4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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The Serpent    

The Serpent

“I awoke as I felt my hand touch something thick and scaly. I was still half asleep, but it felt like a snake! A snake in my bed? Under my pillow? Surely I was dreaming…”


This is a true story. The author – who we’ll call Barbara - wishes to remain anonymous…

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but sometime early on, our marriage began to disintegrate. I always felt something was not quite right but could never admit I had made a mistake. It dragged on for so long because I believed marriage was forever. I wasn’t happy, but at the same time I couldn’t walk out.  He didn’t beat me, he wasn’t a drunk, he tried to provide for his family despite his lack of education and unfortunate upbringing, so what basis did I have for a divorce?
My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, both culturally and scholastically.  The glue that once held us together weakened over time as physical attraction declined with the years. We had nothing in common other than our 5 children and as time went on, the situation became worse and worse. We verbally abused each other constantly and had no substantive conversations. We had overcome so much in becoming observant together after almost 10 years of marriage, yet that was when the struggles began to intensify. And making aliyah was supposed to be a positive step for our family, but instead, it increased our problems tenfold. Financial difficulties came to a peak when we lost all our money in a failed business venture.  I felt trapped with no way out. With no home of our own, no security and no emotional support from one another, our lives were a mess. I could see our children being affected and it tore at my heart, but yet I did nothing. (If only we had realized then what we know now; Our Beloved Father in Heaven was trying to bring us closer to Him but we just let Him push us farther away).
I began to regard my husband as a stranger, and worse, I did not even recognize the person in the mirror. My husband’s attitude toward me was often too much for me to bear and as a result, I could no longer be a wife to him. The very thought of being intimate with him made me nauseous. I knew we should talk to our Rabbi about it, but I was afraid.  Marriage notwithstanding, I didn’t believe that G-d would want me to prostitute myself if I felt so appalled by it. But my lack of desire was no deterrent and my husband was constantly trying to have his way. I became traumatized as fear gripped my every night and I could no longer sleep in my own bedroom.
Our couch opens into a very comfortable queen sized bed which I adopted as my own. It is in the center of the living room of our small rental apartment and I felt safe and calm sleeping there. When the kids questioned our sleeping arrangement, my answer was ‘Daddy snores too loud’…. Not a total lie.  But beneath the facade, our children, old enough to understand, knew the sad truth.
I maintained this as my bedroom for several weeks. I knew it was wrong but felt I had no choice. Then one Shabbat, something horrifying happened that shook my soul… 
In the middle of the night as I slept, I put my arm under my pillow as I often do. I awoke as I felt my hand touch something thick and scaly. I was still half asleep, but it felt like a snake! A snake in my bed?? Under my pillow? Surely I was dreaming! It was dark and it was Shabbat. I couldn’t turn on the light to see properly but as I lifted my pillow, I saw a long, thick reptile-looking creature lying where my head had just been.  But it couldn’t be a snake as it had many legs!! I quickly covered it again with my pillow so it wouldn’t move. My heart pounding, I screamed for my husband out of desperation and after his initial hesitation, he finally came to see what I was excited about. Hearing the commotion, our daughter also anxiously emerged from her bedroom. This serpent with many legs began moving across the bed, so we quickly pulled off the bed sheets and wrapped them around the creature. Although it was Shabbat, we put it in a bag and took it outside so we could deal with it in the morning. Since it was 3 a.m., we didn’t want to wake the Rav to ask him what to do.
At the break of day when we went outside to examine our find, it became apparent that what I had touched under my pillow as I slept was a huge centipede!  Its segmented body must have been more than half a meter long and from what I have read about centipedes, they are often poisonous. Immediately I understood that this bone-chilling, distressing experience was in fact a message from G-d.
At that moment, on that Shabbat, I knew that HaShem was there in my room. I knew that HaShem had put that centipede in my bed and had protected me from its poisonous bite. I knew that HaShem wanted me out of the living room and back in my own bedroom with my husband.  I cried and I prayed and I asked G-d to help me find a solution. I couldn’t continue living like this.
It wasn’t immediate, but the resolution eventually found its way to our door ~ Emuna! Several months after this episode, two Breslov emissaries came to our home bringing with them books containing a treasure-house of wisdom.  Anxious for reading material for an upcoming Chag (holiday), I bought “The Garden of Emuna” and “Likutay Moharan”, not realizing the enormous impact they would have on our lives.
I am sharing this story to encourage others in similar situations to take action before wasting any more of their precious lives. Don’t wait for a skin-crawling wake-up call from HaShem.  If you are having problems in your marriage, seek help from a pious, G-d fearing source. Despite the black hole you may feel you have fallen into, HaShem will lift you out into the light, if you let Him. As difficult as it is to imagine, in most cases, the marriage can be saved and you can actually find genuine peace. As Rabbi Lazer Brody and Rabbi Shalom Arush teach, if we come to stand under the marital canopy with our spouse, it is HaShem’s will. He or she is our true soul mate whom HaShem has chosen for us and in turn, we must show appreciation both to G-d and to our soul mate. In return, we will reap the rewards, both in this world and the next.
Our marriage is still far from perfect, but we are working everyday at making it better and Baruch HaShem, we now have some peace in our home. We are both making an effort at correcting and strengthening ourselves spiritually, and in so doing are improving our marital bond.  We are in therapy at a religious family clinic (which works on a generously sliding scale) as well as applying what we have learned from Rabbi Brody and Rabbi Arush through their CDs and shiurim (lectures), may they be blessed abundantly. My husband has read the Garden of Peace as well.  With G-d’s help, Emuna and proper guidance, marital bliss is finally within our grasp.
(Recommended discs: Peace in the Home, A Woman Builds, Respecting Your Wife, and All in the Family among others).

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