Face Or Embrace?

By Rabbi Simcha Scholar

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the summer!

Winter fades away, thawing the blanket of frost and snow, heralding in a season of growth, renewal, and transformation: summer. Flowers blossom, painting winter’s white canvas with lush shades of color. The blazing sun bursts through the gray, gloomy clouds, radiating heat and light on the freshly awakened universe below.

Yet another wondrous metamorphosis transpires as the school semester concludes. Children, too, begin to blossom, coming out of their shells and glowing with youthful vigor. After a year confined to buildings and streets of stone, the lure of the great outdoors allows them to roam free and spread their wings. Some were socially isolated, some medically isolated, and they are finally given a chance to connect and reconnect with the world at large. It is no surprise that for many, summer is a special period of unprecedented development. 

Yet, all real growth comes with growing pains. As Chazal teach: Kol haschalos kashos — all beginnings come with hardships and challenges. Chevlei leidah — birth pangs — are a prerequisite for the gift of life. One cannot expand without breaking through a surface, one cannot move forward without first moving away. In order to forge on, we must be ready and willing to leave our proverbial comfort zones. The first few moments of radiant brightness are blinding, but there is nothing as beautiful as a world of light.

Sometimes it takes courage to take the next step. Sometimes, we are afraid to climb and reach higher, feeling safe and secure remaining on the bottom rung of the ladder. Yet, there is a wonderful world that awaits us, heights to reach and challenges to conquer and triumph. While looking forward may be worrying, looking back will prove exhilarating.

I recently read a powerful anecdote about Rebbetzin Chaya Ausband, a”h. She watched her childhood go up in flames and her illustrious parents and grandparents, leaders of the city of Telshe, massacred before her eyes. She spoke of the raw fear that overtook her as her loved ones went to their deaths; but as she related the horror, she noted a fascinating thought.

Amid the panic and fright that gripped her, she felt Hashem’s tight embrace holding her, protecting her, and carrying her to safety. In retrospect, she shared with her students, she would be willing to endure it all again just to feel that kirvas Elokim, that close, intimate connection that she felt when she was ensconced in Hashem’s loving Hands.

A few years ago, a camper from Camp Simcha described something he had witnessed over the summer.

Toward the end of the session, a group of campers sat around having a candid, heart-to-heart conversation. As survivors of cancer, each of them had been through a harrowing journey of pain and fear. They discussed their experiences in battling the unknown, the ups and downs, losses and triumphs, and the way their outlook and perspective had evolved throughout the challenges they had encountered. At one point, there was a sudden shift in the conversation and an impromptu survey was taken. Fourteen out of 15 of them said that they would be willing to go through the painful journey yet again because they had gained an eternal, priceless gift that would have eluded them otherwise. Through their battles they had gained a newfound appreciation of life, family, and friendships. They endured illness but they had been introduced to a world of love, camaraderie, and strength.

There are two ways to deal with challenges: we can face them or embrace them. We can discover and uncover reservoirs of hidden strength that will propel us forward and learn to recognize and appreciate Hashem’s loving guidance and His graceful presence permeating our lives. By embracing challenges, we become bigger and better, and our future becomes so much brighter.

Rabbi Simcha Scholar is the chief executive officer for Chai Lifeline.

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