It is early in the morning. 3:30 AM, just over an hour to the start of Ta’anit Esther. I am unusually awake and decide to go to our living room, where I’d left my mobile phone the night before, still dazzled and having not enjoyed much sleep up to this point. I light up the phone to check the time, and am surprised by a sweet message.
Rabbi Yaacov Klein, our beloved rebbe, from a Chabura in Efrat, had sent our group a reminder: There is a powerful segulah brought in the book Kav HaYashar to rise early in the morning of Taanit Esther (before Alot Ha-Schachar) and light two Yahrzeit candles, one in honour of Mordechai HaTzaddik and the other in honour of Esther HaMalka. After this, one should say Perek 22 of Tehillim 7 times. After each recitation of the Perek, one should make a personal request, and continue this cycle 7 times. After each recitation of the perek, one should make a personal request, and continue this cycle 7 times. This special moment is an awesome Eis Ratzon, and one’s prayers this time are able to cancel all harsh decrees.
I put a clean white shirt and wash my face. Moving towards the bookshelf, I fetch two Yahrzeit candles. In the stillness of the morning I light them up, in honour of Mordechai and Esther. It is an unusual feeling: Typically we read about their actions, and mention their names, in the midst of the noise and pageantry of carnival-like costumes spread all over the Bet Knesset, while we read Megillat Esther. It is fun and noisy.
This time, I am mentioning their names (and remembering their actions) in the stillness, the quietness of the morning. I look from our window, and over the hills, I see Jerusalem, our Holy City. Everywhere is quietly lit and the night is still very dark. My thoughts take me to England and Brazil where our family members are. My heart is heavy with the typical worries: Adaptation after Aliyah, Health, Hebrew learning, family matters, work – a palpable sense of fragility of life, dependence on Hashem and anxiety takes over my heart.
It is at this very moment when I start reciting Psalm 22. I pray all of the above. It is a moment of intimacy, of quietness, of fragility and I am asking HaKadosh Baruch Hu, my father and my King, for strength, protection and for his care to always be over Klal Israel – family, friends, neighbours, Efrat and the Gush Etzion, and our country. I ask for a heart to be shaped to the depth of the Torah of Eretz Israel and love for the Jewish people. And all of a sudden my heart swells with abundant love and gratitude, but fragility. I am before Hashem pouring out my heart.
At the start of the 5th cycle of recitation, I turn my requests for my beloved wife, Hannah. I open the book widely to facilitate my reading of the Psalm and a folded paper falls from within the book. It is neatly folded and I am initially unaware of its content – it surprises me. I immediately recognise it: It is a two-page letter I had written to Hannah on the 20th of Adar, precisely two years ago, while we were still dating, just before our engagement. I, a medical doctor and business consultant, lived in London (Golders Green to be more precise); she, an intensive care nurse, lived in Manchester. The letter finished with: ‘ and may we share more chocolate and wine together’.
In London, I lived in the second floor of a large house, hosted by an incredibly loving French-Tunisian-Israeli family who cared for my every need! From my bedroom window, I could see the green and luscious gardens and beautiful orange colours of the dawn. The very scene had inspired my letter to the girl I was then dating. I remember the precise place where I had written that letter. I wrote it 24 hours after an unsual event: One evening, when I came back from work, and having turned the corner of the street where I lived, someone approached me and asked for Tzedakah. It was dark and I couldn’t see his face with clarity. Having nothing at that moment to hand out, I said:
– Rabbi, I am so sorry I have ran out of money, I have nothing to give out right now, but if you come back tomorrow…
– My son, don’t worry, I pray that you’ll always have so much to give, and that you’ll married by the end of year.
– Rabbi, I am so happy living with the family I live now; Hashem has given me so much; how do I know I am ready to get married?
– My son, I am blessing you right now. That your happiness will increase, and you will increase that of others. You are ready.
Fast forward, two years later, I am indeed married to that nurse, that incredible girl from Manchester. With her, I left the UK and the streets of London for the hills of Yehuda. Under the loving and guiding hand of Hashem, we came to our homeland Israel. And from here, from my window, I am contemplating the hills of Yehuda, and waking up the dawn whilst my Jerusalem of Gold is shining bright in the horizon. I am pouring all my anxiety before the one who makes me look back, over the course of my own personal history (and that of my people!) and, today, proclaim Al Ha-Nissim:
“And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time—”.
Baruch Hashem – my heart is relieved of anxiety and my understanding is completely renewed, in gratitude, in joy and now in sheer day light.