Dealing with Adversity-Building Resilience

Merriam-Webster defines “resilience” as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfor­tune or change.” Resilience allows us to access the inner strength to sail through and spring back after suffering setbacks such as the loss of a job or illness. Resilience won’t push the problems away. There may nevertheless be feelings of anger, dis­tress or sorrow. However, it does enable us to per­severe and continue with life.

In addition, resilience can provide us with a sense of our greatness of which we perhaps were unaware.

Harav Shimshon Pincus, zt”l, told the follow­ing story about a Yid who lost his wife and family in Europe during World War II and came to Eretz Yisrael where he forged a kesher with the Brisker Rav, zt”l. Eventually, he was able to remarry thanks to a shidduch that was suggested by the Brisker Rav.

The chassan, who was not a youngster, was eager to build a new family but years passed and the couple did not have a child. People suggested that he ask the Brisker Rav for a brachah but inex­plicably, he would not do so. Finally, after a num­ber of years, they had a child, and even another one after that.

The new father explained to someone that he believes he merited to have these children spe­cifically because he stayed clear of asking the Brisker Rav for a brachah. “The Brisker Rav made my shidduch. By asking for a brachah for children, I did not want it to appear that I was not pleased with the shidduch he arranged for me and possi­bly cause him pain,” the father explained. He set aside his own needs out of consideration for the Rav, an example of resilience in the face of his legacy possibly not being carried on.

Dr. Andrew Shatte, a leading authority in resilience research and training, notes four pur­suits that enable us to become more resilient. We present them in slightly modified form as they apply to our readership:

—Connecting with family and friends, whose support will prove valuable in times of adversity.

—Setting meaningful, attainable, goals that provide a sense of success (which, naturally, includes growth in ruchniyus).

—Becoming involved in activities and projects of chessed and that benefit the community.

—Working on spirituality — which includes emunah and bitachon.

Dr. Shatte found that those who pursued these ideals found much greater life satisfaction and consequently attained higher levels of resilience. This was due to the fact these pursuits have time­less value.

Another suggestion is to recall past challenges that we weathered and consider what enabled us to navigate them. Such memories provide hope and confidence for the future.

Emunah and bitachon imbue us with the awareness that nothing is random — all is from the Borei Olam and is for the best. Internalizing this truth can offer comfort and the wherewith­al to persevere in the face of the most extreme adversity.

After the devastation of the massacre in Eretz Yisrael on Simchas Torah, one cannot help but be astonished by the resilience, determination and resourcefulness of those most impacted by the tragedy. A case in point is Mrs. Hadas Loewenstern who lost her husband, 38-year-old Rabbi Elisha Loewenstern, Hy”d, in the war. An American-Israeli reservist, on the way to help injured soldiers, he and his comrades were killed when their tank was struck by a Hamas missile.

Mrs. Loewenstern said she felt privileged and grateful to have been Reb Elisha’s wife for almost 13 years. “I have so much to be grateful for! When I want to break down and feel bitter, I say to myself, ‘You have six kids — Todah LaShem!’ I learned from Yaakov Avinu who said, ‘Yesh li kol — I have everything!’

“There is a long road ahead of me. Chinuch hayeladim is never easy, even with two parents. I will have to daven a lot. When something hap­pens I look up to Shamayim and say, “You are the Avi yesomim v’Dayan almanot, please help me out,’ and He helps. Each day Hashem gives me new koach.”

“Talking about his death is so marginal in my eyes because he only died once but he lived every day,” she said, in terms of his dedication to Torah, family, chessed, and tikkun hamiddos.

The perspective of the Loewenstern family radiates resilience, determination and positiv­ity. They know without a doubt that just as other enemies of Klal Yisrael through the centuries dis­appeared from the annals of history, so will the present ones. “This was Hashem’s decision [my husband’s being killed]. We can’t change it, but we plan on living such a wonderful life that the bad guys will never merit to live. We will live here in Eretz Yisrael, study Torah and be mekayem mitzvot. We will be a happy Jewish family and this is the true victory in my eyes.”

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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