Accepting The Message From The Messenger

I once saw the following quote: Empathy is like giving someone a psychological hug.
When my sister died only a few months after my father’s petirah, Mrs. Z, who had been through her own challenging times, felt my mother’s pain; her heart ached for her, and she wanted to give my mother that psychological hug. So as she left the shivah house, she handed my mother a paper with some material to learn, something that had kept her going through her own challenges. It was a medrash that she found inspirational and comforting. She was hoping that when my mother was ready, it could benefit her as well. But as she left the house, she felt very unsure of herself. Had she done the right thing by giving it to my mother? Was it tactless? She was only trying to show she cared, but maybe it had been insensitive.
During that shivah my mother herself was very sick, although not many people were aware of it. Her passing a short while later shocked the community. This woman was especially shaken, and she figured she would probably never know if that medrash had been helpful or hurtful.
Several months ago, Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah invited Rabbi Nachman Seltzer to speak on the topic of impacting neshamahs, and that is when I met Mrs. Z. She shared wonderful things about my parents, and then she mentioned this medrash that she had given to my mother and how concerned she was that perhaps it had been inappropriate to do so. I remembered that paper. And I told her that my mother had taken it to her rav, and he translated it for her. Mrs. Z so much appreciated hearing that and offered to bring a copy of the medrash to my house.
Mrs. Z dropped it off one day when I wasn’t around. I saw it lying on the counter and knew that I had to call her to thank her, but I tend to procrastinate when it comes to making phone calls.
A few weeks later, on Tisha B’Av, I took out a box full of nichum aveilim letters that people wrote to my family, and there, rolled up, was the paper with this medrash, including several sticky notes with the explanation from the rav. I knew that I had to call Mrs. Z to tell her that my mother had really learned what she had given her.
But I procrastinated again – until one quiet evening when I thought about Mrs. Z. and realized I had no excuse not to call. So I picked up the phone and dialed. As soon as she heard my voice, Mrs. Z. told me that she had just come from my aunt’s house. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about until she told me that my husband’s aunt was sitting shivah for her father. I couldn’t believe it! Why hadn’t anyone told me that this aunt was sitting shivah? She lives locally, and I have a relationship with her. Imagine if I wouldn’t have been menachem avel! I was really upset.
I called up a friend to vent. As I was finishing my story, I suddenly stopped and said, “Wait, I did hear the news, and there is still time left to be menachem avel. Hashem sent me the message. Meeting Mrs. Z. those few months ago set the wheels in motion to ensure that I would hear about my aunt sitting shivah. Hashem sends us what we need to hear through the right messenger, at the right time. I didn’t have to be angry that I hadn’t found out from what I considered to be the right source.
My anger deflated like a balloon leaking air.
Yes, Hashem sends us the messages we need to hear at the right time, through the right person. Becoming angry that I didn’t receive a message from the one whom I perceive as the right messenger is ga’avah. What’s more, it can cause sinah, and it can be the source of so much pain.
It is important for me to remember this. Let go of what I perceive as a wrong. Because whatever happened was supposed to happen in exactly the way that it happened, with the people that it happened with. After all, Hashem is orchestrating every sequence of events, not people. It’s a message I am really working on internalizing; it is too important not to.

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