3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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The Tooth Fairy    

The Tooth Fairy

Gratitude – it’s so simple really, so obvious, so innate. Or at least it should be. But we see it isn’t. We’ve lost the art of thanking but we can rediscover it.


It was Thursday. It started off as a dull ache in a back tooth.  I was contemplating what could be causing it – maybe an infection but, whatever it was, it was enough to get me a bit anxious. That night I did hisbodedut (personal prayer) and tried to think of what I could do teshuva for relating to teeth, the obvious suspects being food and speech. Always a bit babyish when it comes to dental issues, I actually found myself begging Hashem to arrange for my dentist to be available to see me urgently on Friday.
After quite a restless night, and having taken some painkillers which dulled the increasingly inflamed area, I went first thing to the dental surgery across the road but, to my despair, was told that my dentist was off sick and wouldn't be in until the following Tuesday.  Dilemma time! I had the choice to go to an emergency clinic in a hospital some way from where I live but with no guarantee that I would be seen and, naturally, it had to happen erev Shabbat.  I managed to locate another emergency clinic attached to my local hospital but which was only open on Sunday mornings for a couple of hours; I pacified myself that at least it was a better option.
So I decided that since the pain was at least bearable I would just live with it and take painkillers. As I was preparing for Shabbat that afternoon, it suddenly dawned on me that there was a reason that Hashem had arranged for the dentist not to be available so I said to Hashem: I'm obviously meant to be putting my trust in You, and not the dentist, and since You, Hashem made my teeth and are the Master of all dentists, You can cure me. I did actually take some more painkillers but within 10 minutes of taking them the pain went away – I never took any more. I actually had a wonderful Shabbat evening, albeit having to eat on the other side of my mouth, followed by an unusually deep and restful sleep.  I also had an unexpectedly but very welcome pain free Shabbat.  By Sunday morning, my tooth seemed to have settled with no more problems. I have no idea what caused it.
But oh, that’s not the end of the story.
My tooth drama continued to play out literally a week later with another tooth, broken this time, same side, two teeth along. My dentist removed the offending fragment of tooth which extended beneath the gum line [not good] which he informed me was in a very awkward place [thanks, just what I needed to know!] He left ¾ of the tooth, either to come out or be filled, with the possibility of cutting the gum [sorry about the detail] and he wasn’t even sure that this would work. He also said expect an injection next time. Lovely!  My dentist put in a temporary filling for a few weeks and said he may have also to do a root canal if there was any pain. This was just getting better, I thought. The babyish part of me returned on cue and I admit to feeling somewhat tired and emotional about the situation and I did have some roving pain on and off over the course of the ensuing weeks before the next appointment. But this time round, during my hisbodedut, I did some serious thanking for the discomfit and on every occasion, at least 5 times, the pain went straight after.  By the time the big day arrived, I hadn’t had any pain for a week and I resolved that I would just lie when my dentist asked me if I’d had any discomfit, which he did… and I did.  This is just between me and Hashem, I decided.
As I got settled in the chair, I was expecting to see a needle and scalpel rapidly approaching … but none appeared.  I casually asked about the injection.  Oh, I’m not giving you one, he said.  And the gum?  Oh, I don’t need to cut the gum, I’m just going to fill it; hopefully, it will stay in, if it doesn’t I’m happy to just keep replacing the filling for you.  I was in and out of the chair within 10 minutes. I haven’t had any pain since.  The filling is still there – well just about, I think.
Gratitude – it’s so simple really, so obvious, so innate.  Or at least it should be. But we see it isn’t.  We’ve lost the art but we can rediscover it. There’s nothing mysterious about it – we just have to re-learn the skill and apply it. It requires two things though: desire… and the Garden of Gratitude.

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