Photo Credit: Jewish Press

*Some details have been changed.

 

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It really wasn’t too much to ask for. The previous evening, Esther’s youngest daughter, Naomi, had asked her mother for a new outfit for school. Naomi was the fifth daughter, and she always wore hand-me-downs from her older sisters. This was the first time that she was asking for new clothes. “She really has been such a good sport,” Esther thought to herself.

Esther would have loved to have answered yes on the spot, but she couldn’t. Esther didn’t even have a shekel in her wallet. Esther didn’t know how she was going to buy vegetables and chicken for Shabbat! She and her husband Chaim owed tons of money. She was falling apart at the seams.

Unlike many people who look upon isolation at home due to Corona as a curse, Esther had found it to be a blessing. For those two weeks they had received a daily hot meal from people in the community.

Their economic situation had not always been so dire. B.C., before Corona, she had had work. She had always been creative, fun loving, and theatrical, so she had put these talents to good use and had created her own theater company. She would entertain and teach important Torah lessons at nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools, bat mitzvah celebrations and birthday parties. She made a good salary, which, combined with her husband’s salary, allowed them to live modestly. But her husband had lost his job because of the repercussions of Corona, and they were left penniless.

She called her sister and asked if she could borrow 200 shekels to buy food for Shabbat. Her sister agreed. Esther let out a deep breath, “At least we can celebrate the holy Shabbat with proper food.”

That evening, while her husband was out, in the private recesses of their bedroom, Esther sobbed, “Hashem, I am not asking You why You put us in this trying economic situation. I am asking You what You want me to do.” With tears streaming down her tired face, she pleaded to Hashem for direction. After this encounter with Hashem Esther felt that she had received an answer. She felt that Hashem wanted her to become more active in finding solutions to their plight.

The next day, when the children came home from school with lists of supplies that they needed for school such as oil crayons, binders, notebooks, and other paraphernalia, Esther knew what she had to do. Even though she and her husband had always been on the receiving end, she made the call that she had been pushing off for several months. She called the local chesed fund and described in wretched detail, what was occurring to her family. The woman in charge said that she would be in touch. It had felt good to unload her worries upon someone else. Esther felt lighter. For the first time in months she felt somewhat optimistic.

The next day, Esther received a call from the local chesed fund. She was directed to come over and pick up some forms, which she dutifully did. Esther and Chaim filled out all of the requested information, and Esther brought in the completed forms. Within a day, the family was granted an allowance to help them buy food and other essentials. Esther thanked Hashem as well as the head of the fund. Esther could not wait for the day that she and her husband would return to the line of givers instead of takers.

Within the next few days, all sorts of things happened. Esther received a letter from the tax authority advising her that she had not had to pay the taxes that she had paid on her part-time business. The tax authority had reimbursed Esther and had deposited money into the joint account she held with her husband. Moreover, she and her husband both received a check from the branch of the government that deals with businesses that have suffered due to Corona.

Light was streaming into their home at long last! They were able to pay back money that they owed at the grocery store, and other establishments. Mountains were being lifted from their tired shoulders. Their youngest daughter received her request of a new school outfit.

Throughout this ordeal, Esther has directed much prayer to the One Above. She has come to understand that sometimes one must surrender to Hashem. Surrendering does not mean doing nothing and relying on Hashem to do it all. It does not mean receiving a large box wrapped in shiny gold paper and topped with a bow and replete with a note saying, “Within this box are all of your requests from Me.”

Being on the receiving end was a humbling experience for Esther. But she learned that sometimes one must ask for help and it does not reflect any weakness on one’s part. It actually shows strength to desire to extricate oneself from an abyss that is a temporary situation.

With Hashem’s help, and with Esther’s focus on how to navigate through these challenging circumstances, she and her husband will once again become givers of tzedakah.

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Adina Hershberg is a freelance writer who has been living in Israel since 1981.