It was a week before Rosh Hashana and preparations for the holidays were in full swing. Having almost come to the end of the month of Elul, I felt on top of the world. I just came back from a nourishing and restful two week trip from Israel just a couple weeks earlier that I had taken with a dear friend of mine. I had some serious "ema-away" time; my family even survived while I was away without a hitch. I felt that I was ready to go into the holidays fresh and ready — whatever the year had for me, I could handle it. When I look back, I do believe this is true that I was ready; however, sometimes when things happen, there is always that moment when the wind is knocked out with such force you wonder if indeed you can manage. And it wasn't even me who was on the immediate receiving end.
That Friday afternoon, exactly one week before Rosh Hashana, I received a phone call from my husband. He warned me at the beginning of the phone call that it wasn't going to be a good call. My first question to him was his safety...had he been in an accident, was he all right? At 3pm, my thoughts were only on preparations for Shabbat...challah, chicken, what side dish would I make. I wasn't ready to hear him tell me that he had just been laid off.
not alone, not forgotten
After absorbing the shock that we were in the same plight as countless others in the country who were jobless, I tried to turn my thoughts toward how we would weather things until he landed another job again. And at the same time, I was asking the Holy One, Blessed be He, what kind of New Year was this going to be....and what kind of boss would lay my husband off right before the New Year? L'shana tovah? Come on, really?
Sometimes when we encounter things unexpectedly, a wave of emotions pour over us: shock, numbness, anger and acceptance. We might go through those emotions in that order, or out of order - over and over. At the same time, we can inadvertently cause others to experience the emotional gyrations we are going through if we aren't sensitive to our outward behavior. I can remember our daughter walking in the kitchen after I received the phone call. I was standing by the counter and staring out the window in shock, trying to make sense out of it all; however, as she is keen to my usual demeanor, she realized it was no ordinary gazing that I was doing. She understood that something grave had happened and it didn't sit well with me. I was struggling with calmness as the gravity of the situation was becoming apparent. My husband's emotions, the financial ramifications, what would happen to us....all these things were swirling in my mind. We had a friend who had been out of work for over a year and he was extremely skilled. Could the same fate be ours?
the sparrow hasn't a care
So how can we react to unpleasant situations without causing stress, despair, confusion or anxiety to ourselves and those around us? From where does our calmness come? As I wrestled with that question and rode the emotional roller coaster with my husband over the next couple weeks, I encountered a gift that was given to me by someone dear during the winter. The circumstances surrounding the gift require some detail.
The gift came from a woman named Malkah. I met her when I was at a women's retreat the previous autumn. We bonded immediately upon meeting each other, in part because we both shared the same name, but also because we possessed a mutual interest in Yiddish. Her delightful neshama (soul) inspired me and her eighty-eight years didn't seem to affect her love of life. She shared many stories with me, including with how she came to the belief of the Messiah. Before leaving, I managed to get her address so I could send her some Yiddish magazines that I no longer needed. A hug, a goodbye, and a memory of Malkah was something I took with me as I flew back to Seattle.
In the spring, she sent me a correspondence that she had indeed received the Pakn Treger Yiddish magazines that I sent with great joy; she also shared her news of flooding, roof leaks and other calamitous home repair news. As a thank you for the magazines, she included a wonderful card that was a magnet as well. The mosaic image on the card was of sparrows, drinking at a fountain with the Hebrew passage from Luke along the perimeter. I received it with much gratitude; but somehow as in most busy moments of life, it got tucked away and became another object temporarily out of sight and mind.
not a gift but a lifeline
As I was organizing some things to take my mind off of my husband's job loss one evening, I came upon the gift from Malkah. And it was that very moment when I realized the divine purpose in that gift was more than I ever imagined it to be. Everything was kol tov - we were just like those sparrows. I read the passage surrounding the picture and latched onto it like a lifeline. The very next day, I purchased a clear, thick acrylic frame that I could put it in so it could stand and be seen. It would be with me in the place that I was the most during the fall holidays: the kitchen. With every challah, every cake, and every meal preparation, it would stand there on my counter as a constant reminder. When I would feel waves of despair rush over me, I merely needed to put my gaze on the picture and it would center my thoughts heavenward - we were sparrows and Hashem would take care of us. By the end of Sukkot and only a few job interviews, we received the news that my husband was to be hired at what seemed like the perfect job for him.
To this day, I still have the frame of the sparrows on my counter. The worries of today are different than those from last year, but the message is still the same. The gift from a beautiful woman of seasoned faith brought new life to me and reminded me that we are as sparrows: precious, valuable and not forgotten. May the words of Mashiach Yeshua stay close to us and bring us calmness of spirit — for indeed we are cared for and remembered by the Eternal.
Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.