I’m past the point in my life when I thought that events were coincidental or happenstance. There’s no such thing. Everything is choreographed down to the minutest detail of life, and I recognize that now more than ever.
I don’t sleep like I used to and I’ve realized the reasons why that is. It’s the loneliness, even though I’m never really alone. It’s the emptiness, even though I feel fulfilled and loved in various aspects of my life.
But life is complicated and beautiful in that way. An orchestra of opposites and feelings that shouldn’t go hand in hand happens daily, and I’m past resisting it. I let it wash over me and I accept the juxtaposition of fleeting, dueling emotions as they come.
Last night, I went to bed later than usual and figured I’d have time to make it up in the morning. Generally, once I decide to go to sleep, it takes a while to actually get to sleep and I like trying organically, without sleep aids. So I probably fell asleep at around 1:30, and for some reason, my eyes opened at 5:30, which in my world, is more like a cat nap.
Then I did the one thing you should never do if you want any chance of getting back to sleep: I grabbed my phone. I started scrolling through messages and then noticed one from Riki and responded to it.
Almost immediately I got a response: “Why are you awake at this hour?”
It was followed by, “I’m going to the Ohel in a few minutes. Come with me.”
The Ohel, for the uninitiated, is the Hebrew word for tent, and it refers to the gravesite of the holy Lubavitcher Rebbe. It’s considered an auspicious place to pray.
I can’t even remember the last time I went to the Ohel. I’ve been asked to accompany friends before but always thought of a good enough excuse not to go. At 5 a.m., there really aren’t any excuses. The kids were sleeping and it was the perfect opportunity. Let’s be real. The time had come and I knew going there would feel good. Unloading like that and getting whatever thoughts and worries that are trapped in your mind and heart out in the open feels so freeing.
To tell you the truth, though, praying has always been a struggle for me. I don’t understand the Hebrew words in the Siddur and it feels unnatural saying things that I don’t connect to.
At the Ohel, there are benches with paper and pens. You write down the names of your loved ones for whatever your wants and needs are — shidduchim, refuah, etc. — however and whatever you’re feeling at that given moment can be written out and mulled over as you close your eyes and pray in whatever way works for you.
So I got to work writing my feelings out and walking over to the kever of the Rebbe. I closed my eyes and asked him to be a shaliach and maybe put in a good word for me.
I apologized for being selfish and not thanking G-d when times were abundant with mazal and blessings in my life. When I thought that maybe things were running smoothly without getting Him involved (ha!) in the daily goings-on of my life and just hoping for that continual but predictable rhythm to remain in place.
I apologized for reaching out now that times were harder and I needed Him more than ever. But that’s the thing with desperation — when you know that there’s nowhere else to turn, you turn to G-d. He doesn’t get offended by a “use.”
I feel bad about asking for anything because what right do I have after not being thankful during the good times? G-d is forgiving and understands that we’re limited and flawed.
So I continued down my list of requests and let myself cry. Crying has never come easier for me than it does at this point in my life. I’m pretty sure I could win a movie award with the record-breaking time it takes for me to be reduced to uncontrollable tears.
They’re always right beneath the surface of my generally happy state. Which goes back to the fascinating layers of emotions that any one person can experience consecutively and sometimes simultaneously.
So I sobbed and prayed organically, having a heart-to-heart with G-d, in the Rebbe’s company, and laid it all out. I heard somewhere that tears have an immediate pathway to the heavens and I certainly hope that’s true. I now truly know that the only One who could help me in this time of need or in any time in my life is G-d.
How many hundreds of times over the course of my religious upbringing and education have I heard the words “emunah” and “bitachon,” belief and faith? How many verses, prayers, and sermons have I glossed over intellectually, without really internalizing it, feeling that surrender from within? How could I have ever known that ultimately that’s the only way to achieve serenity, the only truth? I never wanted to learn this way, but I can’t un-know it now. I see clearly that for me, it’s not only the path to healing, but the path to everything.
I want to actively, consciously realize this more, not only in a sacred place of prayer, but in the greater sanctity of a million daily moments. I want to stop trying to micromanage every area of my life. I know it will have a profoundly calming effect on my soul, my relationships, and many different areas of life, as I learn, little by little, to let go and let G-d.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.