Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the Shabbat weekly, Gilui Da’at:
Connection and Unity
She had a complicated childhood. It left her with strong, clear impressions of the world around her. She saw the world in black and white, people were either good or bad; her vision was ‘either-or’, there was no middle ground. It was hard for her to forgive. Whoever hurt her or said something to her that she didn’t like, she blotted them out. She couldn’t manage in life or create healthy connections. Every situation was full of interpretations, and everyone was always against her.
Working with her was a challenge. It was hard for her to be flexible; to distinguish between description of a situation and assessment of it. She drew conclusions that people always wanted to harm her. The hurts she experienced in childhood accompanied her, and it was hard to take her out of the loop she put herself into.
It took her a long time till she learned to forgive, to know what compassion is – one of Hashem’s attributes, that He is a merciful and compassionate G-d.
She was with us for awhile, and she really liked Kiryat Arba. She began with the process of a long and meaningful rehabilitation that included not a few difficult moments: when she was asked about her past, she felt attacked and closed herself off inside. “Everything depends on which glasses you choose to put on to see the situation and to hear the words”, I told her. “This is a muscle that needs to be trained your whole life and to learn to release it. Just like with a sore muscle, you have to go on and not get stuck. To be flexible, and to understand that we have a choice about how to look at the given situation.”
At the conclusion of the meaningful process, she succeeded in seeing the world in a more balanced way and to choose the good, and to understand that a thought is simply a thought, not a fact. She challenged the thoughts she had and knew that she can choose whether to be hurt or to forgive and move on, and to look at the reality from an adult person’s vantage point.
After the conclusion of the process, she left and moved elsewhere. She often came to visit, to thank us for the opportunity she was given to make a change in her life, and to pray at the Cave of Machpela.
The Cave of Machpela links us to our holy forefathers, to their character traits and values. The name of the city where the Cave is located, Hebron, hints at connection and unity.
Each one of us has the four basic elements: Water, fire, air and earth, and we need to know how to integrate the forces inside of us and to balance them; to know how to combine all the forces that exist in the Jewish people and unite them. King David began his kingdom in Hebron, reigned there for 7 years and then moved to reign in Jerusalem over all of Israel.
Hebron links us to our holy forefathers and to their midot. Avraham Avinu was a man of lovingkindness, who waited for guests and received them with great love and devotion. We, the children of Avraham, have gotten accustomed to hosting. There is nothing like a home full of guests and joy. The heart gets bigger.
This year, on Shabbat Chayei Sarah, unlike previous years, we are not hosting. This year, we’re guarding the health of all of us. “There is a time and place for everything under the sun”, says Kohelet. There is a time to expand and be filled, and there is a time to gather inside and rejoice in the smaller family, and in the immediate community, and to do kindness within your home.
published in Gilui Da’at.