For tzaddikim who are truly happy and satisfied with whatever situation Hashem has given them in life, they yearn for the final Redemption.
But for the rest of us, there's a lot more.
Some people want things that are excellent to want and even commanded to pursue: marriage, children, a home in Eretz Yisrael, the good health and strength to do mitzvot, geshmak prayer from the heart, real geshmak Torah-learning, etc.
And there are other desires that are also good and very understandable: to escape a difficult financial situation, to lose weight, to have a child or spouse or other family relation behave better, to acquire a larger washing machine, good schools, to have quieter or more pleasant neighbors, a better and more fulfilling job, and so on.
Then there are the things that aren't essential, but are natural to desire: a more luxurious home, a live-in housekeeper, the "perfect" car, success in whatever, and much more.
So there's a lot that we want, whether spiritual and obligatory or more material and non-essential (or anything in between), that we can't manage to get.
And I can't know the reasons why, but I also can't help making certain observations in myself and others.
One big factor is that Hashem might have bigger plans for you. He might be pushing you to a higher standard because He knows you can reach that height.
He also might be saving you from yourself. You're sure you're ready for whatever it is, but really, it could end up bombing you in ways you hadn't considered.
There are things I really want and I do get frustrated about not getting them.
But then I try to remember all the people I've known who got what they wanted (or FINALLY got what they wanted) and it didn't work out like you'd think.
And I've seen this in my own life too. There were things I really wanted and got, but it wasn't good. Then there were things I got only later and it was so much better for me that I got to grow in the meantime.
So I get chizuk from the following, even though the examples might seem negative on the surface.
Why? Because everything Hashem does truly is a chessed, even when it really doesn't seem like it.
(And there are still things I really crave!)
Becoming Parents after Waiting Soooo Long
Growing up, I knew a lot of adoptive families. And many were very functional and nurturing.
But many weren't. And that seems weird, right?
I mean, you have a couple who strove for years to have children (treatments, operations, etc) and went through all the paperwork and expense of finally adopting that yearned-for child...and then exhibited a lot of poor parenting when they finally got that child. And I don't mean the one-offs that we all suffer, but consistent hitting or emotional neglect and stuff like that.
Also, a lot of adoptive families either adopt more than one child or else end up miraculously having their own children after they'd given up hope and adopted that child. For example, one friend of mine was adopted from Korea and she had 2 older white siblings who were also adopted. She once confided that her mother used the paddle pretty often, but she didn't know there was anything genuinely wrong with that until she was around eight and changing with the other girls after ballet class and another little girl said, "Hey, what are all those bruises on your bottom?"
My friend hadn't know she had bruises, but could only think that they were from the paddle, which is what she told the other little girl. The other girl frowned and replied in a way that allowed my friend to understand that wasn't normal or acceptable discipline.
And I'm thinking about the mother: Gosh, you really wanted these children -- so why are you so angry and harsh with them?
That's just one example. And there are also organizations created by adopted children to help other adopted children deal with the fact that they were raised by dysfunctional adoptive parents -- showing that abusive adoption isn't such an uncommon scenario.
Another situation I've seen several times is parents who finally had children after years of infertility or miscarriages and end up treating them with coldness or bad temper. In fact, they sometimes can be less patient and more short-tempered than parents who had children right away. (They aren't always, of course. There are many very fine parents who had children after a lot of prayer and fertility treatments.)
But why are they like that when they should be filled with gratitude and relief?
What happened to all the desperation, the yearning, and then the initial abundance of gratitude?
I found part of the answer from one such mother who was really short-tempered with her very sweet, intelligent, and well-behaved son who was born to them after years of infertility. (Her impatience with him was extreme and I wasn't the only one to notice.) One time, she wanted him to come in the house after he was playing in the yard and he was busy trying to scrape every last bit of dirt off his sandals. (He was anxious to do everything just right around her because she would hit him if he didn't toe the line.) She snapped at him to just get in the house already so she could give him his dinner already and he started the stressed whimpering he did when she got like that. (I forgot to mention he was only four.) It really was a problem because he could be damned if he did (come in with dirt-tracking shoes) and damned if he didn't (inconvenience her by taking the time to clean off his shoes), and how he is supposed to know what's the "right" thing to at any given moment?
