Lost in Eze

Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Nice, France, to celebrate the bar mitzvah of my dear nephew, Shneur Zalman Altabe, son of Rabbi Menachem and Brochie Altabe, Chabad representatives to Nice, France.

There is no greater pleasure than spending time with family; celebrating joyous occasions together. I am blessed to be part of a large family, with siblings living all around the US, Canada, Mexico and France. We value and look forward to seeing one another. Each time I travel to one of my siblings, I leave inspired, moved and rejuvenated. In awe of their beautiful families and the incredible work they do to bring the light of Torah and mitzvot to the remote corners of the world.

Although my sister has been living in Nice for many years, this was my first opportunity to visit and meet her wonderful community.

During my short stay, I had the  privilege to tour some of the beautiful cities in the South of France, with my parents, Dr. and Mrs. Chaim Hecht and sister, Chanie Goldman, Chabad representative to Gainesville, FL.

We drove along  scenic roads, with jaw dropping, picturesque views of majestic mountains, and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean sea.

Our first stop was in Eze, a charming hilltop town on the Cote d’Azur. Eze is located between Nice and Monaco, and a convenient ride from either city.  It sits 1,401 feet above sea level and overlooks surrounding mountains and breathtaking scenes below. Eze has been described as an “eagle’s nest” because of its location overlooking a high cliff. It’s full of ancient edifices, narrow roads, flowering archways, and winding cobblestone streets. The sheer splendor of this place carried me seemingly out of the boundaries of time.

In my trance, I began to think of the difficult and twisted road that we traveled on to become a people. The secret of Jewish survival. There is something quite remarkable about the Jewish nation. We are such a small percentage of the human race and been through so much suffering in every generation. Yet we are prominent, continue to thrive, and contribute in all areas of society.

We have always been on a spiral course, all the way back to when we left Egypt and became a nation. On Passover we celebrate the exodus and liberation of the Jews from Egypt. We recall the trials and tribulations of the Jews while traveling in the desert. But it was on those winding  roads that the Jews experienced not only hardships, but the greatest miracles in history. G-d split the sea, sent down Manna from heaven, and gave us our most precious gift, the Torah at Mount Sinai. It was there that we became the Jewish people.

We all travel through life, sometimes on back roads, other times on prominent boulevards, with various obstacles along the way. There are no clear maps or satellites to navigate the uncertain paths ahead. We simply have to adjust.  While there is no obvious “one size fits all” solution to becoming more resilient in the tough times, these difficult situations offer us opportunities for growth, and a different lens to view ourselves and evaluate the important things in the world around us.

I thought about my own personal “winding roads” over the past few years. There were the many challenges of taking care of our son with leukemia, the ups and downs, hospital visits, treatments, family pressures and struggles. But then as often as  the roads constricted, they suddenly widened with the love and care of friends and family from near and far. The constant support, encouragement, and tremendous blessings have been a compass to pull us around the difficult turns along the way.

We need to recognize the beauty in our lives, even while occasionally traveling on uncharted pathways of life. We can rise above our challenges, like Eze, surrounded by twisted trails yet washed in splendor high above the ground below.

I am so grateful for my quick trip abroad and the lessons that I learned. Every day in life is a blessing, and every experience is one to learn from. In the desert, the Jews ended each day with the strong belief that the next morning would bring them Manna from heaven, clean clothing, security in the wilderness and all their basic needs.

We inherited this trust as we close our eyes at night. We know wherever our path will lead tomorrow, there are endless hidden gifts along the way. We just have to open our minds and hearts to find them.

About the Author
Baila Brackman is the co-director of the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning at the University of Chicago. She lives in Chicago with her husband and five children.
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