Shayna Goldberg

No regrets

Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash

This morning in my pilates class, I was sitting on my mat doing floor stretches when the song “לחיות” –“To Live” – by Israeli singers and composers Rami Kleinstein and Keren Peles, came up on the playlist.

“To live without regrets.
Or at least to try to be happy
As much as possible.
And to live the time that is left,
Before the gate closes.”

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes.

The song is about living life to its fullest and taking advantage of opportunities. Some lines detail small pleasures while others describe more meaningful moments and experiences that bring us joy.

The idea is simple and beautiful. But that’s not what made me cry.

What made me cry was the word “regret” and the way I’ve heard it discussed in recent months.

Many people assume that it is impossible to avoid experiencing regret in life. We can’t always control what happens to us, and we are bound to feel regret when things don’t work out in the ways we hoped and planned. But it’s just not so.

When discussing decision-making, I have consistently found that regrets are not a result of experiencing hardship. When events don’t play out the way we imagined, or unfold how we anticipated, there are certainly a lot of difficult emotions. Sadness, yes. Frustration, of course. Disappointment, inevitably.

But not necessarily regret.

Regret surfaces when we are not happy with the decisions that we have made. When we feel that we didn’t pursue our gut instincts, when we are aware that we held back from following our hearts and when we let fears get in the way of what we knew deep down we really wanted.

Since October 7th, I have heard many interviews with devastated parents of fallen soldiers. When the parents are immigrants who chose to make aliya, they are often asked about regrets.

People want to know if, given what they know now – the enormous loss they have experienced and the tremendous price they have paid – would they have made alternative life choices? Consistently the answer has been the same:

“We have no regrets.”

Eitan and Varda Morell, parents of Staff Sgt. Maoz, who was killed in Gaza, elaborated on this point during a recent conversation with my brother-in-law, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, on his podcast Behind the Bima:

“We would not have done anything differently, either one of us…The fact that half (3 out of 6) of our children were fighting in this war was not something that I had ever imagined, but it wasn’t something that either of us would ever want to change. Our son was killed as a hero for all of Am Yisrael, fighting the war and making sure the rest of us, Jews all over the world and in Israel, could live as Jews. I don’t think that is something that we regret, even though obviously it is a personal tragedy…We feel it is a tremendous zechut (privilege) to have children who served in the army.”

Life in Israel has been intense these days. So much sadness and mourning. So much fear of what lies ahead. So much frustration and disappointment. And despite it all…

“We would not have done anything differently.”

Life has never been more meaningful. We have never felt prouder to be Israeli. We have never experienced such a deep connection to our people. We have never felt so privileged to be part of this incredible country. We have never felt so lucky to be at the center of our nation’s unfolding story.

We have absolutely no regrets that we are here.

There are regrets when you doubt your decision, but not when you and your children feel, with every fiber of your being, that it was the best one you ever made.

This Saturday night, we will celebrate Purim. Jews all over the world will read the verses where Mordechai implores Esther to go to the King and plead with him on behalf of the lives of her people (Esther 4:8). Esther is scared. She has not been summoned to the king for thirty days. Perhaps he will not want to see her and will put her to death.

But Mordechai tells her not to let her fears get in the way of what she can do and the difference she can make:

“Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis” (Esther 4:13-14)

Esther boldly embraces this mission and declares, “And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

In essence, she states:

“I made my decision. And come what may, I will have no regrets.”

Living without regrets in Israel doesn’t mean life is easy.
It doesn’t even mean we are guaranteed to live.

But with it all, our lives are rich and meaningful.
We are “trying to be happy as much as possible.”
We are living “the time we have left,”
With our people, in our Land.
Exactly where we want to be.
Praying that this will be the month which will turn “from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to festival.”

We have no regrets.

And for now, that is enough.
To keep us feeling blessed.
To live our fullest lives.

Purim Sameach.

About the Author
Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: and the author of the book: "What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life's Crossroads and in Everyday Living" (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliya in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut, Israel, with her husband, Judah, and their five children.