Saturday, March 31, 2012


On Thursday evening I walked home from work at about 8 pm, feeling wistful and sad about various events (having nothing to do with work, by the way). By the time I had gotten to Emek Refaim Street, I had tears in my eyes. It happens. I wear my emotions close under the skin. That's just how I am.

I've been having trouble lately with my relationship with God. By "lately" I mean "for the last several years." Frankly, I've been pretty much ignoring him. Well, that's not entirely true. I still say brachot (blessings) on my food, make an effort to do things like keep kosher and sit in a sukkah, that sort of thing. And every morning at the bus stop I pray silently for the bus to come soon, and if it comes immediately I give God an internal high five. The high five reflects a vestigial feeling, left over from when it still really mattered to me that God controls everything in the universe -- even how long I have to wait at a bus stop --  and that everything happens for a good reason. It's not that I don't believe this any more – I don't know whether I do or not --  but that I got tired of thinking about it. Like I said, ignoring.

I consider myself pretty rational for an Orthodox Jew. For example, I've never put much stock into "Segulahs," and in fact consider most of them to be dangerously close to Avoda Zarah (idol worship). When I hear stories about the people who, say, were childless for 10 years and then got a bracha (blessing) from a famous rabbi and had a baby 10 months later, my usual response is to wonder about the many women who got the bracha but did not have a baby, or the women who have babies after 10 years without getting a bracha.  Still, I used to be far, far more spiritual than I've been lately. I used to talk to God all the time. Now, my feeling is, he leaves me alone (not fair, I know), so I will leave him alone.

Anyway, shortly after passing the video store on Emek, but before the Community Center, I saw a piece of white A4 printer paper on the sidewalk, being stepped on by other pedestrians as they walked over it. Upon some inspection it looked like a school paper of some kind, with a lot of writing on it, and my curiosity got the better of me, so I picked it up to see what it was. There was no name on it. On the back were a few meaningless scribbles, but on the side that had been facing up, this was typed:


King Solomon looks at the woman with great pity and says:

"Arise my daughter! Come, sit by my side and rest awhile. I shall have bread and wine brought before you. Then, after you are refreshed, I shall bring forth your judgment to light."

And so the woman sits by his side and there is bread and wine brought in for her. While she is refreshing herself, two strangers from far away lands come to the palace.

The horn is blown again ---

The strangers walk into the hall. They bow down low before King Solomon, and the king says to them:

"Arise, strangers, and tell us who you are and what is your story."

"Oh, Great King of Israel! Merchants are we, from the lands of the sea. One day – we hired a boat to ship our merchandise to a far away land. (Come my friend!) We climbed into the boat and we started our trip. At first the sea – is calm – the trip is good. Then, suddenly, the sea boiled us – the waves became bigger and bigger – and the boat was tossed back and forth with no course. And then – a hole burst open at the bottom of the boat! The water flowed in – the boat is sinking, sinking – In a little while we are lost. We turn to our Gods and call out:

God of Sidon! God of Ammon! God of Moab! God of Eddom! Gods of Canaan!

But to no avail. There is no answer. And the waters keep filling the boat. We are standing neck deep in water. The fear of death is upon us. And at that moment we remember your God, King Solomon, the God of Israel, and we cried out to him as well:

God of Israel, save us this day, and we shall give all our goods – gold, silver and precious stones to your temple in Jerusalem!

Hardly have we uttered the words when a mighty gust of wind – falls upon us – and within the wind – a small bundle swirls around – and the wind hurles the bundle into the boat – the bundle falls into the hole – the hole is plugged up!

We are saved! We are saved!

The storm calms down. The wind disappears. The sea – is smooth again. We row back to land – and when we reach the shore, we climb out of the boat with our heavy sack of merchandise. (Here, my friend, take this heavy sack.) And thus we made our way to Jerusalem. And here we are, great King of Israel, and this is our sack of gold. May this offering please your God, as we do not know how to worship Him."

I have to admit I was moved – enough to take the trampled, dirty piece of paper home. I don't know if I believe in signs, but the fact is that other people walked right by this paper that had been typed up by some anonymous writer or student somewhere, and I was the one who went to the trouble of picking it up and reading it, on a night when I was experiencing turbulent emotional seas. And I feel that perhaps God is waiting for something from me. I don't know what it is, but maybe it's time for me to figure out, in a way that is appropriate for who I am now and at this stage of my life, how to worship Him.


