Daring to Hope… Once Again

It happened whenever Leah returned home from a class gathering or reunion. She would enter the house, stop for a brief moment at the front closet to hang her coat, and then make a beeline for her bedroom. She wanted to be alone; she had to be alone.
It didn’t get easier with the passing years. On the contrary, it got harder and harder. Her imagination watched calendar page after calendar page peel away as the years slipped by, as her classmates and friends families grew and grew, as the prospect grew dimmer and dimmer, as she still remained, suspended in time, waiting, waiting, forever waiting…

To just get started. For her life’s partner to make his appearance. For her turn to march down the aisle, towards the beckoning marriage canopy. For her turn to find happiness…

Suddenly thirsty, Leah tore herself away from her bedroom window and made her way to the kitchen. As she boiled the water in the kettle and reached for a ceramic mug, she relived the events of the evening. The last two girls to get married were there with baby pictures, and most of the girls already have kids in the middle grades of elementary school. It’s just me,” she thought sadly, “Still waiting after all these years.” “And it’s not like I’m not trying!” Leah’s thoughts churned on. “Why, at this point, I have said more tehillim than I could ever count, I’ve recited Shir HaShirim and Perek Shirah and who-knows-what-else! I’ve done various other segulos, including praying at the Kosel for 40 days in a row. What more could I possibly do?” Leah wondered helplessly as the kettle began to whistle. She poured the steaming liquid and settled down with a hot cup of tea and her despondent thoughts. “There must be something else,” she thought as she mindlessly turned the pages of the newspaper lying in front of her. “Another idea, another avenue, another source of merit, that perhaps I have overlooked until now…”

Suddenly, it caught her eye. She had probably seen that ad many times before but it was only now that it spoke to her in a personal way. “Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, Better Than a Segulah…” That ad had always conjured images of grieving family members and sad shivah houses. But coming on the heels of the thoughts that had been spinning in her head all evening, a novel idea began to take root in her mind…

“Of all merits, Torah learning is surely the greatest,” Leah mused. “Why not harness this power, not just for those who have passed on, but for the living as well?”
A light bulb went on in her head. This was it. Reaching for the phone, she dared to allow one tiny emotion to stir in her heart…
Hope.

*****
 

The Barbeque Party had been a great success, as the backyard; left strewn with balloons, paper ware and discarded wrapping paper and ribbons, clearly attested to. One by one, the families began to leave, thanking their beaming grandparents for the lovely gathering that had become a family tradition year after year. One by one, the fathers and mothers filed out, holding sleeping infants in their arms and leading yawning toddlers by the hand. Everyone left with arms laden with offspring, gifts and leftover goodies.

Everyone, that is, besides for Dena and Yossi.

Dena held her pocketbook tightly in one arm and the empty trifle bowl in the other, valiantly trying to hide the fact that her arms were pitifully empty of that which mattered most: children. As the eldest in the family, and the only one still waiting for the blessing of children, family gatherings such as this were most painful. Yet, she had managed to smile throughout the evening and to even enjoy herself a bit. It was only on the way home that she poured out her pain and longing to her husband.
“Eleven years is so long,” she whispered into the silence of the car. “And we’ve tried everything, medically and spiritually. I just can’t anymore.” Her voice trailed.

Yossi felt his wife’s pain keenly. After all, it was his own as well. He had nothing to say to comfort her. Silence reigned.

The silence continued even after they had arrived home. Dena was too stressed to go to sleep; she sank into the living room couch with a magazine in an attempt to unwind. Mindlessly, she turned the pages, as the words “Tried everything, tried everything… What more to try???” danced furiously in her head.

And then she saw the ad. The words leapt out at her, as if in silent response to her unspoken questions. “Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, Better Than a Segulah.”

What more to try? Here was something they hadn’t tried yet. A merit so great, the merit of intense Torah learning itself. Perhaps they could arrange for something major, a siyum on a significant portion of Shas maybe, as they embarked on the new treatment protocol scheduled to begin next week. Maybe, maybe, the greatest merit of all – the merit of the Torah – would help tip the scales in their favor and bring about a salvation?

As she clipped the ad and called for her husband, Dena felt, for the first time in years, a new emotion stir within her.

Hope.