Growing up in Iran, Anna learned little about Judaism. When she turned 12, she became obsessed with the Holocaust, grew bitter at G‑d, and decided that He would no longer be a part of her life.
Once, Anna was riding her bike, fell and inadvertently called out, “Oh my G‑d!” Her words made her momentarily think about G‑d. “If You exist, give me a sign. When I turn 18, show me a rainbow.”
She was only 13, and soon forgot about her “deal” with G‑d.
On her 18th birthday, Anna was studying with a friend, but her friend insisted on leaving so Anna could celebrate. Opening the front door, Anna saw a magnificent rainbow.
Years passed. Anna’s family escaped from Iran. She and her husband lived in California, where she was in the early stages of pregnancy with her sixth child. At a routine check-up, the doctor informed Anna that her fetus had a defective heart. The baby would need surgery and have trouble breathing its entire life.
He advised Anna to abort. She refused.
Two weeks before her due date, Anna asked to redo the tests; the results were unchanged. Anna now turned to G‑d. “You remembered me at 13 and 18! Please G‑d, heal this baby.”
Anna went into labor, fearing the worst. The baby was whisked off to neonatal care. Anna’s doctor reappeared and told her, “I have no explanation, but your baby is 100 percent healthy!”
Anna shared her story when I lectured for a Jewish learning event at her home. She pointed to her “baby,” a beautiful and healthy pre-teenager.
Anna reminds me of the powerful Jewish soul. No matter the circumstances or level of observance, the soul restlessly calls out to its Maker, pursuing a connection.
This week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, opens with the various materials donated for the Mishkan, the tabernacle. The donations were given freely, according to the resources and generosity of the individual. The exception was silver used for the foundation.
“The silver of the community was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels … half a shekel for each one … .”(Ex. 38:25-26)
Half a shekel was donated for the foundation. “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.” (Ex. 30:15)
The Jewish nation is made up of individuals differing vastly in temperament and abilities, social and religious standing, talents and intelligence.
Each of us can use our unique capabilities and opportunities to be a sanctuary for G‑d’s presence in our world. That is why for all other parts of the Mishkan, everyone donated according to their individual means and desire.
But for the foundation, they gave equally. No matter our differences, at our foundation, in our bond with G‑d, we are all equal.
Moreover, the foundation was made from silver. The Hebrew word for silver, kesef, also means “yearning.” Deep within our souls, at the very foundation of our being, is an ever-present yearning to come closer to G‑d.
Wishing us a week where our yearnings become expressed in positive deeds!