Kidney Stones and Tefillin; Anxiety and Miracles

Chanukah is over. But I still want to talk about miracles.

My father suffers from kidney stones. Anybody who has had kidney stones knows that they are incredibly painful. My father has had surgery to remove kidney stones but that does not stop them from coming back. My father maintains a strict diet that includes drinking plenty of water and not eating food that contains oxalates (which is pretty much everything from broccoli to chocolate) but still he produces kidney stones. My father suffers. But he copes.

This summer, after many weeks with periods of intense pain, the Chabad rabbi came over to visit my father and had him put on tefillin. He did. The pain stopped. Not for a few days, but for months. There is a scientific explanation for this miracle. It is called coincidence.

I suffer from anxiety. I worry about all the things that can possibly go wrong. Maybe I inherited this trait from my parents, who also are big in to worrying. For a while, Woody Allen made me think anxiety was a Jewish characteristic. But I think that everybody suffers from anxiety.

I am learning to cope with my anxiety. I am using a combination of deep breathing, positive self talk, exercise and drugs.

Recently I have discovered a new weapon against anxiety. It is the same weapon my father has employed so successfully against kidney pain.


Tefillin (photo credit CC-BY Chesdovi, Wikipedia)

Before I explain how tefillin works against anxiety, I first have to explain about miracles. My wife taught me that there are three types of miracles:

1)      Miracles that when they happen, you believe it is a miracle. An example is the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai. If you could have seen it, you would have believed it.

2)      Miracles that do not happen unless you believe that they are going to happen. An example is the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. According to Midrash, Nachshon entered the Sea of Reeds believing that Hashem would save us from the Egyptians. Only once the water reached above his nostrils, did the sea split.  It was his belief that caused the miracle and saved the Children of Israel.

3)      Miracles that happen every day but you do not see them as miracles unless you believe that they are miracles. One example is the birth of a child. It happens whether you believe it or not. It is seen as a miracle only if you believe it is a miracle.

I believe in Hashem. I believe that Hashem created the world. I believe that Hashem continues to act in his creation. I believe in miracles so I see miracles. I see them all the time. I saw a miracle when my father wrapped tefillin and his pain went away. I saw miracles when hundreds of missiles fired from Gaza missed their targets. I understand that some of them did not miss. I don’t understand why Hashem sometimes acts and sometimes fails to act. But when Hashem acts, I try and see. I do not see these things as coincidence. I believe that they are miracles.

But this is not new. I have been getting better and better at seeing miracles since my wife taught me how to see them. I just had to believe. What is new is that I have discovered something very powerful.

I have the ability to help cause miracles to happen.

I didn’t invent a new method to create miracles. My forefathers already figured this out. I just had to learn from them. First, I have to ask Hashem for the miracle to happen. Then I have to believe it will happen. Finally, I have to act on that belief.

Like Nachshon, if I believe that a miracle will happen, and I act according to that belief, the miracle may happen. It is no guarantee. But I can assert the contrapositive. If I don’t act, I know that the miracle will not occur.

I have never felt comfortable asking Hashem for miracles. I feel incredibly blessed. I have so many things to be grateful for. How can I ask for more? What could be more spoiled or unappreciative then me asking Hashem for more help then I have already received?

I have been reading Rabbi Arush. He explains that it is a mitzvah to ask Hashem for help. He uses the parent-child metaphor to explain our relationship to Hashem. A parent only wants good things for his children.  A parent wants his children to talk to him or her. A parent wants his children to ask him or her for help. Parents don’t always say yes. But sometimes they do. So it is not only ok for me to ask Hashem for help, it is a mitzvah.

I did not know how to ask Hashem for help and not sound unappreciative. Once again, I turned to my forefathers for help. They did not disappoint. It is all there in the Siddur. How to talk to Hashem. How to first praise Him, then to ask him for help.

Morning was when my anxiety is the worst. I think about everything that I have to accomplish in the day. I think of everything that can go wrong. It is depressing.

Now mornings are different. A month ago I started wrapping tefillin every morning. Tefillin helps me connect to my forefathers. I know that my forefathers have been wrapping tefillin for generations. And wrapping tefillin helps to connect me to Hashem.

Then I open the siddur and I daven. I praise Hashem for all he has given me. I ask Hashem to help me with wisdom, health, wealth and more. I pray for peace.

I believe that Hashem is listening. Since I have started wrapping tefillin every morning, my prayers have been being answered. My anxiety is disappearing. Miracles are happening.

Baruch Hashem

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.