In November of 2005, my husband made a month-long pilot trip to Eretz Yisrael to scout out the best place for us to live and work. He called me fairly often to check up on me, and I told him, "Don't worry, Hashem is taking care of me." He would often marvel at some of the things that I told him on the phone.
Before I go into detail, I'll relate a little background information…
In the morning when I say my prayers, I dearly love the part in Sh'moneh Esrei [the daily "Amidah" prayer], called "Shema koleinu" ["Hear our voice"], where you can insert your own personal prayers. My rabbi had said that this part is a really wonderful opportunity to get close to Hashem, and most people skip over it and don't pay much attention to it. Well, believe me, I take advantage of this gift! Often, I'll ramble on for 15 to 20 minutes, but it is truly a special time that I enjoy. I just hope Hashem feels the same way!
A fact that I don't normally share much with people, is that 8 years earlier I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Why talk about bad things?) At first the way I was going I could have been bed-bound, but, baruch Hashem [bless G-d], it was caught early and I was put on medication with no joint damage. I'm thankful that, although I may be limited, I can at least get around. Though I had been fine for so long, I had been gradually been getting more stiff and sore in the mornings, until I got nearly as bad as when it first started.
The first time I attended my first Rebbitzen Heller shiur [Torah class], she said that certain people are born to give, and others are born to receive. I guess I graciously had to accept that now I must be on the receiving end and just be grateful to Hashem that He gave me a reprieve of about 7 years. The situation gives light to the story I am about to relate.
When my husband left on the pilot trip, many people asked me, "Won't you be lonely?" I answered, "Yes, I'll miss him, but it will give me a chance to write". He was to contact a publishing company while he was there to see if they had any interest in a book that I had been working on for about a year.
The subject matter was Torah-based and kiruv-oriented, so I gave it my entire attention, and write I did. I was really into this project, which I felt belonged more to Hashem than to me. It was through a series of "accidental events" which led me to start the book in the first place. I don't believe that anything happens just by chance! I felt very honored and privileged that I could actually (potentially) help others in this way, especially being so physically limited. It made me happy to think that I could be a tool with which Hashem could work. I literally, "ate drank and slept" the project. I got the sense of what the siddurim [prayer books] were talking about for the "Modeh Ani" prayer when you first wake up in the morning... "A Jew should wake up with a lion-like resolve to do Hashem's mitzvot [good deeds/commandments], and thank Him for restoring their soul." I couldn't wait to get up and start working on the project!
In the same sense, I found myself working late into the night, (which is not unusual for me), but the strange fact is that I normally need 9½ hours of sleep to feel fully functional. I was getting maybe 4 to 6 hours nearly every night, and still felt good and enthusiastic! I can now see and relate to how the Vilna Gaon could get only 2 hours of sleep a night, but study 22 hours a day. It's called the power of Torah!
I would marvel at the countless little "coincidences" that kept happening while my husband was gone. From many physical events to spiritual occurrances, Hashem took care of me in everything. I'll relate a few incidents:
I was going to write someone a letter about a certain issue, and just when I finished it and was about to save it, the computer locked up and wouldn't work at all. It wouldn't even respond to the last resort— the "Control + Alt + Delete" command. I ended up turning the power off and losing the whole letter. This gave me time to pause and think, and I said, "Hashem, should I really not be doing this?" I came to the conclusion that it was definitely the wrong thing to do, and realized my error. I decided not to relay the information as it could have potentially hurt the person in the end. After that, the computer worked fine with no problem whatsoever. I thanked Hashem for saving me from potential Lashon Hara [evil speech]!
I would attend many different classes with various rabbis, each on a different subject, none of which had anything to do with what I was writing about. None of the teachers even knew I was writing a book, much less what the subject was. However, out of the blue, there were countless times when the exact subject I was writing about would mysteriously come up in these classes. These particular topics had absolutely no relation to the classes themselves, but inevitably would always help clarify any questions I had or gave me a deeper understanding of an issue at hand.
Be it for prayers or research, with many various incidents, I would find myself opening very lengthy books to the exact page I was looking for. This would occur over and over again.
The trees dropped their leaves very quickly that year. My husband had wanted to rake before he left for Israel, but due to time constraints he just couldn't get it done. Other people's yards were raked into neat piles at the street. Meanwhile, my arthritis had started getting much worse. I was finding it much harder to do things, and the doctor increased my medicine, but with no results. A few days after my husband had left I looked out the nearby window, astounded at the amount of leaves accumulating in our yard. It was completely covered with leaves and you could barely see the grass! It was during Sh'moneh Esrei, and yes—it was my favorite part. I looked at the sky and said, "Hashem, should I go rake the leaves myself? They're really getting so bad. I know my husband told me not to worry about them, but look— they're all over the place! I'm so stiff and sore, what should I do?"
Not even 2 minutes later, the wind started blowing like crazy. I watched in amazement as almost every single leaf blew out of our yard and up the street, and fortunately enough, not to any other yards! For a split second, I thought, "Wow, it's really windy", until I looked closer and saw that all the neighboring yards still had their original unmoved leaves still in their piles. Every other yard looked exactly the same as before the wind. It's as though our leaves had disappeared into thin air. I said, "Thank you Hashem for taking care of me!" and proceeded rather awestricken, with the rest of my prayers. (An interesting note, our yard remained nearly leaf-free, even throughout a rather windy winter!)
To further enhance this miraculous event, after the "big wind", I went outside to start the backbreaking task of picking up the many sticks that fell. I usually dread this, since our beautiful beech trees in front are so big, there can be an abundance of twigs and branches to tediously pick up one by one after a storm. As I went out to collect them, I noticed they weren't strewn throughout the yard individually and haphazardly as usual. This time, they were actually in neat little piles throughout the yard! All I had to do was gather the little bunches or pick up a bigger pile and take it to the street. Not only did it save time, but my back wasn't strained either. Hashem had such mercy on me! It was literally as though He had placed them there in the organized piles.
It was amazing how Hashem took care of me that month, in one way or another. I truly felt His Presence the whole time my husband was gone. It makes me glad that throughout the day I go around talking to Hashem (although it would appear to be to myself). It is kind of my way of acknowledging that He is there with me at all times. While I was left "alone", it was as though in His own way, Hashem was reciprocating. It certainly left me feeling safe and secure.
The main thing I feel I have to add is this: Don't think that I am anyone special, because I'm not.
If you simply turn your attention to Hashem, and see all the gifts that He gives you and the things He does for you throughout the day, you'll be amazed at what you see if you're actually paying attention. Just like the title of a book by Rabbi Yissachar Frand that I studied with a former chavruta [study partner], you have to "Listen to Your Messages". It can be the same for anyone. If you acknowledge that everything is from Hashem, be it good or bad, and have the mindset that He is with you always, you will notice that He is with you always. With this train of thought it makes it a whole lot easier to work on your midot [character traits].
So, if you find that you are all by yourself, or you are ever in danger, just remember this simple fact—
By Chasya Katriela, Jewlight Co-Founder
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