There are people in this world that are blessed to go through transformative life experiences.
Just like I had such an opportunity during my unexpected trip to the hospital a couple of weeks ago.
While in the I.C.U., one of my visitors, Rabbi Serebrowski, said something that struck me more than anyone else’s words of comfort or prayer.
“Speak to Hashem” (one of the many names of G-d in the Jewish tradition), he said to me.
I must have given him a quizzical look, because he repeated it once again.
“Really. Just speak to Him. Like you’re having a conversation. Tell Him your fears. Tell Him how you feel. Ask of Him. But, above all, just speak to Him.”
Talk to G-d?
In the I.C.U. hospital room?
Was he kidding?
What should I say?
How should I say what I want to say?
Do I speak out loud or just from the heart?
For how long should I speak?
I’m alone here in this hospital room with all these questions!
Now, before I go on, I must take an aside to tell you two things: 1) I am Jewish and 2) I received a Jewish education growing up:
I went to afternoon Hebrew school 3 days a week.
I went (out of my own desire/my parents would drop me off each week) to the children’s Shabbat services.
As a family, we lit Shabbat candles, sang the Kiddush, and had a festive meal each Friday night followed by attending services at our synagogue.
I had a Bat Mitzvah.
I was quite involved in our chapter and regional youth group.
I attended a Jewish overnight camp (which heavily emphasized Jewish prayer and study).
I traveled to Israel for the first time at the age of 16.
I continued to study in an informal Jewish educational setting through the end of high school.
I minored in Judaic studies in college.
I learned to read, write, and speak modern Hebrew.
I returned to Israel at the age of 18 to volunteer on an army base for 3 weeks.
I was a counselor for Jewish and Israel programming for high school youth both in America and Israel.
I prepared youth for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
I volunteered on a monthly basis leading Shabbat services to the aged at the local Jewish living center.
I taught in the Hebrew school where I grew up.
I married an Israeli.
I moved to Israel with my husband and children.
I headed the synagogue committee on our kibbutz for one year.
Need I go on?
This is just to say that the path I chose in life is not necessarily the most typical route that a Jewish child growing up in a non-Orthodox home would choose, and to say that I have a decent amount of knowledge of the Jewish heritage and tradition.
I spoke to G-d.
Among other things, I told G-d that I was afraid.
I told G-d that I didn’t want to die.
I reminded G-d that I have 4 children that I love and that I want to return to being their mother.
I asked G-d for more time on this earth.
And, when I did (thank G-d!) make it to the other side, was in tremendous pain and had too much time on my hands to just sit and rest, I became deep in thought and fascinated with how someone with so many years of Jewish education, could have been stumped by the concept of speaking to G-d.
I thought about how, in the presence of deeply observant Jewish people, I often hear the words “Baruch Hashem” (Blessed is G-d) uttered on their lips so many times during any random conversation:
It’s a sunny morning. Baruch Hashem!
It’s raining out. Baruch Hashem!
No matter what the weather was, how one was feeling on any day, what one’s financial situation was – Baruch Hashem!
Because it’s truly all in G-d’s hands and everything happens exactly the way it’s meant to happen.
At least that’s the collective belief of Orthodox Jews.
And while sitting in the hospital, it dawned on me that I don’t have that frame of reference.
And while my Jewish education emphasized Hebrew, and learning how to read Hebrew prayers, and other very practical matters in Jewish living, I never truly received (or at least I never internalized) two basic and utterly important concepts for Jewish daily living:
1) The awareness of G-d in every moment, and
2) Acknowledgement of that awareness.
And while I’m not regretful nor do I have any judgments on the education I received, this recent transformative life experience has encouraged me to consider how I act now as an adult and how my husband and I are raising our four children.
That is, yes, we observe the Sabbath and the dietary laws (Kashrut) in our home; yes, we have mezuzot on all the doors of our home; yes, we live in Israel; yes, we speak Hebrew; yes, our children attend an Orthodox school – BUT
am I aware of G-d in our home on a moment to moment basis?
And, do I acknowledge His presence regularly?
And, the answer is probably and unfortunately “no” to both.
And, so, I’m stuck pondering all of this as I say my goodbyes to my family and friends who have deeply nurtured me during my recovery and I plan my trip back home to Israel.
And while I could go through the acronym of “S.T.U.C.K.” and see if I could “choose” another perspective so that I’m not stuck on God (because the intention of this blog is to be aware of what and for how long we are stuck on emotional attachments), I am reminded of many prayers in the Jewish prayer book (siddur) in which the words attach/cling/stick are actually used to describe our desirable relationship to G-d.
That is, we are supposed to be stuck on G-d and we are supposed to attach our hearts on fulfilling His commandments.
Good thing I’ve got a 12 hour flight ahead of me.
And lots more recovery time at home to continue pondering all of this.
And a wonderfully, open-minded husband who I bet can’t wait to talk about all of this with me.