Worrying is part and parcel of the Jewish mother’s psyche. We worry about ISIS taking over the world, and we worry that the sanitation workers will forget to take our recycling. If Moshe gets a tooth at the early age of three months, we worry if that tooth will be healthy. If Shloimy has no teeth at eight months, we worry once again.
Esty is so busy socializing with her many friends, she won’t do well in school. On the other hand, Baila has so few friends that we worry about her social standing. We worry that Chaim is working too hard, putting in overtime at his new job, and we worry about Yitzchak, who only has a part-time job and a family to support.
Chany didn’t eat anything, I hope she’s not becoming anorexic. Mashy took two pieces of cake, she’s going to be obese soon. Yanky and Toby are starting to look into shidduchim for Leah. Isn’t 18 too young? Mendy’s Simcha is 23, why isn’t he a chassan yet?
If Shimmy doesn’t call home from camp, we worry how he’s managing away from home. If he calls home every day, we wonder if perhaps he’s homesick. Worrying is different from prying (though they can be closely related). We follow all the rules about leaving newlyweds alone, but we can’t help worrying about them, and anxiously wait for them to call.
The examples are endless, but you get the picture. A friend whose oldest is considerably younger than mine once remarked, as I was preparing for my second child’s wedding, “Aren’t you lucky. As you marry each one off, you have one less to worry about.” I could have answered with the classic reply, that now I have someone else to worry about too. Instead, I decided to bide my time. Now that my friend’s own children are married, boy, does she qualify as a super-worrier!
The art of worrying has a major place in Jewish folklore and quotes. We’ve all heard the expression, “Little children, little worries. Bigger children, bigger worries.”
The Ibn Ezra wrote a famous three-line admonition: “The past is gone, the future is not here yet, the present is like the blink of an eye, so why worry?”
Shlomo Hamelech also recognized the phenomena of worrying. He advised (Mishlei 12:25): “If man has a worry in his heart, he should share it with another, and thus unburden himself.” Sane advice, even in today’s day and age. Anyone who ever had a favorite sister or friend just listen to her problems and concerns knows how therapeutic it is just to talk to someone, even if after the conversation you’re no closer to a practical solution. (Your mother doesn’t qualify as a listening board. You don’t want her to worry!)
As we mothers become grandmothers, and then become great-grandmothers, our worrying quotient increases. But when we reach a certain age, our children, worriers themselves, conspire to shield us from their trials and tribulations. As if it’s going to stop us. We’re okay as long as the worries are over minor issues. As the old saw proclaims, “Better one thousand trivial worries than, chas v’shalom, one major one.”
How can we channel the energy created by our worrying into a positive force? The answer lies in one word: tefilla (prayer). The Belzer Rebbe, zt”l, refused to daven in a shul that did not have a women’s section, because he said that all the prayers’ success depend on the prayers of the mothers and grandmothers. In a similar vein, the administration of the Ponovizh yeshiva once sought ideas on how to accommodate the overflow crowd who came to daven there on Rosh Hashana. Someone suggested that they send the younger students up to the gallery, effectively eliminating the women’s place in the yeshiva. The rosh yeshiva, however, dismissed this idea immediately. “Don’t you know that all of our tefillos rise up heavenward on the backs of the tefillos of the Yiddishe mamas?”
So pick up a siddur, pick up a Tehillim, pick up your hands, and daven to the One Above. He understands prayers in any language, and ultimately He is going to solve our problems. Daven for Suri and Yitzy who are married a few years and don’t have children yet. Daven for your neighbor’s child who was hit by a car, daven that Devora finds the teaching job she’s dreaming about, daven for your family’s health and general well-being. Just keep davening, whether in the printed text or in your own words.
Most important of all, don’t forget to daven to Hashem that He sends Mashiach real soon, for once the geula shleima (final redemption) arrives, all of our worries will dissipate once and for all.
May Hashem bless you all with worry-free nachas.