We are all living through trying times during a pandemic that has reached epic proportions worldwide, and affected our lives in various ways, whether physically, mentally, or financially. With Pesach just around the corner, shuls and schools shut down, and social distancing becoming the norm, life suddenly takes on new twists and turns, bringing along new meaning and purpose.
Over the past two weeks, I found it very difficult to write an article about makeup or beauty, which somehow seemed like a frivolous subject matter. Should I write an article about how to play up your eyes as you wear a mask, or how to paint your face mask, by creating a fake nose and smiley lips? It seemed quite shallow while lives are being disrupted, and continuously adapting to new norms.
These days, we are much more aware and appreciative of all the small and large events and people in our lives that we somehow take for granted. We now realize that they are all gifts from Hashem and things that seemed like auto pilot were really orchestrated from the Almighty above.
Although most of us have experienced various personal challenges in our lives, and have endured difficulties, we are all testimony that life goes on and is never constant. As long as we’re alive, there will always be ups and downs, and after darkness will come dawn. Let us strive to each perfect our own deeds, generously open our hearts, and unitedly beseech Hashem with heartfelt t’filos to send r’fuos, y’shuos, and b’soros tovos for all. May we soon merit the coming of Mashiach.
I recently ended my year of aveilus for my mother, Chayah Sarah bas R’ Simchah a”h, who was a Holocaust survivor, born in Rimanov, Poland, during most difficult times. Her legendary emunah and bitachon, coupled with her kind heart and generous spirit, helped her weather all of life’s challenges with grace and dignity. My mother always maintained a positive attitude towards life and persevered with an ironclad will to live and serve Hashem. As a survivor and only child, she took nothing for granted, and was forever grateful to Hashem for her family, friends, and all the good in her life. Although she had arichas yamim and was, baruch Hashem, zocheh to see doros y’sharim of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she had several health issues and endured many hardships, especially during her last eight years. She never questioned G-d for anything, and while others counted their money, she counted her blessings. She always used her challenges, as well as her talents, to grow and help others. I am grateful to Hashem to have had a mother who taught us to be independent and strong, and, baruch Hashem, gave us the tools to navigate life’s challenges, as she never shielded us from the harsh realities of life.
Although my mother was a highly educated European woman, and she spoke seven languages, including Latin (which she learned after the war, during medical school in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Yiddish was always her favorite one. She taught us precious life lessons through those Yiddish expressions, which are not replaceable in another language. My sister compiled a list of my mom’s Yiddish sayings, and I would like to share some of these wonderful tools on how to live with emunah, how to treat others, and how to navigate life.
My mother always had a strong connection with Hashem through her emunah and bitachon. Expressions like “gloibt tzu Gott” (praised is Hashem), “baruch Hashem,” “Mir darf nisht dem Eibishter ois learnin – er veist vus tzu tien” (You don’t have to teach Hashem; he knows exactly what to do) were always on her lips. “Mir darf unemen b’ahavah” (meaning you have to accept whatever Hashem sends your way with love), and so she always accepted her many challenges that came her way. She would always say “mi macht nisht kalleh nor mi fahrecht” (meaning someone else can never ruin things for you – she or he actually fixes them). In other words, when you think someone has done you harm that led to an outcome you think is bad, that person actually helped you, because he or she was simply a shaliach for what Hashem wanted to happen, since that is for the best. She always used this expression in relation to shidduchim. If you think someone has ruined a shidduch, understand that they actually fixed it, because they helped Hashem keep that person away from you or your child, and the direction Hashem has in store for you is actually best.
“Az me leibt deleibtmin” – If you live long enough, you will outlive your trials and tribulations and get to see good times, so don’t despair. “Ah bi nisht erger” – “It shouldn’t be worse” was her mantra, i.e. be thankful to Hashem that things are not worse, as they undoubtedly can always be.
“Ani maamin be’emunah sh’leimah, b’vias HaMashiach” – Ani Maamin was one of her favorite songs.
Stamina and Perseverance
My mother was never afraid of hard work and didn’t pamper herself much. She believed in setting goals and fighting hard to achieve them. When things didn’t seem to work out, she would find another way to achieve them and opt for Plan B. “Az me ken nisht ariber, miz min gein arinter” – “If you can’t go over, then you need to go under” was one of her favorites, meaning giving up or quitting is never an option, not in big or small things. During her last two months in the hospital, my mother fought for her life, while on a respirator with so many other complications. Fighting for her life, along with Hashem’s help, allowed her to come home a number of times during the past eight years, until she valiantly fought for her last breath. She always left life and death matters up to Hashem.
