Let’s begin with “Boruch HASHEM! There is a world of goodness that each of us has to be grateful for…There is not a “but” or “however” on the other side of that declaration. It is pure and simple, not a party line, not an invitation for “cynicism”, which I always suspect comes from the word “sina” hatred, or for railing against anyone else. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my wife when I call home, “Is anything alright?” Asking, “Is everything alright” may be akin to the dust of loshon hora or the dust of complaining. It invites us to focus only on problems as problems.
With all that having been said there’s a consoling factor when we realize that others share the same challenges daily. If snow fell on my house alone I could wonder why I have been singled out for tragedy. When others get it too and are forced to shovel…it is “shovel l’kol nefesh” equal for all and a partial relief from the burden of carrying pain alone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome even after decades of being at it, the sense that I’m missing something. It’s kind of like when Israeli friends tell a joke and I’m following some of the Hebrew and then the punch-line comes and everyone laughs but me. The same thing can happen in Yiddish. It’s not the language thing either. Maybe I can attribute it to that gnawing fear I used have as a child going to school that if ever I was absent even for a day then whatever I didn’t know or could get easily I suspected that it must have been taught on that day I missed. All the learning took place on that day!
Call it an inferiority complex or fear of being caught feeling foolish by colleagues or even your kids but the cloud of never knowing what you don’t know lingers long after Shabbos and Learning are firm fixtures in our lives. I was one of those guys that when I said, “Shalom Aleichem” and someone said to me “Aleichem Shalom”, I thought they were correcting me! Maybe it’s just my singular inferiority or maybe I’m not the only one. After a while, like the “long distance runner” you get used to the loneliness and discomfort because the up side is so great.
Twenty something years later it’s amazing to me how this fear, nausea, and anxiety can still rear it head in social or shul settings. For example, the fear of being discovered by mispronouncing words or not quite getting a tune while davening for the amud. My kids correct my pronunciation till this very day. I thought I had a good ear and I happily repeat the corrected word and they shake their heads and say no…this way! I don’t hear the difference! I wonder what else I might be saying that gives me away and people just don’t say. Yeah we gotta live and function but it’s always there and probably always will be…What d’ya think?