Then I was 25, divorced, far from my home and family, I weighed 151 kilogram (over 332 pounds!) and I wavered between 2 worlds. I already wasn’t part of the Haredi world but not part of any other community either. After a painful breakup that crumbled my soul, I lived alone in a high crime neighborhood in Jerusalem after a beloved roommate left.
The main emotions I felt were disconnection, loneliness, powerlessness, feeling lost and hopeless. My parents reminded me that I could come home for the Hanukkah candle lighting but I didn’t want to see anyone, nor did I want people to see me like this and make their white hairs get whiter and deepen their already deep pain.
Instead of warming my soul up and melting the pain away the candles just danced before me and couldn’t dispel even one bit of darkness. The holiday of miracles became the holiday of mourning. At one point I just broke down in front of everyone and just started crying about my life.
Hanukkah is one of those times I can say that every year I can feel and understand the great miracle that occurred in my life. It’s the Holiday that for
me symbolizes the great change I made and the great miracle that I am… a walking miracle.
I was a person that for 25 years saw only darkness. After constantly dealing with complex situations my whole life, I became pessimistic and blaming, feeling very much a victim and seeing how evil and awful a place the world is. I did not want to remarry and most definitely did not want to bring children into such a world. I actually hoped something would happen to me that would make me disappear once and for all…
One miracle always coursed through my veins: I am an active, rational and practical woman. It’s true my life was in the garbage can but I’ve got to make a livelihood! So to work I go! I need an apartment? So let’s go look for an apartment. I’ve got to pass the 80 years of my life so I may as well become some sort of professional so as not to remain a secretary running from office to office for the rest of my life.
This was the one motivation to get me up in the morning though I really didn’t feel I had something to get up for. I always wanted to be a psychologist. To be the one that listens to those who had no one to listen to them just as no one listened to me. To be the one someone could cry to and really be there for them and truly empathize with them. To be the one who could help other get through life in spite of and though facing adversity. Perhaps even to help myself deal with my past experiences that wounded my soul.
Since I was 17 I always supported myself and I worked in 3 different jobs daily. One job was running the office of a non- profit. Another job was a clerk at a fruit and vegetables warehouse and my third job was literally at night watching babies so their mother could get some much needed sleep and have strength for her children.
For a few years my work and need to survive kept me going. In the meantime I got married, divorced, went up very many pounds and formed my outlook on life that the world is a cruel place. When I understood that I would need to invest to get a “real” profession I went back to my life’s dream. I applied to a bachelor’s program for psychology but soon discovered I couldn’t give 5 days a week to it if I was busy trying to work to survive. So first I’ve got to live and then studying is after that. I painfully had to put my dream aside and I looked for something else that would allow me to be there for others yet allow me to work for a living in the meantime.
One day leafing through the newspaper I spotted an ad: “Only 2 spots left in our coaching course”. I didn’t know what it was but it felt right. I called found out how to sign up and was on my way. A month later the course began. I can’t put a finger on any specific life changing moment because there wasn’t such a moment. Rather it was the cumulative effect of many moments that brought me the ripeness to understand one of the foundations I learned in the course:
None of us can choose the reality of our lives but we can choose what to do with this realty and how to respond to it. Do we take responsibility and move forward or do we get sucked into self-pity and feeling like a victim?
The instructor said in one of the very first classes that when people choose to conduct themselves a certain way it is because it serves their purposes, when someone chooses to be a victim- it serves his purpose.
I was totally shaken up. How dare she say that?! Then I realized that I was doing that myself! I was living in that way.
Then there are those that no matter what they went through it helped them turn themselves into who they are!
So I told myself, with all due respect to the fact my life looked really black there were still people less fortunate than me that still were happier than me! How could that be? That moment was indescribable. It was filled with fear and hope, trepidation and happiness, powerlessness and the feeling that perhaps there was a solution. I was one big mess inside!
So I started asking different questions: I began investigating what I could do things differently in life than how I’ve done them until now. Why was I chosen to have specifically this life story and why did I choose to see life’s test as something difficult and hard instead of as a challenge?
When you ask different questions you get different answers!
That year my life totally turned around. No one knew what I was going through but it was clear that I was going through something. Something really good! When I understood that I have a different way to live my life I decided to find out what that way should be and I took my greatest liability, my morbid obesity which forced me to deal with life in a certain way and I chose to turn it into an asset!
I noticed that my weight problem served me well for many years and stood at my side in important times in my life. For example I worked in senior posts in jobs because outside of the boss, no one really knew my age. I always came across as more mature and older and at age 20 I ran a team of 50 insurance agents. And nobody blinked! It’s true there are more important things but it showed me that my fault was not purely a fault but also an asset.
Year after year, I stand with my husband wearing his Shabbat clothing lighting the Hanukkah candles my parents bought him. He lights the candles and I cry. He sings “Al Hanisim” “About the miracles” and I tremble inside me. He concentrated on the words he was saying and I was concentrating on the candles. I saw so much light in them that I couldn’t contain it.
My broken and crumbling heart that lost hope was gone… it went up with the smoke…
From then on approximately every 2 years a new baby would join our family and end up lighting candles with us. Another Hanukkiah and more warnings to be careful… it’s hot… it’s dangerous! And each time I cry as if it’s the first time I ever saw a candle. Each year I see my miracle, the miracle that I am. The light that spreads because of me specifically because of the darkness I went through.
I never believed I’d get remarried definitely not with someone Haredi from my own community. I never believed I’d have children for who wants children in such an awful world? Then I found our world is really a wonderful and safe place and that it’s a merit to build entire worlds in it of astounding children!
In my wildest dreams I could never imagine that in the pit I sank into roots would grow so thick and strong that they would form the source of so much good. Today I can testify in truth that I am who I am because of my past. I understand that everything I went through was not for naught. I can grow in spite of and because of the difficulty.
This is part of our faith. To believe that all is for the best even when it really doesn’t seem that way. And this is part of our serving G-d: To create the miracle, to bring G-d to us, to open the door to Him, to see Him and draw His abundance into our lives.