She didn’t expect to achieve things without hard work. She used to say, “erlech is
shverlech” – translated to mean: You should always try to do things earnestly and honestly, including financial gains. To achieve things the honest way without cutting corners involves hard work, and hardworking she certainly was.
“A viller is mehr vi a kenner” – Someone who wants to learn is smarter than someone who knows it all. She was a firm believer in “Eizeh hu chacham? Ha’lomeid mi’kol adam” – Wise is he, who is willing to learn from everyone.
Tolerance and Acceptance
She always used to say that we must never judge others by our standards of what is important to us and what is not. She recognized that fact and would comment on everyone being entitled to spend money their own way. Some wanted to spend money on food, others needed to buy clothing, some jewelry, and still others home furnishings – and it’s not our job to judge what is the best way to spend one’s money, but rather everyone has a right to make his or her own judgment. We recently all witnessed this as some people were hoarding toilet paper, and others meat. I have no clue what they will be doing with all those rolls of toilet paper and meat. I figured that if they’re consuming that much meat, they will probably need lots of toilet paper. On the other hand, as a germaphobe, I stocked up on soaps.
Whenever my sisters or I would complain that something is not fair, she would say, “Life isn’t fair, and things aren’t always going to be even-steven.” She was clearly not a socialist and recognized the fact that Hashem gives people different brachos and we all have to be thankful for the ones we get without having the expectation that we will have every blessing, although we must fervently daven for each one. Also, we will not see equality because we don’t understand Hashem’s ways, but rather must always know they are for the best – Gam zo l’tovah. She always acknowledged that Hashem gives everyone his or her own unique brachos, kochos, and challenges. Each person is capable to handle the package he or she receives, and if people would want to exchange challenges, they would probably take back “zain eigeneh peckel” – his own sack of burdens. From a young and tender age, her parents taught her that life comes full circle. Today you are down, but tomorrow you will, b’ezras Hashem, be up. Always remember to look below you at the person who has less that you, as opposed to above you, and treat others with the knowledge that you could be in their shoes.
Sensitivity Toward Others
My mother always measured her words and was careful to think ahead. One of her expressions we grew up with was “a gehongenen tur min nisht zugen heng oif dem mantle” – which literally means “Don’t say to someone sentenced to hang up his coat, because that will remind him of his problems.” She was always two steps ahead and never three steps behind with her sensitivity to others. To be able to carry this out, she would always think ahead before saying something that may hurt someone.
“A karanke vi azoy mi leigt im is nisht git” – A sick person, however you position him/her, is not good. Meaning: Be sensitive and understand that when someone is hurting, he or she will feel bad not matter what; so be extra careful and kind and don’t get offended if the other person does not respond to you as warmly as he or she should.
Practical Observations About Life
- Giste biste – If you give, you get.
- Far bachinim haut min kinim – Don’t expect anything for free except a case of lice.
- A kushere top ah kushere lefel – The pot is kosher and the spoon is kosher, so no need to fret; everything is well.
- Mit yenem’s hent is git fayer tzu sharen – With someone else’s hand, it’s good to rake coals and that’s about it! Meaning: If you want something well-done, do it yourself and get it done.
- Mi shikt nisht de kats noch de milech – Don’t send the cat to fetch the milk because of her own vested interest.
This is but a mere fraction of the deep emunah, bitachon, and love she had for Hashem, her family, friends, and all her fellow Jews from all walks of life. When we cleaned out her apartment after her p’tirah, we found all her tear-stained siddurim and T’hilim, with which she fervently davened to Hashem for all of klal Yisrael. Although I truly really miss her, I can hear her advice to get through these challenging times. I know she is whispering to me, “This too shall pass; right now place your trust in Hashem, daven for everyone with all your heart, and put all your burdens in His loving hands. I’m certain my mother is serving as a good advocate with m’litzas yosher for all of am Yisrael as she beseeches Hashem to send r’fuos, y’shuos, and b’soros tovos for klal Yisrael.
May her neshamah have an aliyah in Gan Eden, and may we merit seeing the coming of Mashiach very soon. Wishing everyone a Chag Kasher v’Sameiach!
Risselle Naimark is a Professional Freelance Makeup Artist and Skincare Consultant. She carries an extensive line of personalized skincare, cosmetics, and anti-aging products. Risselle is also available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, makeup lessons, and all of your beauty needs. She can be reached at 718 263-5517.