  1. Cool thing to stumble across. I also have faith issues. Lately, my life is good, but I see so many people suffering... I just don't get why the world is like this... I know man is responsible for part of it, but cancer, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes... G-d, quit it. ok?

  2. Here is the story in Hebrew:

  3. This is the age-old discussion why good things befall evil people and bad things to good people.
    Iyov (Job) is the classic example..

    I would suggest to open up the website of Aish HaTorah and just browse for "bad things to good people"

    Some links you will get are:

    And please, do not expect the answer to be there immediately. All the articles are written to give a deeper insight in how Hashem runs this world.
    And as we know how hard it it to understand humans (spouse, parents, siblings, colleagues, etc), the HARDER it is to understand G'd and the account our soul has/had for the last 3300 years.
    Wait for the "bat kol", the devine inspiration that will answer you when you ask your question honestly and openly to Hashem.

    Best regards,

    Bar Pinchas

  4. Rahel- Cool. Thanks.

    Bar Pinchas - sorry, but I'm not into Aish Hatorah. They're fine, but not my thing.

  5. It is not about Aish, it is about the articles written that they reposted.
    Try them.

  6. You know, if this were fiction, I'd be all like 'you introduced this first main character and then you abandoned her and then you introduced these other two guys but there was no foreshadowing to let the reader know what was going on and WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WOMAN?'
    But that's just me.
    And it would be an honor if, someday, I get to tell people my sister was refreshed and comforted by the King of Israel. That would be cool on a multitude of levels.

  7. Ok, I know this isn't the point of the story, but WHERE IS THIS FROM? I mean, this is not from the book of Kings (Melachim). I googled it but couldn't find anything. Whaaat is it?!?!?

    (I appreciate your story as well. God--the universe--whatever--works in mysterious ways. Sometimes all we get are moments; I'm glad you got to have one.)

  8. CTH-
    I had no clue where it was from or who had written it until Rahel posted the link above -- it's from a story by Chaim Nachman Bialik.

  9. My daughter just told me this story this weekend. But she started with the woman baking three loaves of bread. Hope you find your path.

  10. I have to admit, I don't have much of a relationship with God the individual, per se, but I do have a strong relationship with spirituality. Part of the problem is that I don't believe that the Torah is divine, though I'd like to think it has divinity in some of the parts that ended up making it into the composite document. And it seems unlikely that many of the events in the Torah really happened or that many of the characters really existed. So what does that leave God to do? Create the universe, I guess - set in motion the grand 14 billion year old symphony of the cosmos. I believe in God, but in a rather abstract way.

    But I DO believe in Judaism. And in spirituality. When singing zmirot on Shabbat, or studying an amazingly fascinating piece of gemara, that can connect me to 3,000 years of our history in a very deep & meaningful way. I may think it unlikely that Moshe Rabbeinu really existed, but Rabbi Akiva almost certainly did exist. Do did Rambam. And so did 100 generations of our ancestors, striving to reach for the divine, trying to make sense of the world, and sensing SOMETHING greater out there, something elusive that they called God. They devised rituals and created narratives to reach God. That is how my ancestors connected to that divine spark, and that's why it's meaningful to me.

  11. You say: "
    I consider myself pretty rational for an Orthodox Jew. For example, I've never put much stock into "Segulahs," and in fact consider most of them to be dangerously close to Avoda Zarah (idol worship). "

    Your statement implies, almost unwittingly, that religious Jews tend to be somewhat irrational, except that you're an exception. Actually religious people are extremely rationale because they believe the Torah to be absolutely true and thus they built and build their entire Oral tradition based on that premise. If something does not align with Torah, they will seek ways to figure out why, based on pure, unadulterated logic.

    But perhaps you simply meant to speak of "Segulahs". But here too, although I share your distaste for most of them, do not come to us by wierdos. Deeply committed people have given them serious thought. So, although they often are anathema to me, I respect the people from whom these must have been passed down from and their tradition. At most, I hush up. May I humbly suggest that you too respect our tradition and not flaunt an opportunity to be all the wiser.

    Having said that, I hasten to add that it is a refreshing personality that you can learn from an event that ties to divine providence - for that too takes an enlightened yet humble person to pursue.

    Nice to have surfed onto your site. My only disappointment comes from commenting after a freak commenter, whom I wish never ever to brush shoulders with.