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General Interest Reading

Yahrzeit - Things I learned in a Year

by Eliezer Alperstein, CPA

Close to a year ago I wrote an article entitled "When You Have No Choice" which discussed the passing away of my former wife and the challenges that created for me and for my children.

A year's time Yahrzeit has now passed since her death and I wanted to share with you some insights I have gained during these last twelve months.

Acquaintances and Friends

Until this year I didn't realize that I had very many acquaintances but very few friends. The number of people who really went out of their way during this last year to be of assistance to me and the children could be counted on one hand. Immediately after my former wife died, our neighbors prepared meals, and assisted us when the initial shock was still felt, but afterwards, they went on with their lives and were hardly seen again. My own family, living more than six thousand miles away in the United States, were as helpful as they could be, but the distance between Israel and the U.S. made it impossible for them to render the kinds of daily help and support I would have received otherwise.

As depressing as the above may sound, the silver lining to this dark cloud was that there were a few people who really went the extra mile and showed genuine concern and who tried to be of help to me and the kids, primarily by inviting us over during the Sabbath for meals and conversation. During the week the kids and I were busy with work, the army or school, but on the Sabbath the hours could hang very heavy and getting out of the house with friends was a real act of kindness on their part. It also relieved me of having to worry about shopping and preparing meals which, as a single parent, took up a good bit of time.

Lessons learned:

These experiences with acquaintances/friends led me to the following conclusions:

(1) Don't waste your time on people who don't really care about you;
(2) Don't worry about what acquaintances think about you;
(3) Don't try to please just do what is right.

I will explain these conclusions below.

Don't waste your time:

You have been given only so many heartbeats in this life. There is only so much good you can do simply because time is finite. That being the case, there are only so many people you can help and only so many causes you can support. Your first obligation is to help yourself. If you're stuck in the mud, you're not going to be able to help anyone around you.

After you've taken care of yourself, be available for those who during the bad times didn't forget you. This allows you to very quickly prioritize those to whom you can give of your time and those who don't deserve your time and attention. As Machiavellian as that might sound, it is, nonetheless, the harsh reality. Charity begins at home. Your true friends deserve your help when it is needed. They were there for you; you should be there for them. (Nonetheless, there is an obligation to help those who are simply unable to care for themselves widows, orphans, the mentally ill, abused and neglected children, single parents who must stay home with their children and who can't work outside of the home, etc. These people may never be able to help you, but they can't be ignored. As God states in the Bible, widows and orphans belong to Him and the poor will never cease from off the land. The Creator expects us to lend assistance and support to those who simply can't fend for themselves.)

Don't worry about what others think:

As much as we want to be liked and admired, why should we care what other people think of us? If someone can't render assistance to you or even give you a little moral support in the wake of a crisis you should consciously remove them from off your radar screen. People such as these are not worth your consideration. They are lead boots stuck to your feet. Cut them loose and keep focused on what you need to do for yourself.

Don't try to please:

People spend a lot of time trying to please others by being "nice". Don't do that. It's a waste of time. Shrewd manipulators will hone in on your desire to please and play you like a violin, using your need to please as a way to guilt trip you into doing things very beneficial to them but very detrimental to yourself. Please your close friends, because they try to please you. If you have a true friendship, you and your friends won't be manipulating each other, you'll be trying to make each other happy. But why try to make someone happy who cares little about your happiness? Don't be mean or unpleasant to you acquaintances, but don't try to please them either. Save the time and effort needed to please to those who deserve such attention and consideration.

Do the right thing:

Lastly, do the right thing which will remove you from the "need to please" time sink. If you do the right thing, it may not please others, but it will set boundaries which neither you nor others will cross and will give you a clear way in which to relate to the world. You may refuse to drive an acquaintance to the shopping mall five miles away in order for him to get that 5% discount on that fish tank he wants to buy, but if he's sick and needs to get to a hospital you'll take him or call an ambulance and make sure he gets the medical treatment he needs. Pleasing others generally means wasting your heartbeats on matters of no concern to you. Don't do it.


There is good and bad news in all of this. The bad news is that we may find ourselves pretty much on our own when disaster strikes. The good news is that God created us with the inner resources to overcome the most trying of times if we have the guts to fight through adversity.

The philosophy of Dr. Hill is one of self-reliance and self-improvement. Hill's disciples don't look for government bailouts, their next welfare check, or for other people to carry them when their world falls apart. Of course we all need help and support when tragedy strikes, but the last year taught me that in the end, it's up to you alone to rise to the challenges of life or to sink beneath them. Your acquaintances won't help you, your friends can only do so much. The ball of life is solely in your court. Keep focused on your goals, do the right thing, and don't waste your time trying to please or live up the expectations of others who, when the chips are down, will do nothing for you.

About the Author:

Elie emigrated to Israel from the United States in 1990 and established his own accounting firm soon after. Elie can be reached at

See Also:

Golden Rules Learned in Life from Napoleon Hill
In keeping with the tradition of taking inventory of what lessons have been learned during the past year, I would like to offer my year end thoughts.

What Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-one Has Taught Me
by Napoleon Hill. I approach my work for the coming year with renewed faith in the philosophy of the foregoing seven paragraphs, and, with positive evidence that I will get out of life exactly in proportion to what I put into it.

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