Fifteen years ago, on a Shabbos Mevorchim leading up to a new month, my husband was leading the davening. I heard him intone, “Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av will be on…” But it wasn’t the month of Av, as the upcoming month was Mar Cheshvan. An audible gasp swept through the shul, and he immediately corrected himself.
Everyone soon forgot the mistake and continued with the services. But I was shaking with fear. Was this just a mistake, or was Hashem warning us of a calamity ahead? Here’s some background:
Our first grandchild, a boy, had just been born in Yerushalayim. The phone rang as we were cleaning the kitchen. My husband was in the sukkah folding chairs and tables, and our two youngest children were helping him.
Our daughter had had an emergency C-section because the baby was in distress. He was born weighing only three and a half pounds. I didn’t realize then that he was considered small for his gestational age. That night he seemed to be doing well, and we were ecstatic.
I had planned to help my daughter in Israel. Since the baby arrived early, I figured that the Bris would not be on time, giving me a few weeks to get ready. But the next day my son-in-law called and asked me to come immediately. The baby had developed an infection, and they needed my support. Concerned, I made an immediate reservation.
The Shabbos before my trip, my husband made the mistake of calling out the month of Av instead of Cheshvan. My mind immediately flooded with thoughts of foreboding and mourning, as Av is the month of tragedies for the Jewish people. Would my family now be experiencing a personal Tisha B’Av? Suddenly the seriousness of the baby’s condition seemed ominous, and I flew to Israel that night with a sense of apprehension. I was like a racehorse with blinders, running a race against the odds. I kept hearing my husband’s slip of the tongue – “Menachem Av.”
Babies aren’t supposed to die – and especially not my grandson. But my terrifying thoughts gained momentum.
Arriving in Israel, I busied myself encouraging my daughter and giving her strength and hope. But I found it harder to muster up positive feelings within myself.
For 28 days, we were on a roller coaster. We were swept from euphoria when the baby was stable to the type of sinking feeling when a roller coaster plunges. Our personal Tisha B’Av finally came when my grandson passed away at the end of Cheshvan.
The thought that my husband’s slip of the tongue had been a sign of what was to come remained with me for several years. Even though we experienced the joys of new grandchildren, a bar mitzvah and weddings, I couldn’t shake that incident from my mind.
Then something happened, and the thinking pattern that had haunted me from that Shabbos long ago shifted. I experienced a watershed moment that brought me to a new level of clarity and faith.
One summer afternoon after my mother had passed away, I was feeling especially melancholy. As tears came to my eyes I decided to say Tehillim, both for my own comfort and as a merit for my mother’s soul. The words in Tehillim made me cry out to Hashem, and reminded me of other times when I had turned to prayer for strength. I thought of the loss of my grandson. I remembered all the Tehillim we had said. And then it hit me that my thought processes all these years had been off track.
Although that month of Cheshvan was mar (bitter) and we experienced mourning, I now saw that the message in my husband’s slip of the tongue years earlier had been one of nechamah (comfort). After all, he had announced the month of Menachem Av (the comforting month of Av). I was now able to see past the pain, to the promise of nechamah.
It is said that Hashem sends the refuah (healing) before the makah (illness). And indeed Hashem had sent a message of nechamah to help me through a difficult journey. If only I had understood this from the beginning.
We all go through hardships that test our faith. The real test of our emunah is to see the promise within the pain.
Do you have a story to tell of a “watershed moment” in your life? This would be a story of a life-changing event that gave clarity to a challenge in your life. I am collecting these stories for possible publication in a book. Please send your original stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.