submerged hand holding a sparkler

The last few weeks (months…) I’ve been fighting a losing battle against apathy and despair.

Most of the time, I feel like life boils down to playing the unwinnable game, where my yetzer is constantly tripping me up and testing me with new circumstances and situations designed to bring out the worst.

The last two months, I’ve just had so many tests to try to stand up, external and internal – and for the most part, I don’t think I managed so well.

The problem is, I seem to have very unreasonable expectations of how things should be, and how things should look, and God for the most part just isn’t giving that to me. I understand that the fault, the error, the problem, is 100% on my side. I also understand that I have a part of me that is a perfectionistic control-freak, and that getting that part ‘sweetened’ is probably at least one of my major tikkunim that I’m down here to do.

But sometimes, I still find day-to-day life just so painful.

It’s not easy to have face down your ‘broken-ness’ every single day, and to have to admit – to yourself, to your husband, to your kids – that you’re actually still a lunatic, despite all your efforts to blossom into something a tad less crazy.

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So, to come back to the last two months.

I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon in the middle of all the apathy and despair that’s been winning out recently.

The more I can’t ‘do’ it, the more I’m giving up and letting God take over, the more things are starting to work out.

And I’ve seen that in a few different places now, so I wanted to share it as it’s giving me some chizzuk that maybe precisely in this low-down place of giving up, salvation can sprout.

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Three months ago, I gave notice on our apartment, to move out end of February.

The apartment is OK – it’s pretty big, pretty reasonable rent, and it’s in the very ‘comfortable’ neighborhood of Baka, where you hear English and French way more than you hear Hebrew.

The body has been relatively pleased with this apartment, but the soul has been stifling since we got here, and I knew that staying in Baka was not a good option, long-term. But finding a good, affordable apartment in Jerusalem ranks up there with finding the holy grail.

Property developers are slowly destroying this city, and making it a place where only millionaires from abroad who don’t want to actually live here can afford to buy anything. Everything they build is ‘luxury this’ and ‘luxury that’, so they can charge a fortune for it.

So, Jerusalem real estate is increasingly becoming ‘old, dumpy, mold-infested affordable’, or ‘luxury-sell-a-kidney-to-pay-your-rent’.

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Our apartment in Baka was a little dumpy, and a little mold-infested, but otherwise pretty OK.

Places like this are not so easy to find, so I was really nervous when I gave notice. The next few weeks, I kept scanning Madlan, and Janglo, and Craig’s List, looking for a reasonable apartment back closer to the Rav, in or around Musrara.

The only things coming up were in the ‘luxury and unaffordable’ range.

So then, I widened the search out to Rehavia, Shaarei Tzedek and Nachlaot – and strange to say, every single estate agent I contacted seemed incredibly uninterested in showing me any properties. I had one of my kids call up too, and she had the same experience.

In the meantime… the clock was ticking, and I had no-where to move to.

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Two weeks ago, after I got back from Uman, I told my husband:

We just have to give up on trying to live in the neighborhood we want. I’m just going to start viewing apartments all over the place, and see if anything clicks.

Because hey, we aren’t going to find a community wherever we live. And I’m not going to be able to ‘settle down’ for more than a year or two anyway. And instead of looking at all of this as another horrible experience to grin and bear through, I decided I have to stop complaining that I can’t get what I want, and just let God give me what He decides is best.

Shortly after that conversation, something came up in Abu Tor, a neighborhood that I would never have considered in a million years beforehand, and we went to look at it.

It’s the house of my dreams.

It’s two storeys, has a garden I’m allowed to plant things in, they just put in a totally new bathroom, including a bath, and they are in the process of putting in a new kitchen, too, which will be ready before we move in.

I don’t have to sell a kidney to pay the rent, and the landlords are also really nice people.

And that neighborhood is also interesting. It’s green, it’s got a village feel, and a view of Har Habayit that is simply the best in all of Jerusalem.

So, we’re doing the experiment, and we’ll see what happens next.