Anyway, her shoulders sagged and she said, "It's really hard for me that he's so insecure because I'm like that too. I wish he wasn't so much like me."
And therein lies the rub. All these years of infertility, she never really invested in deep inner work on herself. And yes, her son's early years, she was warm and loving. But when he started developing his own personality (which was an extremely nice personality, as me and his neighbors and his teachers could attest), she couldn't handle it.
I wouldn't even have called him insecure. That was her perception of him. But it wasn't accurate as far as I could tell.
(BTW, this is one of the big reasons why Rav Shalom Arush emphasizes that Hashem uses our children's problematic behavior as a mirror to reflect the parts of ourselves that need extra polishing in order to bring out the wonderful potential Hashem imbued within us. This also goes a long way in lessening parental anger because you see that it's not really the child's fault and nor is it necessarily that you're doing something "wrong" in chinuch. Furthermore, you have a way to handle the behavior by addressing it within yourself and by talking to Hashem about it.)
And if you're wondering where was the father, who also prayed and yearned all those years for a child? He never intervened as far as I could tell. And in general, the father seemed kind of disconnected from this long-awaited child.
But I couldn't help wondering if this is what these people were like after so many years of yearning, then how problematic would they have been had they had a child right away, without all the yearning and then the gratitude that comes with it?
Where's the Soul Mate Promised by God?
My husband and I knew one young man who was on shidduchim for most of his twenties. He did all the segulot (40 days at the Kotel, praying at Amuka, 40 days of Perek Shira, 40 days of Shir Hashirim, blessings from tzaddikim, etc.) -- and he even did a couple of 40-dayers twice.
But when he finally got married to a girl he found extremely desirable, he was so verbally and emotionally abusive toward his new wife that she was starting to break down and was seriously considering divorce a month after the wedding.
Derech hateva, wouldn't it have been kinder had Hashem kept this guy single?
And again, while I've known many wonderful singles who remained single with no apparent reason for a baffling long time, I've met quite a few who have obvious arrogance issues. In fact, some people I didn't know when they were single, but I met them soon after they were finally married and was surprised at the arrogant (and sometimes unethical) way they treated people. Nothing to do with them being single or married, that's just how they were.
(And sometimes, people respond to a humbling nisayon by becoming even more arrogant.)
I've met a couple of couples who'd dated for years before finding each other, and noticed that they lacked integrity in exactly the same way -- partners in crime, so to speak. I guess they needed to meet just the right person who was a jerk in exactly the same way they were!
As another example, I remember one young woman who had always been successful in every single way...and boy, did she know it! I tended to avoid her because I resented the condescending way she treated me for things that weren't my fault (I wasn't intellectual and cultured enough by her standards), but I noticed that even with people she seemed to like, she cheerfully inserted irritating little comments and criticisms accompanied by an oh-so innocent little giggle if they seemed upset.
Much to her discomfort, she watched as all her friends got married off while she stayed single.
When I encountered her much later, I was surprised to see she still wasn't married.
I was even more surprised to see her behave in such a normal non-snooty manner and expressing gratitude for the good things in her life.
Upon arriving home, I immediately started davening for her to find her zivug, something I hadn't considered doing earlier. I really felt her pain when speaking with her and I just thought, "This is too much already. It's torture to be on shidduchim for so long." But really, it was her own teshuvah and middot work that had awakened my sympathy.
But what would've happened had she found Mr Right right away? She'd likely have continued being the same snooty catty so-and-so she was before.
The humbler and kinder person was there underneath her superiority complex, but apparently needed this nisayon in order to be drawn out from under all the undesirable middot. In truth, she's a fountain of good qualities.
Conversely, we all know couples who got married within a short time, yet weren't emotionally mature enough to handle marriage or who ended up married to a very problematic person.
