Thursday, August 2, 2012

With the early loss of a potential pregnancy coming as it did so closely to Tisha B'Av, I found myself once again feeling real grief on our historical day of mourning this year.  On doctor's and Rabbi's orders I was not fasting- well, at least I was not supposed to be.  I didn't eat or drink because the thought of doing anything normal was to painful to contemplate.  So I fasted.  And I thought.

It has been a long while since I lost my precious little girl, and in that time, somewhere between losing my mind, and starting to find it again, I had a lot of time to think.  To think, and to wonder about all of the "truths" I had been taught in my life.

When I was a child truth was telling my mother I broke her mirror.  When I was older sometimes truth was telling my mother I broke the mirror even when I didn't.  When I was a child truth was that sooner or later everything worked out to be "fair".  As an adult, I learned that is rarely the case.  As a child I learned that God sees and knows and keeps accounts of everything.  As an adult, I find myself wondering just how true that is.

Where is God?

I remember when I came to Israel for the first time (that I remember.  Being here when I was 10 months old does not count for this case) the first thing I wanted to do after we dropped our overstuffed bags was go to the kotel.  I had spent so many years learning about God, studying God, trying to decipher what he wanted from me.  We got on a bus, bought a cartisia, and headed in totally the wrong direction.  Eventually we made it to the old city and I was enamored by the history all around me.  The walls echoed with generations of my ancestors calling to me.  The streets were worn smooth with a millennium's worth of footprints from every corner of the Earth.  Surely this was the place where I would find the answers for which I had been searching for so long.

I walked the long narrow alleys of the shuk, and turned right into the remains of the Roman Cardo.  Incredible!  I was actually standing where people who had been coming to the Beit HaMikdash itself would have stood with their fruits or their animals.  I could feel excitement rising within me like a crescendo in a grand score.  The Jewish quarter with it's restaurants and shops narrowing in as we approached the massive main steps to the kotel.  I went down the steps, through security, and all of a sudden it was there in front of me.  I looked at it.  I looked it up, and I looked it down.  It was a wall.  A very old wall, but all the same, just a wall.

Where was my God?

We spent that shabbat with one of my husband's rabeim from his yeshiva years.  He asked me what I thought of my first trip to the kotel.  He smiled when I didn't answer, and he said to me "God was not there when you looked for him was he?"  He continued "he hides a lot, but don't worry, if you look for him he is easier to find then Waldo".

I held that comment with me for a very long time.  God hides.  Why would he create a world full of such intense good, and hide so that such evil can take control?  Where is the the God of mercy, of rachamim?  The God who remembers the good for thousands of generations?  How many of his creations have cried out over thousands of years "God, where are you?  Why have you deserted me now?  Why have you left us to die?  To grieve?  Why have you taken from me the one thing I want most in the world?"

It is only recently that I have started to consider the second part of the Rabbi's comment.  That "if you look for him he is easier to find than Waldo."  Believe me, I have seen lots of places where god isn't.  In an operating room with a dead baby.  At a funeral of a father taken far to fast and too soon.  In an old forest burned black, or in pieces of a bus mixed with the remains of those who were riding it.

But I am starting to wonder if I am looking in the wrong places.  Or rather, looking in the right places but not seeing.  In the operating room there was my husband looking at me with such sorrow in his eyes, yet such love for the little girl he held even though she never knew it.  There was so much love for someone who never opened her eyes.  That had to come from somewhere.  The kindness that came out of the woodwork when I thought my life would end had to come from somewhere.  The gaurdian angel who showed up when I really really needed someone had to be sent by someone.

When I looked around at the funeral and shiva for my father and saw just about everyone I knew who came out to pay their respects to a man who had a kind word for strangers, food for beggars, and truly greeted every one with a friendly face.  A man gone to soon but who forever changed the lives of even casual acquaintances with a love of life that was contagious.  A man who knew how to use a temper very effectively to make sure his children grew up to be people I like to hope he would be proud of.  And you knew God was there, in the heart of every man and woman in that room, remembering a man who believed in his traditions and his faith.

The old forest that burned made way for new trees.  There are angels in yellow vests who care so much about every person on that bus they crawl on their hands and knees to make sure they are returned to their families.  In every evil, someone good is doing their thing.  Quietly.  Discretely.  Making room for God.

On that same trip to Israel we spent a different shabbat with a different rebbe- a musician.  We were sitting at the shabbat table late at night, there was literally no sound.  "Do you hear that?"  he asked?  My husband and I looked at each other like he was insane.  "Do you hear that" he said again, this time more emphatically, "It is the sound of Hashem.  You hear him in the stillness of the night.  You need to listen very carefully, but if you listen you can hear him singing".

