Category Archives: Expressing Empathy

Dear Tanta Goldy

 

Dear Tanta Goldy,

Although you were sick for a long while, with your petirah I realize how much I learned from you and how very much I miss you. You were so warm and caring, with a heart open wide toward anyone you met. You never judged people for their flaws and frailties; rather, you always saw a whole person, who, like everyone, had both positive attributes and imperfections. With the absence of judgment, your heart was open to just simply caring.

The other day during a chat with a relative, the conversation turned to a few girls in need of shidduchim. I said, “I feel so bad for them. I wish they would get married. But I’m so powerless. What can I do?”  After thinking for a moment, I added, “I could do something. I could daven more for them. The problem is that I don’t. Not because I don’t care. But because my list for what I am davening for is already so long. My emotional energy is spent before I can finish davening. Then I stopped and said, “But that wasn’t Tanta Goldy.” My emotional capacity for empathy is so limited.  But Tanta Goldy, yours was not. Your emotional capacity was limitless. You felt the pain of others so acutely.

Your Shabbos table was always full of guests – and not the guests we all want to have, but rather, those we don’t want to have, people who were limited emotionally or mentally. You saw Yidden who needed a Shabbos seudah, and your heart opened wide. Saying no to those that needed you caused you tremendous pain.

As Uncle Tzvi told me, when a meshulach came, you didn’t just give the tzedakah. You felt the person’s pain. And you would tell Uncle Tzvi how your heart was breaking for this meshulach who had to leave his home to collect for his challenging situation.

Sometimes when I call a person’s name I think about how I am uttering a few syllables, but at the same time, I am expressing a whole world. Each person has so many layers: things that make them happy and things that make them sad. Worries and fears, hopes and aspirations. Middos they want to work on and middos they excel in.

And you, Tanta Goldy, saw only the positive. The better middos. The secret dreams. The noble aspirations. Not only that, but you encouraged people to really follow their hopes and hearts to be all they could be.

Tan-ta Gol-dy…four syllables. Four syllables that convey a heart that encompassed the whole world. I wish I could feel for others as you did because what you had was true ahavas Yisrael.

This is your legacy, Tanta Goldy, which is being passed down from your children and grandchildren to theirs: how mommy or bubby always saw the good in people and loved each Yid.

I recognized something great in you. It would be a pity to just move on. I don’t think that your legacy has to be just for your own descendants. No. A caring heart wishes everyone to have a caring heart.

I wish my heart could be open as wide as yours. I want to try. I know so many people with so many needs. I am going to try to incorporate more tefillos for others into my daily davening. I need to strengthen my empathy muscle.

Tanta Goldy, it isn’t easy to reach your level of emotional empathy. But I am determined to try. I want to bring your legacy into my family. And so in my heart, you will remain alive, as I try to emulate your ways.