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Then, there was the whole mortgage fiasco that I wrote about HERE.

We are meant to be completing on the flat we bought in Harish end of the month, and for two months the bank has been telling us they won’t give us a mortgage again.

What could I do?

I think I used up all the tears on this subject the last time it happened, two years ago, so I basically just sank into apathy and told God:

Whatever You want. Mortgage, no mortgage, I don’t even care anymore.

In the meantime, we made some minimum hishtadlut – and three days ago we had a miracle.

A few hours after a friend told me she’d been at the Baba Sali, and had spontaneously said a few prayers for us to get a mortgage, we got a phone call from the bank that they were approving it, after all.

Not only that, they made a mistake and gave us a mortgage 1.5 times bigger than we asked for….

Which means that now, we can look into maybe investing that extra money into something else. It’s a totally unexpected result, and way better than what I was hoping to achieve under my own steam.

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Yesterday, I was at the Kotel with a few hundred other people who came to pray for the Rav.

What can I tell you?

We’re back in the State-sponsored anti-Torah madness that is even more unfair and even more patently evil than the first time around – and I barely have the energy to do anything about it. I made myself go yesterday, even though I was feeling so tired and apathetic about everything.

How are my prayers going to help? How can we stop this evil from winning, all the time? What’s the point in even trying?

But after all the help the Rav has given me, and all the difficulties he’s helped me to smooth out and pass through in my own life, going to the Kotel was the least I could do.

So I got there, and of course there are no seats. After milling around for a few minutes, I decided to go sit on my heels by one of the side walls in the ladies section, as I just can’t recite tehillim with any concentration when I’m standing up.

I told God:

If You want me to have a chair, God, I guess you’ll send me one. And if not, I’m just going to sit here like this and pray, even though it’s a little unconventional, because what can I do?

Half-way through the first tikkun haklali, a middle-aged woman basically ran at me with a chair.

Sit!! Sit!! She shrieked.

You can’t do things like that anymore, think about your knees!!

So I sat.

And I said thank you.

And I started to feel that maybe, this feeling of total apathy and giving things back to God is actually the secret to redemption.

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I’ve tried so hard to ‘fix’ things, in so many ways, over the last few years. So often, I sit here and it seems I don’t have much to show for myself. And honestly, that’s making it very hard to continue.

I’ve had days I don’t feel like doing my morning brachot, I’ve had days where I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I’ve had days where I literally have to force myself to do the things on my list of chores and commitments, because nothing gets anywhere, so what’s the point?

I have so many things to be getting on with right now, from packing up my house to finishing my course, to writing new blog posts, that I have zero urge to engage with.

But maybe, the last two weeks has been proving the theory that it’s exactly when we’re so totally despairing of redemption occurring, that it finally shows up.

I guess we’ll find out.

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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8 replies
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      that’s actually the most exciting bit…. I have an olive tree that’s been in a pot for the last 5 years. I can’t wait to get it into Jerusalem’s holy soil, and properly rooted. Of course, that’s a personal metaphor 😉

      Reply
  1. Inquirer
    Inquirer says:

    Thanks for sharing, Rivka, now i’ll share with you. Speak of not finding “community”, believe me, nobody holds a candle to my experiences which were basically a spider’s web of trap-within-trap-within-trap. I once read about a military kid who had lived in so many countries growing up, that he felt very lonely, because only he realized how narrowminded everyone was (since he’d had the birds-eye view of all societies, unlike them).

    Well – i’m steps further than that. Because not only have i experienced various cultures when i was young, but as well, i’ve experienced the “culture” of chronic extreme “machalot meshunot”. Not just that but also the machala of “metaphysical” irregularities. The sort which only a particular party in the secular world could have experientially understood & validated, rather than anyone i’ve consulted in frum society. Trust me, i tried, and been let down. Don’t kid yourself, metaphysical tampering IS a machala, since it impacts health big time, as do mazalot.