I have never been particularly good at the "Where's Waldo?" books.  But music is in my blood.  I could have sworn that night, at that table, that I heard the music.  Maybe it is not that God is hiding.  Maybe it is that we are so caught up in our trials and tribulations that we have not left room for God to show himself.  Maybe he is right in front of us and we just need to take a step back and make room for him to fill the space.

Maybe this is all just the random passing garbage from a woman trying to deal with grief as best as she can.  A woman who needs to believe that God has not abandoned this world and left it to fend for itself against all evils.

But maybe if I am up really late one night, and the apartment is really quiet, maybe I will try listening for a few minutes just to see if I hear anything.


  1. Rachel - I am always inspired by your musings. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Besorot to it.

    My father in law was sick for two Yeats with cancer he was never going to recover from. It was horrible and painful and I would not wish a death like that on my worst enemy.
    There are a whole lot of awesome things that have happened because of his death. Marc, not religious decided to say Kaddish. We all got connected o our Shul, got rooted, made new friends ( I would not have know you or a and l if he had not died. No, it doesn't make his suffering and horrible death better, but I do know that good things have happened because of it.

    I could never have foreseen the good things while we were watching the agony of his death or the aftermath. I could never have foreseen that I would make friends for life. I could never have foreseen that I would become more observant or that my career would be so affected ( in a good way) by that observance.

    I am not comparing the two situations but I am saying that you don't have to like what happens and that if you look, you can see opportunities that arise because of it. I don't know what they are in this situation but I do know they are there, and will be revealed when you are ready to see them.

  3. My screen froze so I just wanted to add that this situation taught me that I don't have to like gods will to accept it and to recognize that good can come out of bad. To me it's not like god controls every detail but god is in the details so to speak. Wicked headache. Gotta go to sleep but hugs and talk to you soon!

  4. Oh Rachel... This post made me cry. *hug* I will try to remember to look for God, especially when I believe Him to be missing.

  5. I cried as I read this post, I think it is the most profound, expressive, well-written article, it emanates
    from deep within your heart, straight into the reader's heart. I've been looking for G-d lately too, having had more than a fair share of losses, crises and hardships lately.
    This post spoke to me. I think you should look into publishing it. If you don't mind, can I pass it on to others who I feel would benefit from it?
    I hope you find healing and joy in the upcoming New Year.

    1. Of course you may. Anything here is sharable so long as my name stays attached. I am so sorry for your pain

    2. You are incredible that you can feel someone else's pain, when you going through so much yourself. May G-d heal us all and ease our pain.
      Thanks for allowing me to share this phenomenal writing!

  6. This really spoke to me. I don't have a comment. I will have to think about whether I have anything worth saying. But I want you to know that I loved reading it. So, thank you.

  7. From Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi...
    When her baby was born with a congenital defect, it seemed the whole world said tehillim and begged Hashem to find a cure. A cure was not what Hashem had in store for her little boy and he died young. Throngs of people came to visit the shiva house, and so many asked 'what happened to my tefilos? Why didn't he live, why wasn't he cured?' So may questions, to which she replied, 'Your tefilos weren't in vain, they helped me and my family endure the trial of a sick child, they gave us strength when we had none and it is this reason that klal Yisrael davens.' Her emunah and bitachon are strong and contagious, but her physical strength was propelled with the world's tefillos.
    This from me: Hashem is everywhere, He hasn't left us, it is us that are so far away from him. In this last generation before Mashiach, we are weaker, but still standing.
    The hospital room where Rachel gave birth, and her tiny family struggled with the loss of a baby was a makom kadosh, and I'm sure Hashem's presence and the breaths of Mashiach were there. This baby knew the entire Torah, she didn't get a chance to forget it, and Rachel and her husband had the zechus to carry this holy neshama to us. No, we wouldn't wish it on anyone, the sorrow and loss is too immense for us earthlings to fathom, yet Hashem wrapped this sweet little package with din, and also with so much rachamim at the same time, she was spared the anguish of being ill and her parents were spared of that journey in this ephemeral world.
    Take comfort in Mama Rachel's cries, she taught us that it's necessary to cry out in pain. But her sister Leah taught us about patience...waiting and hoping. Together, they helped form our Mothers and they share their legacy with you.
    Rachel, I'm sending you lots of strength and courage to keep looking for Hashem. He loves us all and gives us challenges to make us better people. With the tools of emunah and bitachon you will be able to come to peace with your challenges and rise to the highest highs. And I'm sending you love. xxx

  8. I have just learned of the untimely passing of Rachel, I had no idea when I wrote the above blurb. How much more prescient the words of Torah are in light of her petira. She has now been reunited with her baby and finally found Hashem in all His Glory.
    May her husband and son be comforted by all the mourners of Zion and Yerushalyim.