the art of disappointment 

November 3, 2020, Israel 

There are many arts one can learn during a lifetime; the art of diplomacy, the art of leadership, the art of motorcycle maintenance but what about the art of disappointment, does anyone need to learn this?

Actually, we all do. It is perhaps one of the most valuable arts and one of the most difficult to master. Disappointment comes in many forms; someone we trusted can disappoint us, someone we were hoping for help or admiration from, can disappoint us, an event can turn out disappointing. Any time our wishes, or expectations are not fulfilled, that is disappointment.  There is an election coming up very soon, many will be disappointed. And when the leader is elected, many will be disappointed in his performance. For alas, such is life. As my dear mother would always say as I was growing is full of disappointment. How correct she was. 

We are destined to be disappointed. Not everything will go our way, not every relationship will work out, not every dream will be fulfilled, Life indeed is full of disappointment. The question is, now do we cope with it?

The nature of man is to disappoint (and for the progressives out there, when I use the word man in my blogs I mean mankind, so that includes women, the nature of woman is also to disappoint.)

When we are disappointed, what do we do? Do we give up? Do we immediately end a relationship, walk out on a job? If we are a musician on stage, do we walk out in the middle of a song, right off stage? Or do we struggle through to the end?

We must understand that we are destined to be disappointed and we must develop the art of being disappointed. We must learn to cope. Indeed, even God was disappointed in man. 

"The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled/grieved" (Genesis, Chapter 6, verse 6). At this point God decided to wipe out the human race with a great flood and start all over again with a better team. But this too has led to disappointment. 

We must learn to handle disappointment. How?

I would say the first step is to understand that it is a part of life. Disappointment should not come as a surprise. We should be prepared for it, we should understand that a certain percentage of our encounters will end in disappointment, not every event will be a huge success. 

We should understand the nature of human beings. Don't create expectations that are too high. Expectation is the father of disappointment.

We should look at people with compassion. This is not just a matter of "lowering our expectations" but of truly seeing people and trying to understand them, with their faults. Once we understand them those faults become less "faulty". The great rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, Leżajsk, Poland, known as the Noam Elimelech (The Pleasantness of Elimelech) was a master of this quality, he wrote a personal prayer which included the following words....All the more so, not only that we should not be jealous with each other but please put it in our hearts that each one of us should see the virtues of his friends and not their shortcomings. And we should speak each one about his friend in the most straight and righteous way, an acceptable way to God, and one should not God forbid, conceive of any hatred one towards the other.

When one has this attitude there is less chance of disappointment,  we see each person's struggle and we understand them. This reminds me of a story from a town I visited in Slovakia, once part of Hungary, it is called Dunajská Streda, I was there for a week of teaching Krav Maga. (see Krav Maga Dunajská Streda). Before the war the Jewish population was 50% of the town, most were killed during the Holocaust or after. Today only a remnant and some old buildings remain as a testament to a once proud and flourishing Jewish community, a center of learning and culture. There were two doctors, one's name was Dr. Herschkowitz, sadly he would lose his wife and all his children during the Holocaust. He was sitting with the other doctor, there were two Jewish doctors in this town, and the other doctor was complaining, he was disappointed that he could not collect the debts owed to him by many patients. He was disappointed and frustrated. But Dr. Herschkowitz was happy, and he said that no one owed him any money at all. All were fully paid up. The other doctor was impressed and wanted to hear about Dr. Herschkowitz's system for eliminated past due debts. 

Indeed, Dr. Herschkowitz would oblige.  Please show me your list of past due patients, he asked of the other doctor. And so he went down the list, one by one, for he knew every member of the community. This woman cannot pay, she is a widow with no real source of income, And this one certainly not, she has 11 children God bless her but her husband cannot earn a living. and this one, oh no, they are very poor. 

And so, one by one Dr. Herschkowitz, knowing the situation of each family, eliminated one past debt after another until every name was crossed out. Now you see, your situation is like mine, no past due patients.

After the war Dr. Herschkowitz discovered that his entire large family had been murdered, he was naturally devastated. With strength that we cannot understand he emigrated to Israel, opened a new medical practice and faithfully served many patients for the next 15 years until his passing. May these great men be an inspiration for us, to see the good in everyone, and not God forbid, their shortcomings, may we never be tested the way they were, may we understand that our troubles are minor compared to those of others. May we rise up, each and everyone of us, and be better people.

Rabbi Elimelech wrote his prayer, and he recited it every day in order that he should not forget it. Let us honor his memory and follow his practice. 

Here I will include his prayer in the form of a song...even without understanding the Hebrew you will feel the message. 

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