The King is in the Field
The young nurse quietly slipped a piece of paper into my hand – it contained her name and private cell-phone number. “If you have any trouble making appointments quickly or getting test results, give me a call and I’ll always try and help.”
I knew then that my colonoscopy had shown I had a real problem. But I also knew that I wasn’t alone. This sweet young nurse was offering me her help and support in the challenging months ahead. She was a shlichah (messenger) of the King who now in the month of Elul was in the field…in the clinic…in the doctor’s office .
We are told that during Elul, the King, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, doesn’t wait for us to come to Him on His throne but He comes down to us and seeks us out wherever we are. We don’t need an appointment, preparation, or long-winded rehearsals. He will listen to us, to our prayers, entreaties, fears and hopes.
…He’s in the MRI Clinic
The next few weeks were a blur of phone calls, hours sitting waiting in clinics, doctors’ appointments and weeks spent awaiting results. MRI test, CTs , PET scans. One evening the technician from the MRI office called and said although he originally thought I’d have to wait several weeks for my appointment he has found me a slot in a few days time.
The King is in the field – in the MRI clinic. I feel his reassuring care and love enveloping me, helping me along this challenging, frightening path.
It is the month before the Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days). Our future always hangs in the balance at this time of year, but this month I feel it even more than usual… I feel it ten times more than usual.
My daughter comes back from seeing a well-known rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife) and asking for a brachah (blessing). “Mum, she held my hand and said she’s davening for you, but to tell you not to worry. It will be all right. It’s not as bad as you imagine.”
I feel His love and warmth wash over me.
A few nights later as we all prepare to go into Kever Rachel (the Matriarch Rachel’s tomb) the night before yet anther test, my son-in-law arrives in a rush. “Be’ezrat Hashem (with God’s help) you’re going to be okay,” he says. “The Mekubal (Kabbalist) said to stop worrying so much. It’s not as bad as you think. You need more bitachon (trust in God).”
The same words – I happily accept the message that the King is sending me.
The King is in the Hospital
Like many people, I have always tried to work on myself during Elul; daven (pray) more, with more kavanah (concentration), more slowly, say more Tehillim (psalms). I try and choose a book about mussar (Jewish ethics and character development) or emunah and bitachon (faith and trust in God) every year ahead of Elul, to learn from every day. I am no longer so young that I have little children to attend to all day. At this point I am grateful that I am able to spend more time with the King.
My first treatment is radiation – which could be traumatic, but the King has already arranged that it won’t be. I am welcomed in Ein Kerem Hospital as a returning friend – I had just spent the last 3 months coming there every day accompanying my husband who is now in total remission, Baruch Hashem (Thank God). I know where to go, what is going to happen, who to speak to. I have a good feeling about the treatment – it cured my husband. The King is in the field, in the hospital, in the radiation department… everywhere I sense His presence and his warmth taking care of me.
Elul draws to a close. I spend Rosh Hashanah davening at home, and my husband, the Ba’al Tekiah (Shofar Blower) in shul (synagogue), returns to blow the shofar for me. We invite neighboring women who are at home with little children to join us.
…And He is at Home with Me
Yom Kippur is approaching. I am now on chemotherapy as well as having daily radiation treatments. I am not in denial. I know the severity of my illness, but I decide to ask my doctor, “Do you think I can try and fast with shiurim (drinking tiny sips and eating miniscule amounts spread out through the day)?”
She looks at me for a few minutes. “My normal answer would be a definite NO. You have a life-threatening illness, you are in the midst of difficult treatment, and you are not young.” Then she smiled. “But I look at you and I see how well you are taking the treatment, your blood test results are good, your side effects are minimal. I’m going to consult with the head of Oncology. Wait a minute.”
She returns after a while and smiles. “We’ve decided to let you try with shiurim. BUT if you feel the least unwell, you must return to drinking a large amount and eating as much as you need. And don’t spend Yom Kippur alone at home. Have someone with you.”
I know the King will be with me, but a niece also offers to stay with me. I spend Yom Kippur surrounded by my shiurim of food and drink with a watch nearby to ensure I eat and drink the necessary amount at the required intervals. The rabbi we consulted accepted the doctor’s decision, but also reiterated that at any sign of feeling I’ll I have to drink and eat. I daven as I have never davened before, and with no problem.
The King is Everywhere…And Will Always Be with Me
I send my niece to shul for Neilah (the Yom Kippur closing prayer). I am fine and she can see that. There’s only another hour to go, and I want to be alone. I almost dread reaching Neilah – I don’t want to have to leave His presence. I don’t want to imagine He is leaving me. How will I manage on my own? But as the sun disappears I realize He will always be with me, just as He has been the last month. Elul is a special opportunity not to be missed – but Hakadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He), The King, is always with me every day of the year whenever and wherever I look for Him.
By Ann Goldberg
This essay was first published in Mishpacha magazine