Hanging Laundry in the Rain

I apologize for the temporary hiatus in the blog postings, but I’ve been busy with a new BRI project, the twice-weekly inspirational emails through narrowbridge.org. (You can sign up if you haven’t yet.) I’m really enjoying it and getting a lot of inspiration myself, so it’s all to the good.

Today, I told my husband that I’m going to write a book and call it, “Hanging Laundry in the Rain.” Then I realized, why bother writing a book (takes so long to write, takes so long to read), when you can just write a blog post? And I felt much better. Because I actually was hanging laundry in the rain while all of this was running through my head, and I realized that it’s a good metaphor, and that Rebbe Nachman taught about it without calling it by this (admittedly) prosaic name.

Why do I hang laundry in the rain? It seems counterproductive, doesn’t it? First of all, my dryer is out of gas, so I’ve been hanging the wash. But who hangs laundry in the rain? I do, because I can. Twelve years ago, our neighbors built a porch as an extension from the building which overhangs our front windows; it blocked a lot of light, but also covered the laundry lines…enabling me to hang the wash in the rain. It gives me a lot of pleasure, this making good use of something that I might have otherwise considered a nuisance. If it wasn’t for the overhang I would have to set up lines crisscrossing our entire living space, which would be even worse. Of course, it takes a lot longer to dry when it’s hanging in the rain, but who cares? At least it’s not fogging up my house!

Hanging laundry in the rain is the task that seems to be futile, except that it turns out not to be futile at all. It may hang there like wet shaggy dogs for the duration, but it actually means that when the sun comes out, the clothes (and the linens, and the towels) are already exactly where they need to be, ready to be warmed up and dried.

In Likutei Moharan II:48, we were given a gift by Rebbe Nachman, and Breslovers call it “The Letter.” It begins with general words of encouragement and clarification about the path of growth in serving G-d, and how it may seem at first that all of one’s good intentions are futile, since progress is elusive. Later on in the lesson, Rebbe Nachman gets personal:

The main thing, my beloved brother, is to be very strong and courageous; grab hold of yourself with every bit of strength that you have and remain firm in your Divine service, and do not pay attention to what I’ve already mentioned [i.e. that it seems that the more you want to come closer to G-d, the farther away you are, and that G-d does not seem interested in your efforts]… It’s when a person is on the verge of entering into holiness that the negative tries to overwhelm him… Whoever wants to enter into G-d’s service must remember this well, and strengthen himself in kind, and do whatever he can to hold his own. In the right time—whether it takes days or years—you will certainly, with G-d’s help, enter into the gates of holiness, because G-d is full of mercy and He very much desires your service. And know, that every ounce of effort that you make to remove yourself even the least little bit from the bonds of your lower material nature so that you can devote yourself to His service, all of them gather together and join as one to come to your aid when you really need them—that is, at some point when trouble is really upon you, G-d forbid… From here you can understand just how important it is for you to hold strong and never give up, G-d forbid, no matter what happens. And the main thing is to be happy at all times, and enliven yourself in any way you can even if it means being a little bit silly…to cheer yourself up, because this is a very great thing.”

Sometimes in my Divine service I not only feel like I’m hanging laundry in the rain; I truly am. Sometimes it may seem as though I’m spinning my wheels, but I know that I’m not. It may be raining now, but the sun will be shining soon. The efforts aren’t wasted; they’re just temporarily in abeyance.

Hang in there!

Author: Yehudis Golshevsky

Yehudis in her own words: When I first began learning Rebbe Nachman’s teachings with my husband and other teachers, I felt as though I had come home to the personal and vital relationship with G-d that I’d always sought. Today, a large part of my inspiration comes from helping other Jewish women discover their own spiritual potential through the meaningful teachings of Breslov Chassidut. Yehudis Golshevsky has been teaching Torah classes to women and working in Torah publishing for nearly twenty years. She’s a graduate of Yavne Teacher’s Seminary in Cleveland and holds a degree in Judaic Studies from SUNY at Buffalo. Currently, Yehudis is a contributor to Breslov.org and “Pathways”, the Breslov Research Institute’s weekly publication. Since 2006, she’s been taking women’s groups to Uman and other sites in Ukraine for prayer and study. Yehudis lives with her family in Jerusalem.

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7 Comments

  1. Toda l’Hashem Yitbarah and Rebbe Nachman and you Yehudis. That’s just what I needed to hear. All these negative feelings that don’t make so much sense to me are really because I’m getting closer to kedusha. With a deep breath, that this post drew out, and a smile maybe I’ll climb out sooner than later. I’ve been dancing as my devar shtouta and it really works, but I fall again and it’s hard not to feel like if I don’t get to the root of it, what’s the point. The sun will shine and then B”H I can dance from a place of joy l’hatchila with new moves to show for all the time I’ve been putting in until then.

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    • Dear Malka,
      That lesson in LM II:48 is just such a life-saver, it’s too bad that I didn’t translate out the whole thing. But I know that you know it, and have been through it before. Rebbe Nachman mentions dancing specifically as milsa d’shtusa there, in the little bit that I left out.
      Sometimes the point of having to wait out the setbacks is because it’s kapparas avonos–it’s a particular brand of suffering that no one wants to have to go through. Sometimes the waiting is its own purpose for a while. We are so very blind when it comes to understanding ourselves, because we rarely really look back five or ten years and take a long hard stare at the ways in which we have improved. But, really, there is progress. It’s just incremental, and the baal davar also isn’t interested in our noticing what really has changed.
      The sunshine is certainly on the way…
      Love,
      Yehudis

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  2. Thank you yehudis for this posting. Definitely sometimes feels like hanging laundry in the rain and that it has been raining for a long time. The reminder that the sun will come out is something so vital to hold on to. Thank you again and again.

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    • Dear Chaikie,
      Keep on keeping on! I imagine that Hashem derives a great deal of nachas, so to speak, from overseeing us stick with whatever we have to do despite the obstacles and disappointments that we face. There’s something amazingly endearing about that kind of tenacity. May we always have the strength to hang in there.
      Love,
      Yehudis

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  3. Very glad I read this today. It is a potent analogy for what I am going through. My job is to do what I can do today. My eternity is made up of the little moments of Divine connection that are drawn into the harsh realities that I face. Eventually the sun will shine and I will be glad that I took the time and made the effort to put the laundry where it needs to be.

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    • Dear Shalvi,
      I’ve been thinking about you a lot and would like to speak to you soon. Hashem should always help us to find the chizuk when we need it.
      Love,
      Yehudis

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  4. Thanks for the post Yehudis!
    I’ve been waiting for the weather to get a little drier in order to do my laundry, but this morning decided to throw it in and leave the results to Gd. It’s still raining but at least I’m in the game!
    Much love

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