Until recently, I would not have classified myself as a worrier – I would have classified myself as the Mold of all worriers, from the littlest concern, such as whether the send button will work on my computer, to the larger ones, such as spiritual growth, mortgage payments, and educational choices for my children – there was no space in my head for anything else but these fearsome, annoying, worries - until the "worst came true", which became the greatest blessing of my life.
It all started when my husband and I decided to build our home (talk about a worrier's fantasy!!). We had never owned, never mind, built a home in our lives, but our limited living space and expanding family needs "led" us to this decision. We did everything according to the Beginner's Guide to Building Your Home –from receiving a blessing from our Rav, to researching materials, budgeting costs, and checking references – and finally, we found our contractor. Of course, we signed the appropriate agreement, with a detailed description of the work required, pricing, and damages in case the "worst came true."
The construction began, and everything was progressing as we had hoped (and contrary, of course, to what I had feared…). We excitedly celebrated the cementing of each and every block when, suddenly, as if possessed by something from the "other side", our contractor informed us that he would not continue with the building unless we paid him an additional fifty percent above the contract price. When we refused, he walked off the unfinished construction site, and – unbelievably - sued us for three times the contract price. Within weeks, our electrician, who "happened" to be our contractor's buddy, pulled the very same trick, and we found ourselves in the midst of two grueling lawsuits, both of which were orchestrated by the same lawyer on their side.
Needless to say, my thoughts were going wild as the worst was beginning to take shape – even worse than I could have fantasized in my wildest worries. We would be well beyond our budget to complete our home, drowning in litigation costs, and needed to move out of our rental within months. This was not the worst though – it was yet to come.
I will skip the grueling details of the finish (because this wasn't the worst) – by the grace of H-shem, we moved into our house (and out of my mother-in-law's – which also wasn't the worst) ten months later. In the midst of the move, the court filings and the hearings, I learned that my place of employment was deteriorating and planning massive layoffs.
I really didn't know where to worry first – which lawsuit to focus upon, where to look for a new position, how we would survive if I lost my job – my head was heavy, my breath was hard to find, and then the descent happened.
I do not think there is any way to describe, during the three and one-half years that followed, the depth and length of my prayers, the number of trips to the holy sites and graves of tzaddikim, hours of soul-searching, self-blame, and segulot, and the outpouring of blessings we received from great and holy Rabbanim across the spectrum.
How would I begin to explain the tears and tefillot at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to remove the decrees; racing home to light the Chanukah candles and daven for miracles at Chanukah time; rising at 4am on Purim to read the entire book of Tehillim before sunrise and beg that the evil be reversed; the vigor with which I threw the court pleadings into the fire with the Chametz on Erev Pesach; tzedakah, and Tehillim and more Tehillim – even in the court room during the trial, while the other side read the newspaper. Yet, even with all these efforts, nothing – and I do mean nothing - erased the nightmares, cold sweats, and dry mouth every time I received a court pleading in Hebrew which I couldn't read or when my boss would relay the company's sinking status.
I tried to recall every sin I had committed, to remember whom I may have insulted, what I might have taken and not returned – but no single event seemed to provide the answer to the one question I desperately wanted to understand - WHY?
And then, the worst happened – one after the other, we lost the lawsuits – badly. Even with all of the evidence and witnesses on our side – even though we found out the contractor wasn't licensed, and still, we lost both cases within weeks of each other, and one week later, after sending out more than 600 resumes (yes, it isn't a typo) I was given notice at work – I had sixty days. We had no money – gone in the lawsuits and now, no income.
I went to bed – and stayed there. I sent my husband to the Rav – he came back. I anxiously asked what the Rav had said – "Yeshuat H-shem Mi Keref Ayin" (Salvation Comes in the Blink of an Eye) – how comforting, I muttered.
As I was deteriorating, ignoring this blessing, and trying to reason the unreasonable, suddenly, as if from outer space, I remembered a saying from the Ba'al Shem tov – "a leaf doesn't blow in the wind without the consent of H-shem", which thought trailed to the famous words of his great-grandson, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov "there is no bad in the world" - every "happenstance" is none other than Divine Providence. I reasoned (still trying logic, of course) that there had to be some purpose to all this suffering – so my question "WHY" changed to "WHAT FOR"?
The Torah teaches that the water in the Red Sea didn't split until it was up to the necks of Am Yisrael - "mayim ad nefesh" – that's where I was – and then, Salvation Came in the blink of an Eye.
As if on cue, my friend called me to visit Kever Rachel– I had never been, but this idea did not sound at all appealing to say the least. I told my husband – what's the difference if I pray here or there - never mind his answer.
I arrived. I didn't feel anything – I mean nothing. I sat down at the Kever and cried and cried and cried – I explained all of my problems – where would we get the money, what would happen to our children, how would we live – would we end up as victims of the bailiff's office? And then, a strange thing happened - I became unbelievably calm – so calm, I almost slept on the Kever.
On our return, I asked my friend about this calm – she called it a hug from H-shem.
And then, once again, the next day, the unthinkable happened. Another friend called – she had just "happened" to receive her mother's inheritance money, and she was willing to give us all the sum to pay the lawsuits – all of it. Yeshuat H-shem Mi Keref Ayin.
And then, the next day, the unbelievable happened again – out of the 600 resumes I had sent, I had applied at a company where, unbeknownst to me, another friend of mine was working. She "happened" to be next to the computer when the HR person received my resume – and with my friend's good word, my resume was forwarded, and within a week, I had received a job offer. I found out later that the position only "opened" with my resume.
Now that's what I call Salvation in the Blink of an Eye.
As all the angst started to wane, I realized something with crystal clarity – a true life lesson – I am not in control – did I actually think I was? Yes, on some level I guess I did – the self-blame, enormous efforts at segulot, and mind-boggling strategics in sending over 600 resumes, showed me – loud and clear – that it was all out of my hands – that, even though I am required to make my efforts, there is no one but H-shem who was calling the shots by using the contractor's cruelty and the generosity of my friends to show me just this lesson – that even when I reach "mayim ad nefesh", I don't need to worry because Ha K-dosh Baruch Hu is taking care of all my problems, and I can trust in Him to do just that – I realized that He had sent me these nisayonot on some level to teach me that there is always hope - Yeshuat H-shem Mi Keref Ayin.
So now, if the send button doesn't work on my computer, or we get clobbered with an unexpected expense, I look up and thank H-shem – He is taking care of it all.
This is the good that I learned – that even if the "worst came true" - there really is no bad in the world.
In memory of my father, Yaakov ben Yehuda Leib, z"tl.