The lesson of the week, in language and love: It’s time to persevere.
The wake-up call started over Shabbat in Tel Aviv when I met two, tiny tykes. We’ll call the older, curly-headed one Geni, since he’s a genius –certifiably. And we’ll call his little brother Mowgli, since he’s a perfect copy of the spunky “Jungle Book” character. These two squirts prattled on and on in Hebrew all night, and after 2 months in ulpan, I understood…nothing. Nothing! And it sent me into a tail spin.
My despair truly set in after dinner. The boys whipped out the board game “Oseh Kesef” (“Make Money”) or as we call it in English, “Monopoly.” As the boys reminded me how to play the game, my face alternated between expressions of perplexed focus and lost frustration. The rules were gobbledygook to me. The game-card directions went completely over my head. Finally, Geni said, “Look, what it’s telling you is…” Yeah, that’s right, he whipped out some perfect English he’d apparently picked up on a family trip to India, and after assessing my language skills realized he’d get further using his 8-year-old English than by trying to work with my broken Hebrew.
I left dinner feeling sunk. On one level I know my Hebrew has improved dramatically. But flopping at this very everyday experience really sent me into a multi-day mope. My inner conversation went something like this: “What’s the point? I can’t understand after all this time and studying?! Should I just go home early? Will all this time and effort be wasted? How embarrassing if after 5 months of focus I fail. I’m probably too old to learn a new language. My friend Odi learned Spanish in 3 months and Hindi in two and all from scratch. Clearly, I don’t have an ear for languages…” v’chooley, v’chooley (etc., etc.)
And after whining to my mom and others misfortunate enough to enter my sulky sphere, clarity struck. I had reached my turning point, my moment of truth. The half-way mark of my trip had arrived and I was due for… a speed bump! Hello?! I should have expected it. After all, every process has ups and downs.
Furthermore, it dawned on me that that my reaction to this test would determine success or failure. If I allowed myself to grow dissuaded and deflated, my actions would follow suit – an inner acceptance of futility would derail all my past and future efforts.
In short, if I continued to pout, everything would be a waste.
Heegia ha’zman le’hachzik mahamad! The time had arrived to hang in there! Recommit myself! Persevere! The experience showed me that I need more exposure to the language, more work, more vocabulary, more, more, more…effort in many ways! But the good news is: there’s time. Ten more weeks, yalla v’tachzik Mahamad. (Let’s go and hang in there.)
Hashem really wanted this lesson to sink in, because I was taught it again, only in the romance department. I did a speed-dating event, intending for it to be a discreet experience…until JPost caught it on tape and put me on their front page. Just what every 30-year-old girl wants: to be the poster child for single-dom. Sheesh.
I tried the event because it was Tu B’Av (the Jewish Valentine’s Day), one of my girlfriends had raved about it, and frankly I needed to put some effort into my love life. This seemed like a good way to meet new people. But (spoiler alert), like many-a-dating experience, it only wound up providing entertainment to my family and friends.
The night was a bust. Only one guy perked my interested – a gorgeous, Israeli guy named Nir. Dimples, great smile, full head of dark hair, 6’4”—classic ‘tall, dark & handsome’ – he reminded me of John Travolta in Grease. (And what girl didn’t have a crush on Danny Zuko?) Problem: he’s 25. So, I felt a little bit like Mrs. Robinson. But, what the heck? He asked me out to dinner after the event and I said sure.
We ordered and suddenly, after knowing Nir for all of 30 minutes, I find myself playing “Whack-a-Mole.” For those of you who haven’t been to an arcade recently, “Whack-a-Mole” is that game where you must smack the moles that quickly pop up from the holes on the board with a giant hammer. The more moles you whack, the more points you get. In this allusion, Nir’s hands would be moles and it was my job to smack them away as they kept popping up on different parts of my body. Later, my walk home consisted of blocking Nir’s various efforts and lines to get into my apartment, and now, you have a sense of the evening.
See, I like gentlemen! I like conversation! I appreciate the common sense and sensitivity to recognize when advances are premature or unwelcome. I do not like the roaming hands of virtual strangers. Suffice it to say, there was no Grease Lightening.
I’d expected a summer of spiritual, strong, Zionist suitors! But all I’d found thus far were lost boys. By evening’s end, I felt exhausted and discouraged. Another flop. Another stupid dating experience. And nothing promising on the horizon.
And then I realized, again: Heegia ha’zman le’hachzik ma’amad. The time had arrived to hang in there.
Look, I wish I could choose the time table for certain things in my life; meeting my beshert (true love) definitely falls into that category. But Hashem has His own plan. The good news is, His plan for me is way better than my plan for me. So, with that in mind, my job is to stay open. As hard as it is sometimes…and it is…I must remember that a clenched fist cannot receive anything. Hashem can be ready to give me all I want and more, but unless I’m open, I’ll miss it; I won’t be able to grab it.
So, this is my work: open up and remain open. Put one foot in front of the other. Refrain from coming to conclusions. And Tachzik Ma’amad. Not being able to see the big picture is no reason to get pissy; especially since the big picture is, it’s all working out perfectly.