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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beit Natan Summer "Retreat" -- Part II

(Click here to read Part I)

I chose the afternoon session called "Etgarim" (challenges). I did not know what to expect, but it sounded like fun. Little did I know....

We drove in shifts to Ya'ar Yerushalayim (the Jerusalem Forest), where there were three madrichot (guides) waiting for us. They would be leading the session with J, one of the psychologists from Beit Natan (she gave an excellent lecture at the winter retreat).

As we waited for the rest of our group to arrive, I asked D, one of the madrichot, about Etgarim. Etgarim began as an organization to provide physical challenges for necheh Tzahal (wounded soldiers). Over time, it expanded and now offers challenges for all sorts of groups, including youth at risk, other groups with disabilities, etc. I discovered that D also had a disability -- she was deaf (she spoke so clearly, that I hadn't noticed).

When everyone arrived, we introduced ourselves. We began our first challenge by forming a human knot and working together to untangle the knot. It was challenging.... and fun!

Afterwards, J gave each of us a slip of paper and instructed us to write down one or two of our dreams; something that we would like to see in the future, that would be a turning point in our lives.

Then, we walked over to the main challenge: O.D.T. ("Out Door Training). The madrichot had prepared a "rope bridge" -- two rows of rope, strung across four trees. With our feet on the bottom rope (approximately 1 meter above the ground), and our hands on the top rope, we would walk from one end of the bridge to the other (with safety equipment, of course).

I knew it could not possibly be as easy as it looked when the madricha (guide) demonstrated how to do it. Nonetheless, I volunteered to go first. The longer I waited, the scarier it would be for me.

There were three stages of the bridge. At the end of the first section, hung a bottle into which we would deposit the notes with our dreams. We could choose to complete just the first section, or to complete all three stages. I was determined to complete all three stages.

I started all right, using my good leg to lift myself onto the ropes. As I pulled myself along, I felt the bottom rope shaking. I started laughing. L was there, and as I inched along, with the bottom rope shaking all the while, the two of us kept laughing. I felt myself falling backwards; I could not seem to find my balance and stand up straight.

I calmed myself and looked to D for guidance. D advised me to brace my legs. But with my bad hip, I could not lock my knees. When I tried, the stress on my hip was too painful.

I fought to hold back tears. I have always thought of myself as a strong woman, capable of anything. Suddenly, I could not ignore the fact that I had a physical limitation.

I looked D in the eyes, and quietly said "ani mugbelet" -- I meant to say "I am limited", but the Hebrew words also mean "I am handicapped." As I gave voice to the words, I was struck by the second meaning. I suddenly came face to face with a truth I had been desperately avoiding.

I tried with all my strength to complete the first stage, but it was too difficult to hold myself on the ropes. I let myself down, literally and figuratively.

I did not even reach the end of the first stage, to put my note in the bottle.

I could not do it.

I stepped aside and endeavored to compose myself.

J came over and asked if I would like to try again, with her on the ropes with me. Apparently, it would be easier with someone else leading. I said yes.

After watching two or three women complete the task, I was ready to try again.

J went up first; then I lifted myself onto the ropes, again. J wanted to help me with the safety ropes, but I was capable of handling them by myself. Still, I needed more help to stand up securely. Y, one of the other madrichot, balanced the ropes from the other side.

This time, I completed the first stage, and was ready to go on.

Towards the end of the second stage, I seemed to be handling myself much better. Y suggested that I complete the rest of the second and third stages by myself. I agreed.

Almost as soon as Y sailed away down the ropes, I felt my balance shifting. I could not hold myself steady without her assistance. I called Y back. With Y's help, I could do it.

At the end, as I climbed down from the rope bridge, I felt good that I had traveled the entire bridge. But I wanted to do it by myself.

When everyone had completed her turn, those women who wanted, could cross the first stage of the bridge a second time.

I really wanted to cross the bridge myself.

I pulled myself up onto the ropes.

I tried to hold myself steady, to find my balance.

I could not do it. I needed help.

Once again, I turned to Y for help.

With her assistance, I was able to cross the bridge confidently.


I was the only member of our group who needed that kind of assistance.

I was also one of the youngest members of our group.

I was also the only member of our group with metastasis (as far as I know).

I was also the only member of our group with a physical limitation (with the exception of an older woman, who did not even attempt to cross the bridge).


As I mulled over my experience, I had an epiphany.

I need not feel embarrassed about needing help. I should be proud that I was able to recognize my limitations and to get the assistance I needed.

Asking for help did not mean that I failed. Rather, my ability to seek the help I needed meant that I succeeded.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


A Living Nadneyda said...

When you're used to being independent, asking someone else for help can be the bravest thing you can do.

You are brave, woman!

