By Edith Brown
I was involved in an intense conversation on the phone, but for a moment I forgot what the conversation was about, and smiled, thinking of whom I was talking to. The only person in the world who could actually put me in my place and get away with it. Rabbi Saul Koss, a dear Rabbi I have known for years. Whenever he would call and I wasn't home, his message would always begin like this, "It's your favorite Rabbi calling ……
We were discussing my inability to let go and move on from a particular situation. I was becoming frustrated with the Rabbi and he with me. I wanted him to understand my reasoning. It made perfect sense. At least at the time it did.
I have always been a strong person who persevered and giving up or giving in wasn’t an option, no matter what the cost. I just cried to my Rabbi and even raised my voice a bit becoming somewhat disrespectful. I wanted him to see my point of view and even more so – agree with me.
"Rabbi whatever G-d gave me I have risen to the occasion. I have had a hard life! I want him to apologize, just once I want him to apologize!”
“Why can't you understand? I kept on crying barely taking a breath saying, You're the one person in this whole world that I worship and no matter what I do I can’t ever please you. I’ll never be able to live up to your standards. I’ll never be good enough. You would rather have the community people as your neighbors than me!”
This was the first time I could ever recall opening my mouth like this to the Rabbi. I was so caught up in the moment that I had just gotten carried away with my words. I didn’t know what to expect. Would the Rabbi forgive me?
The Rabbi never gets mad or angry. He always says, “Only dogs get mad Edith, you should know this”
Then the Rabbi spoke. "Now I am getting angry. Edith, do you really think he is going to apologize? - No.”
"But, But, Rabbi…."
"Edith, now let me finish. Edith, have I ever said you don't please me or you're not good enough? Do you think I would spend so much time talking to you all these years if I didn't think you were worth it? Yes, Edith, it is true you have seen and endured more than some will in their entire lifetime. But I would rather have five Edith Browns living next door to me than any other people in the community as my neighbors. Alright?"
Then in a soft voice I said, “Rabbi I need you to guide me. Even though I’m an adult I often feel like I’m still just a child who never grew up. I couldn’t really talk to Mama anymore after she got sick and I still needed someone to guide me. Rabbi, I remember Mama’s words and I still believe they hold true today. Mama would say, 'G-d helps those who help themselves'.”
The Rabbi said, “Are you ready to help yourself?” Silence.
I didn’t know if I was up for the challenge. I didn’t know if I had the strength within me to let go. Funny, but letting go isn’t so easy, especially when one knows there right. But what price was I willing to pay to be right?
And than I remembered this was the same man who once told me he thought the world of me. I thought to myself how blessed I was to have someone think so highly of me. He believes in me. No wonder he gets so frustrated as he stands helpless waiting for me to turn the corner. And five Edith Brown’s – this man really was a glutton for punishment.
I finally realized what Rabbi Koss was saying to me. He knew the other person was wrong, but it didn't matter. What mattered was the price it was costing my health, physically and emotionally. It was costing me a fortune and getting me nowhere fast. Enough was enough. It was time to let go and let G-d’s will be done. I had forgotten G-d’s time is the best time.
I keep learning from Rabbi Koss every time we speak. I tell him he teaches me, but I'm not sure he really believes me. On the phone with him I may not be the most agreeable person. But when we get off the phone, I spend days and months thinking over his words, precious words of wisdom.
Getting an apology would have really meant a lot, but sometimes in life we don't get what we what we think we need or what we want. And this made me think of words I once heard: 'I ask not for a lighter load; I ask for broader shoulders'.
from the November 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine