Dr Judith Guedalia

Living And Learning From The Sayings Of Our Fathers

By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K. © 2007

         Hillel says: "Do not separate from the community. And do not trust yourself until the day of your death. And don't judge your friend until you are in his place. And don't say something is impossible to hear because it will be heard in the end. And do not say that when I have time available I will study, lest no time will be availed."

(Pirkei Avot - Values Of Our Fathers,

Chapter 2: Mishna 4)
         On a Wednesday in November, when Chaim K. and I last met, our conversation didn't budge. He seemed a bit out of sorts, and when I asked how he was feeling he responded with a weak "OK."
         In the course of over two years of meeting, some sessions are better than others. "Yom asal, yom basal," one day is honey, one day onions, as the Egyptian Arabic slang goes. But being a psychologist-type of person, as Chaim K. would say, I "make tzimmes (literally a carrot/yam casserole, but in the vernacular 'a-big-deal'), out of what we do say and what we don't say!" So in keeping with that, I went over our conversation in my head and in my notes for a few days.
         What was the reason for this significant (I felt sure) non-flow of this specific session?
         In all relationships there is an element of "Transference" that goes on. Psychologists are trained to (hopefully) identify these feelings when they surface in therapy sessions, and subsequently to work them through/out with their patient/client.
         What is Transference? Roughly, (there are thousands of articles and books, and just words written on this topic) transference is a phenomenon in psychology characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings. One might also say it can be "a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, especially of childhood, and the substitution of another person - for the original object of the repressed impulses." Counter-transference refers to transferential reactions within the therapist, in conjunction with or without the patient's transferential behavior.
         My "investigation" began by going over my session notes and the feelings and recollections engendered within me during our session, and continued with Chaim K. the next time we met.
         What events/feelings/thoughts/experiences came before this specific meeting?
         In previous sessions Chaim and I were working on a proposed presentation for the Nefesh Israel Conference, which is to take place I"YH this coming January 16 and 17 in Jerusalem. He had also given me permission to discuss our work - about which we are both proud - at the Nefesh International Conference which, I"YH will take place on Thursday, December 20 through Sunday, December 23, 2007 at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel, in Stamford, Connecticut.
         What had previously punctuated our work on the presentation was a sense of purpose, irony, humor and most importantly, camaraderie and transference that has permitted us to investigate and understand feelings, thoughts of the past, present and future - but most of all - dreams and hopes for the future. We hoped the presentation would be a way in which Chaim K. and I would have an opportunity to communicate, discuss and possibly teach the feelings of optimism and spirituality that he stimulates within those around him and those who read our pieces in The Jewish Press.
         Some clues: We spoke about a brit he attended of a first child of a friend. He was joyful for his friend, the new abba and, sorrowful but also optimistic that this level of "normalcy" retreats into the area of "not too realistic wishes" from the "field of dreams."
         The heaviness that seeped into the room that day was possibly exacerbated by the "feeding frenzy" of this week's welcoming into the Covenant of an Israeli baby boy - in this case, the newly circumcised son of Yigal Amir and his wife Larisa Trembovler Amir.
         Recently, on Sunday November 4, Yigal Amir's wife, and family arrived at Rimonim Prison for the circumcision of their son - 12 years to the day after Amir assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in front of tens of thousands of people and National TV.
         "While in prison, Amir became engaged to Larisa Trembovler. Amir had met her years ago, when he was a teacher of Judaism sent by Israel to educate Russian Jews. Trembovler first started to visit Amir in jail with her [then] husband. Amir and Trembovler began exchanging letters and speaking on the phone, after she expressed ideological support for him. She left her husband and academic career because of her public personal ties with Amir" (Wikipedia).
        Essentially, a question that is always there in the room and in Chaim K.'s life, is what could he have "done" in his 14 years, culminating in his accident, to receive the punishment of life-long incarceration - he is quadriplegic and on a respirator. The expression to "sit" in jail is not far off in your mind when you see him "sitting" in a wheelchair.
         He has said more than once: "Did I murder anyone?" And now, a man who was ten years older than 14, who was convicted of murdering someone and is "sitting" in jail for the rest of his life, nevertheless gets married and has a child and can "get up and go" (albeit in chains) to the brit of his own child and to top it off, be the sandek. The painful irony is almost too much to bear.
         None of this is said in the meeting I first described. What is whispered when we speak is about lost opportunities. And, especially that of the "leftist" political parties and the Rabin family at the commemoration on Saturday night, Nov. 3 (erev the secular date of the assassination and erev the brit) that is punctuated by the fisfus/missed opportunity to join the country; instead, they emphasized the spilt between orthodox and secular by painting in black, all kippa-wearing and orthodox youth, not sending buses to bring their youth groups (Bnai Akiva, Ezra and Orthodox Scouts) to join the over 100 thousand youngsters (bused in representatives of the more Leftist and secular groups - HaShomer Hatzair among others) at the Rabin Plaza in Tel Aviv, the site of the assassination.
         When we finish our righteous indignation about opportunities missed, Chaim K. whispers: "I wouldn't trade places with him."
         "You never could have been him," I say definitively. "How do you know that?!" he asked. "You are a true believer and your judgment is intact; you would never murder someone even if egged on by fifth columnist such as Avishai Raviv and his 'handlers,'" I countered.
         We pray to Hashem "Al'Ha'Malshinim," which was added to the Shmoneh Esrai - the 18 benedictions of the Amidah. They, the Al'Ha'Malshinim "the slanderers" (mosrim; zeidim) shall not have hope."
         Hashem, not mere man, will mete out their justice. Even when your heart is crying out in pain over what seems to be ever more horrific political plans, and what someone "did" which ended him up "sitting in jail," your head and soul could not have done it. I know, as you do, when you say "you would not trade places with him," that you will have the basherte that is waiting for you, and not the end to be endured by a murderer.

Originally published in the Jewish Press on December 5, 2007.

Tags: Chaim K. | Counter-Transference | Jewish Press | Transference