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

you remember that list of living people i admire, that i told you about? this is about one of them.

another friend of mine, S, is what i call a type triple-A personality (much like you in that respect). when i first got to know her, she was a new mom, learning for her masters, working full time, on the yishuv's mazkirut, giving and organizing shiurim, and her husband (a very young religious officer in the army at the time) was often home late or not at all. the first sign of trouble was that although she was thriving, her fetus didn't (in the literal textook sense) and her first obgyn went so far as to recommend terminating the abortion (she didn't after consulting an rabbinical expert and another medical expert, and her daughter,N, though physically extremely petite,has grown into an intelligient and vivacious young woman).she was the local expert (not gossip) on what was going on and was te first to help anyone who needed it, and was part of the local vaád lézra hadadit that organised help for whoever needed it, new mothers, families who fathers were away in miluim, someone in hospital, etc.
later she lost her physical energy and became bedridden. she completed her studies and continued to organise and give shiurim, and battled what a succession of doctors eventually (mis)diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. she couldn't go far from her bed for long. she got more ill, was told not to get pregnant again (she was by then the mother of two and had always dreamed of a large family) she never asked for help, for a very long time. she turned down offers of help for almost as long.

a lot of this woman's sense of self worth was tied up in her ability to do for others. not being able to and (worse from her standpoint-) having to incovenience others to help her do what she felt she ought to be doing was traumatic to say the least. she is one of the strongest, competent and intelligient people i know. she is someone who you can say "that is an eishet chayil".

i'm sorry for the long preamble, but it was neccessary in order to put this next bit into context.

years later (i do not remember in retrospect if it was before or after she was finally diagnosed and treated for crohns) while giving a shiur, she discussed
the mitzvot of nitina vekabala (giving and receiving). allow me toemphasize, not the mitzva of giving, but the mitzvot (plural) one of which is receiving. she had, through the extreme case of her condition been forced to realise something that had not been part of her nature - the importance of recieving. it took years of being told by her friends and neighbors that it was truly and honestly, their pleasure, their honor, to help her for the message to actually get internalised and change her attitude towards receivig help. for some that may have been out of gratitude for help or wisdom received in the past, for others, the simple pleasure of giving that she herself knew so well. but it took that amount of time to realise that she was being "riteous" (and not demanding) - (now here's the punchline) - BECAUSE SHE WAS ENABLEING OTHERS TO PERFORM THE MITZVA OF GIVING BY RECEIVING.

that was her epiphany. i don't know if this point has been obvious to you, or may help you see things differently. she herself is an inspiring person

(btw- she is the same i told you about who remembered your name when i dedicated a shiur to your health earlier this year, because she had davened for you when you were first diagnosed)

love and l'hitraot


ps- if anyone reading this is interested in treatment for crohn's my friend has some excellent recommendations (mostly diet related, based on studies done by a microbioligist whose grandchild has it)that have improved her health and reduced her need for prednisone, so much so, that she was givin the ok to get preganant again (she has now, b"h, 4 children, works part time, etc) - ask rivka toput you in touch with me. i know my friend S is very free about sharing this.

she still gets more done than any 10 other "healthy" people i know.

Anonymous said...

oops- she has 5 children!

Sarah said...

I just wanted to tell you that I am proud of you for trying the rope bridge so many times. I admire your perseverance and, in the end, accepting that needing help is an OK thing to accept.

I also listened to the last lecture from Randy Pausch. Thanks for the link. I had never heard of him- what a great person he was. Baruch Dayan Emet.
hugs to you!!

A Living Nadneyda said...


This one's for you. (I see BW has a similar thought, from a different perspective).


Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

You go girl. I'm very proud of you for asking and accepting help. Love what BW wrote. I went through this when I was divorced. I know tons of vortlach on this very issue and it's a BIG deal to accept. Sometimes the test is not to succeed, but what you do when you can't succeed. Another way to say is that you reframe what success is, and that's exactly what you did. Love you lots!

Asher said...

I've been volunteering with Etgarim for 9 years now (SCUBA divemaster) and guess what it's true, more than I give I get.

Baila said...

I think I've said this before here, but when my daughter was ill a friend told me: "Why don't you want people to help you? Why would you deprive them of this Mitzvah?" By saying this to me, she gave me the freedom to accept the help I needed (and I needed so much!).

And I thought I was doing my friends a favor!

arnie draiman said...

ah rivka,

taking help - very difficult for most people. but rambam teaches us something very important about taking help:

"...and whoever needs to take Tzedakah, being unable to live without it (such as an elderly person or one who is sick or is suffering greatly) and who is too proud to take it - that person sheds blood (shofeych damim) and is to be held accountable, and there is no benefit from the suffering...only feeling sinful and guilty." (matnot ani'im 10:19)

very easy to see that the rambam felt very strongly about not taking when you should. so, take when you need it. important lesson for all of us.

arnie draiman

RivkA with a capital A said...

ALN -- thanks!

BW -- "type triple-A personality"? LOL!!

Sara -- thanks! Glad to share the wisdom! Thanks to that lecture, I did not criticize my kids for putting stickers on their walls/doors/bookshelves (if you don't catch the reference, listen to the lecture again!)

Ye'he Sh'mey -- thanks!

Asher -- that is SOOO cool!!! (I really want to learn to SCUBA dive, but I'm also a bit terrified)

Baila -- I'm going to blame the chemo for this one.... I don't remember what you wrote about your daughter. (I'm a little scared to ask....)

Arnie -- thanks for the source. It is quite powerful!