It was not that long ago that I found myself in a downward spiral that lasted for about a month. No matter what I did, I just couldn't break the spiral. Anytime I took a positive step forward, an even bigger challenge or mistake would immediately follow. All of the emotions that went with the fall just added to perpetuating the cycle.
I managed to find a way to catch myself just enough to end the free fall. Then something strange happened. I kept getting compliments about how strong I was and what a great job I was doing. Those comments helped give me the strength to help pull myself back up again. The comments about being strong kept coming. After receiving this compliment I turned to a friend and told them they were crazy. I couldn't understand why anyone was telling me I was strong. I responded that anything I have done has been because a) I don't have a choice b) I am drawing my strength from the people who care about me. They insisted that my strength is only coming from within. Most people know they would crumble if they had to live the last 2.5 years of my life.
Since then my thoughts have been drifting to the day we lost Gabi. That night I came home, so I could go in to speak to the school first thing in the morning. I was home alone all night for the first time in probably 7 years. I sat down and cried, calling out the words of Yirmiyahu that the Jewish people have been crying out for almost 2000 years. איכה -- How could it be? How could this possibly happen? At that point I decided I would need to be strong for Rachel and Channah. Everything else was secondary.
Rachel questioned God and her beliefs from every angle. She battled with concepts that God is simply not fair to trying to make herself a better person that maybe this time she would finally fulfill her dreams of leaving a hospital with a new born baby in her arms. On Rosh Ha Shannah/Yom Kippor this year she stood in judgment with complete confidence. She had spent an entire year working on putting aside grudges and making herself a better person.
From time to time Rachel would ask why I wasn't questioning my beliefs. Sometimes it was meant to be criticism. Sometimes it was intended as admiration or even envy. My answer was always the same. My beliefs are all I have and if I question them, I will end up falling apart. I needed to be strong and hold my family together.
In the last almost 5 months my head has gone to some very scary places. I have had plenty of time to come face to face with the big philosophical questions. There is no doubt I have been less enthusiastic or even 2nd guessing the value of various Mitzvot. Then a funny thing happens. Something I learn or remember learning or just seeing something in practise helps me reconnect my thoughts and I once again feel like I am in sync with my belief system. It just needs to be redefined and understood on a deeper level to appreciate the nuances.
We live in an age where there is a tremendous amount of nevuah in the world. Everywhere you turn, there are people who can explain why various things happened. There have been some real shameful ones this month. Every month, new segulas are coming out all the time, all you need to do to get what you want, is hang this piece of clothing from a particular tree or say a particular prayer in a particular spot while hopping on one foot and doing the hokey pokey. Of course these things are hard so we don't even need to do them ourselves. At the end of Shiva I even had someone suggest I should get my Mezzuzahs checked as if somehow a little bit of ink could have prevented me from losing half of my immediate family in less than 2 years.
We learn that if we keep the Mitzvot God will take care of us. Yet, we find poor people. We learn that nothing bad can happen from you on your way and on your return home. Yet, we were once in a car accident on our way home from a wedding because we decided to stay longer to be Sameach the Chattan & Kallah. One time I was given Kvatter, the father could have spit in my face and it would have been less humiliating then how I was treated. I will never forget the look on Rachel's face when she realized that the raw ruby Rachel had worn from the moment she found out she was pregnant did not save Gabi's life.
Where do I get my strength? My religion, my beliefs, my faith, are not about doing good things and your life will be great. It is about living your life, doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Life is going to have ups and downs. We break a glass at a wedding, so that the joy of the celebrations to not get too far out of hand. When we deal with tragedy we still have to pick ourselves up if not for ourselves but for those around us. I could not come along as far as I have without my family, friends and community that have helped along the way.