    But our society tends to suppress this & play it down, leaving people bleakly to their own devices. To my mind, that’s not being noseh b’ol im chaveirecha. Such people preach the worn cliche’s “think positive” or “tracht gut”, despite that it doesn’t work for everyone.

    At this point i’m a broken shell, a dried-out anatomy. Never married. Siblings with whom interaction was more often harmful to me than helpful. And i’m supposed to feel religious? Sorry but any such feeling was lost long ago, commensurate with my shred-by-shred letdowns, which tore holes in my soul.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      I’m sorry you’ve had such a tough time, although I’m always wary of anyone’s claims that they’ve personally had it the worst of anyone. How do we know? We have no idea what other people go through in life, we have no idea what heartache is hiding behind all the plastic, smiley facades. I’m not sure what you mean about ‘supposed to feel religious’. Can you explain what you mean?

      Reply
  2. Inquirer
    Inquirer says:

    Look, I spilled the beans to you this much, only because i was amazed that finally i was seeing a “real” post, versus glossing over. And it does state “tzorot rabbim chatzi nechama” yet you responded with wariness. You went thru the ordeal of trying to find a suitable apt. and experienced despair. I’ve gone thru that and way more long ago (on my own, in Israel, and in the States…so don’t think it’s just “lately” – ein kol chadash tachat hashomesh.

    …In the U.S. i was in a position where i was getting nowhere via the OJ crowd, leading me to seek a broker from an adjacent town. Through him, i actually signed a binder with a FSBO seller for less than 70K. The binder was mailed to me. I breathed a sigh of relief, then asked my relative to recommend a trustworthy lawyer in that locale. Soon thereafter, the broker contacted me that the seller was reneging on the binder, because he was given a “better offer”. Now wasn’t that fishy? Could it have been a secretary in that law firm? Since at the time, the competitive pressure was huge. And that wasn’t by far the only heartache in that same locale. The other heartache involved a close relative who wasn’t communicating when i urgently needed it. The result was that the 2nd broker, who had been very patient and nice, assumed i was the “traitor” since she was offering a great value and she had been double-dealt with previously. I couldn’t even reach her to explain i wasn’t getting thru to my relative. There was even more, also involving that relative, albeit a different locale.

    Everything is proportional to one’s financial+health circumstances combined with support system.

    I have a deep filing-cabinet packed with folders consisting of my past sickcare-system letdowns, job-seeking letdowns, housing letdowns, you name it. You can believe this or not, your choice. However, if the time comes when they weigh sins vs. tzorot, who knows if all those folders won’t weight down the scales.

    On a tangent, I realize the above comes off as “whiny” but FYI i have a flip-side, which is “practical-creativity”. And i don’t mean the artistic-type which requires the ability to go into an altered state. Rather, it’s eclectic, attempting to incorporate the best parts of existing ideas and also seeing where things overlap. (I had created several HTML websites long ago which included forums, and which exposed angles which the public might not have been told).

    …i forced myself to learn amateur graphics despite premature geriatricism, for the sole purpose of conveying to people the failures of western “medicine” in a pictorial way.

    P.S. I forget names+faces, yet ironically i ongoingly see similarities in faces & voices, which drives me nuts, causing constant overstimulation. I also find it excruciating to hop from topic to topic the way others do while forgetting the original topic.

    Reply
  3. Inquirer
    Inquirer says:

    P.P.S. i’m having 2nd thoughts about visiting this site anymore, since i don’t take well to those who are judgmental when i was merely trying to share. I’ve been treated even worse (crass sarcasm via email) by a jewish newspaper editor/author who the world may consider full of tzidkut, but i know better.

    Thus i don’t read the guy’s publication anymore. There are more than enough as it is.

    I can name sages of the past who wouldn’t have acted that way:
    R’Aryeh Levin, and R’Chaim Shmulevitz, among others.

    And just so you don’t assume anything, my letter to editor was very cautious, less candid than my post to you. However, it was a different “vein” than that which most OJ people are used to. That was no license to act the way he did.

    Reply

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