40 years he graced us with his presence on this earth.
I waver at times, because I feel weak, like He got the wrong person for this tremendous task that He’s entrusted to me, but the answer is yes. I’m in.
As the Jewish New Year quickly approaches, I wish that you all have the emotional capacity to love those around you, to know when you need help, and never be too proud to accept it.
I wish that you all have clarity and always choose happiness.
I wish that you all have the faith to get you through the hardest of times and always recognize that G-d knows best, is good, and just because He does things you don’t understand doesn’t mean you stop believing. On the contrary, put all your trust and faith in Him.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Malkie has been sharing her thoughts with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.