(And we know many lovely couples too.)
Again, like with couples who needed to wait for their children, getting what you want doesn't mean you'll have the gratitude or middot to carry you through.
The wait can be an opportune time to do some inner work, even as it's very painful.
In fact, I think that remaining single when you really want to get married is one of the most torturous life-challenges, psychologically speaking. It's a spiritual and emotional desire emanating from the very soul, and is very painful when not fulfilled.
(And yes, I'm well-aware that there are singles who truly have great middot and emotional maturity, yet still haven't found their zivug...and who can know why? I'm NOT saying we should judge people or nitpick at them.)
In despair, he went on to other things and became frum and had a pretty fulfilling life. At one point, a friend found the demo tapes and the Israeli suddenly remembered he stored the tapes by that friend. How could he have forgotten something so vital and obvious?
Then he listened to the tapes and realized a few things:
- The music wasn't as amazing as he'd originally thought.
- The content of the music wasn't something he'd be proud of now as a frum Jew.
- The direction in which he'd have ended up had he pursued this career would not have been emotionally or spiritually healthy for him.
- He was creating music now that was truly good both for him and for his listeners.
He felt grateful to Hashem for having lost the demo tapes, which changed the course of his life for the good.
Another example is that in people who've managed to trimmed down quite a lot of weight, I've seen a sudden change to less modest clothing. Is that what Hashem wants her to do when she loses weight: show off the exact outline of her new figure?
For many people, excess weight or singlehood or financial blahs or physical weakness can bring on embarrassing or discomfiting situations. The same is true regarding a badly behaved spouse or children. (And a lot more.)
All in all, NOT getting what you want definitely increases humility -- if you allow it.
It's written so many times throughout our Sages that humility is one of the most important yet most difficult qualities to cultivate.
Yet we're also told that Hashem cannot stand to be with a person who is haughty or prideful.
So in that humbling moment, Hashem is actually very close to you.
Of course, you can also fight it. Many people do respond to humbling circumstances by becoming even more strident and egocentric.
But really, we're supposed to focus on the humbling aspect of it all.
Also, there's just being "ready for it" when "it" finally comes.
It's not a chessed when someone achieves renown or success before they're ready to handle it properly. We see this all the time.
Conversely, we've all seen people (including ourselves) who expressed gratitude for either not getting it at all or for getting it much later when they were finally ready for it. The gratitude came in hindsight because it's hard to tell that you're actually not ready for something that you really want. That's normal.
Finally, there are some famous stories in Jewish sources about wonderful people who got what they wanted, then transformed for the worse.
Gaining Comfort & Chizuk
It's about getting chizuk and comfort for those difficult times, not waving aside very real feelings of pain.
Certainly, no one should tell infertile couples, "Well, it's okay because you'll probably be abusive parents anyway!" or tell singles, "Well, you clearly just need to develop some humility!" or tell overweight ladies, "You can't lose weight because you'll just end up dressing like some pritzah off the street, and who need that?!"
Certainly, no one should brush off the pain of others with cheerful platitudes or destructive blame (even if meant constructively).
It's for looking at yourself (and me looking at myself), not for condemning other people.
I just know that not getting what I wanted has led to increased compassion, insight, and humility (along with the naturally occurring lows of frustration, resistance, and despair) and especially increased closeness to and reliance on Hashem. And I've seen this development in others too.
Personally, there are a lot of things that I desperately want right now, from very good and spiritually desirable things all the way down to non-essentials.
And some I'm kind of getting after intense prayer and chesbon hanefesh, but some have been withheld for years with no end in sight.
And that's how it goes.
So I try to remember from past experiences and also observations of others that it really truly is good that I'm not getting them yet, even though it's hard because I really want them.
May Hashem grant all the wishes of our heart l'tovah!
The Two Main Keys to Parenting Success
Loneliness & Rejection as Aspects of Mashiach
True Greatness Hides Itself Before God Makes It Known