This year has brought a significant number of changes for me and my family. Despite the different challenges brought on by these changes, I can sincerely say that they have all worked out for the best.
Change # 1: Conversion and the Miracle of Tefillin
After pursuing a Jewish lifestyle for more than twenty years, I formally converted to Judaism via an orthodox conversion on May 2, 2021. Formally becoming Jewish has been super incredible, and the love and acceptance within my local Jewish Community has been phenomenal.
My husband who had been on the same journey also converted, and the Rabbi remarried us right after the conversion. Now that we were truly Jewish, we both had the desire to do the mitzvot. My husband desperately desired to wrap tefillin, and we were discussing how he could acquire a set of Kosher ones. I told him to talk to Hashem about it. The very next Sunday morning after our conversion, he went to Shacharit prayers, and someone there offered to lend a set pf tefillin to anyone who did not have their own. My husband happily accepted, and at the end of the prayers, the person who lent the tefillin to him told him that they were now his. Since then, my husband wraps tefillin every weekday morning before leaving for work.
Change # 2: A New Name
I learned from a couple of Rabbis I follow that changing ones name can potentially change ones mazal. I never really cared for my birth name. It always felt kind of foreign to me. I went through the whole name-change process, and the judge graciously granted my request. I must admit that I got a little bit carried away. Instead of just one Jewish name, I now have three: Sarah Ezriela Naomi. Baruch Hashem! My new names fit perfectly. Incidentally, my name change came at almost the halfway point during Hanukkah, so I consider it my Hanukkah miracle.
Change # 3: Covid 19
The week before Thanksgiving, I was exposed to what I thought was the regular flu. I felt a little ill, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. for one day, I had a slight temperature. By the time Thanksgiving came around, I was feeling better, but it turned out that what I had was not the common flu. It was Covid 19, and my entire family was infected. So what did I have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving? Believe it or not, I am thankful for covid 19. What is there to be thankful for, you might ask. I am just thankful, and I acknowledge Hashem’s sovereignty. I believe with perfect faith in the words: Ein Od Milvado. No other power exists outside of Hashem. It is all good.
After days of not being able to wrap tefillin due to the illness, my husband was so excited to get back to his normal prayer routine on the eighth day of Hanukkah. He was so excited when he felt strong enough to do all the prayers instead of just the Shema. That was the perfect Hanukkah miracle for him.
The Narrowing of the Straits
During Hanukkah, the straits got a little bit narrower. In fact, we hit a bottleneck. I had to make a run to get provisions for Shabbat preparations. I ended up accidentally locking my key fob in the trunk of the car along with the groceries. Okay, no big deal. I’ll just call my locksmith. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any technician available at that time; however, they did give me a referral. I called the referral and they said the technician would call me back soon and also give me an estimate.
I waited and waited. Finally, I called them again, and they assured me that the technician would call me within fifteen to twenty-five minutes. When he did call, he was abrupt to the point of rudeness. His exact words were: “We don’t have anyone available to come out. Call someone else!”
Thanks to google, I found another locksmith who was more than willing to come. He lived about forty minutes away. He was a nice man who gave me several updates as to his e.t.a. When he arrived, he said with a sheepish smile, “I didn’t know it was a Mercedes Benz.”
“Is that going to be a problem?” I asked. He opened the door, but the antitheft lockdown system went into force, so there was no way to open the trunk. “You might have to tow it in to the dealership,” he said.
I had to leave my car overnight in the parking lot of the grocery store. The next morning, I called the dealership, and they confirmed that I would have to have the car towed to them. Currently, my car is still sitting at the back of the lot at the dealership forty minutes away from my home with a trunk full of groceries. Due to a shortage of service technicians, they have not been able to do anything about it as yet.
After a second phone call, a service agent finally called and said that we had two options: either we get a new key fob, or the technician would have to drill into the trunk and remove the switch in order to open it. Needless to say, the solution was a no-brainer. I am getting the new key fob. That way, I will have a spare. It may take another five days to get my car back from the dealership. I refuse to think about the food going bad in the trunk. We’ll just cross that bridge when we get there. Baruch Hashem.
The Heaven’s Declare…
So how did I do something so dumb as to lock my key in the trunk of the car? I was distracted looking at the skies. Have you all seen what’s going on up there? I don’t ever remember the skies looking so beautiful even with all the light pollution. I was looking at the moon and the planets Venus, Jupiter, and the beautiful sunset. That’s when I closed the trunk, forgetting that I had dropped the keys into the bag with the groceries so I could take some pictures.
I seriously suck at taking pictures; because, these don’t do the scene justice. Don’t mind my sad efforts. Look to the heavens and see the display of beauty there. I took the second picture two evenings ago. It was unbelievably beautiful. The crescent moon can clearly be seen, and above that is Venus, the “evening star.” Two other planets, Jupiter and Saturn were clearly visible to the upper left, but I didn’t even try to get those into the frame.
The truth is, when you are in the bottleneck, there are not a lot of places where you can look for help, but hopefully, you can look to the heavens. No matter how sucky things get down here, focusing on Hashem’s beauty and glory will elevate us. So, we are not immune to covid 19. We are prone to do stupid things from time to time. We hurt ourselves and others, but that is not where the story ends.
Tikkun Olam – Repairing the World
So much good has come out of the bad things that has happened in the last few weeks. My husband and I celebrated Hanukkah, but not with parties and gift-giving. All we could manage to do was light the candles and say the blessings each evening mostly in isolation. Everything was reduced down to the bare bones, but I think that this year, we were able to do more tikkun than ever before.
My husband’s original ethnicity is Greek, but he chose to be Jewish. Do you see the irony? More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek army tried to destroy Jewish identity and Avodat Hashem. Today, my husband is certainly making tikkun by entering into the brit and taking on the yoke of the Torah.
Alexander the Great who was the Longshanks of that time wanted to “breed out” the Jews and Hellenize the entire world through intermarriage. Now, there is at least one former Greek that I know who is committed to the Jewish people, Eretz Yisrael, and the Torah.
The Light of the World
We realize that we are and must be the true Hanukkiah as well as the Shabbat menorah. We are the light that those around us will see. During the challenges of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, we experienced the love of our Jewish community, and the most often repeated phrase was, “We need to look out for one another and take care of each other.” I encourage every Jewish person to be not just Jew in name only, but to rally the Jewish spirit and bring salvation and restoration to every lost Jewish soul we come in contact with, not just one week out of the year, but every single day. Remember, we are connected. We are one soul.