Recently a friend texted me, asking my advice. He told me he misses my columns, and what do you know? I miss writing them. A lot. My life in the past half-year has changed in several ways, and for those of my readers who’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’m here to tell my tale.
One life-change over the summer was befriending someone very special and spiritual. We started our friendship (mentorship) by having lunch together and I began saying more berachot as she said hers. Spirituality and closeness to Hashem came up in many conversations and I always tried to do more after we’d meet. Sometimes, we’d go for walks. My friend, Hannah (name changed to protect her privacy), would introduce me to “new” berachot and slowly I’d try to incorporate them into my daily life. She had way more confidence in me than I ever had in myself.
I would text or call her after I felt doubtful about my prayers and with no hesitation, she would tell me how proud of me she was, and that I should be proud of myself because I put in the hishtadlut (effort). She gave me the strength to feel proud of myself for trying and taught me (work in progress) not to put myself down.
Hannah introduced me to “Living Emunah” by David Ashear — to both the sefer itself and the ideas in the sefer. She taught me that I can talk to Hashem about anything and everything. I can ask for things, thank Hashem for things, cry to Hashem, beg Hashem, and have a real spiritual, close relationship to Hashem.
I didn’t feel this closeness last year, so Hannah said that last year Hashem decided that I’d get closer to Him the days and weeks before Rosh Hashanah of this year. This made total sense to me because that was how it happened.
This changed my life, although it’s a continuing effort. I was walking with Hannah one day, and all of the sudden I stopped. I was struck by the beautiful overhanging trees. I couldn’t get over the fact that Hashem had created these stunning trees. I knew inherently that Hashem could create anything, but focusing and connecting to Hashem by one specific creation made me feel an intrinsic closeness to Hashem. And if you take the time to look closely at the trees, you can see the leaves, the color, the structure, etc. Only Hashem could make something so unbelievable. It was my first true closeness to Hashem, where I truly felt Hashem’s presence in my life.
It’s hard to see how everything in the world comes directly from Hashem, but the more you try to talk to Hashem and feel close to Hashem and notice His creations, you’ll be able to feel Hashem’s presence more directly and frequently.
I learned that Hashem can help with anything, so now when I have an issue or I’m anxious about something, I consult my family and perhaps a friend, but I often turn to ask Hashem as well. I read in the sefer that sometimes you don’t have things because you haven’t asked for them. So don’t ever think it’s too late to pray to Hashem for something. Hashem can answer your prayers in a minute. It’s never too late. Hashem can change things in a nanosecond. The parables in Living Emunah make me feel so close to Hashem that I am addicted to the sefer. I’ve been told to read only one chapter a day, but that is impossible for me. The nissim (miracles) Hashem does make me want to read more, to see what other unbelievable things Hashem has done and can do.
I need to share with you something I read in Living Emunah. “Instead of telling Hashem how big your problems are, tell your problems how big Hashem is.” Hashem has the ability do to anything, and the closer you are to Hashem, the more you can talk to Hashem and really open your heart. Crying is now something I do intensely and often, and sometimes even happily, knowing Hashem is listening to me and is protecting me.
When I’m anxious or unsure of something, I need to turn to Hashem and ask for help. Only Hashem can let me be at true peace.
Recently, I found precious jewelry that I lost three years ago. I was about to throw out my shopping bags, given that I have over 50 Gourmet Glatt bags. Someone who helps me clean my apartment was throwing out many of my bags as there is no room for so many bags in my apartment. This woman told me that one of the bags felt slightly heavy. This is just before she was about to throw it out. Instead of throwing the bag in the garbage, she opened it, and, lo and behold, she found three pieces of jewelry from three years ago. This was precious jewelry that was no longer lost. Several spiritual friends agreed that this missing and found jewelry is directly from Hashem, who is giving me a nudge, or a kiss, letting me know that He is here with me. To know that Hashem is telling me He is close to me by doing a neis is a huge offering from Hashem. Smiling and thanking Hashem is the least I could do.
So before making any rash decisions, and before getting into an argument with a friend or spouse, I’d say to talk to Hashem. Hashem can help. We might not see immediate results, and we may not see what we want to see, but only Hashem can give true direction in our lives. And if we don’t get what we really wanted, we should say to ourselves, “gam zu l’tovah.” Maybe Hashem didn’t want something for us, and although we may never know the reason, we know that there’s a good reason for everything. Maybe we are being saved by not getting what we think we wanted.
A couple of weeks ago, I was crying and really having a hard time about my week’s schedule. I needed a specific appointment to be changed by one hour. I was losing sleep over it. The next morning it turned out that the time I had wanted for my appointment was changed, and not only that, it was changed to the exact slot I had wanted. This was an immediate neis from Hashem and it was almost too easy to believe. But Hashem was showing Himself to me in a clear way, a way that I could totally relate to.
Trusting that Hashem can answer our prayers in a nanosecond or over the span of years makes me feel even closer to Hashem. He is showing what He can do.
Davening on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur could never have been accomplished without my talking to Hashem out loud and crying for the chance to get even closer to Hashem.
If you don’t own “Living Emunah,” I would suggest buying it because it has changed my life, and maybe it could do the same for you. And when you don’t know what to do in any situation, and need help or advice, just talk to Hashem. He always listens and always cares. He is our King and Father who is available to us now and forever.
I wish you all a good new year, shanah tovah, and hope you establish a true closeness to Hashem.
Michele Herenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.