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Time for a Checkup, Inside and Out

Time for a Checkup, Inside and Out

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It took me by surprise, even shocked me. I know that no one expects to hear difficult news, but this caught me off-guard. It just wasn’t the conversation I was expecting . . .

Raizy had been doing so well. She came to me for support and advice on trying to“I feel so good. How can this be happening?” trying to conceive. For the first time in her life, her body was regular. She was exercising and eating healthily. Her spirits were good, and she felt inspired to nurture herself.

A few months went by. Raizy continued with her “health” plan, but out of nowhere started to describe something that seemed a bit off. I wasn’t worried, but I told her that I wanted her to go to a doctor and get it checked out.

She went to the doctor, who did an ultrasound and didn’t like what she saw. The doctor wanted Raizy to do more tests. Raziy was hesitant. She kept putting off the appointment for the next test, telling me: “I don’t like doctors. I don’t like tests.” I encouraged her to go. I really didn’t expect that anything would be there. Who does? She finally went, and that’s when she called me.

Raizy has cancer.

“I don’t understand,” she tells me. “I feel so good. I’m trying so hard to take care of myself. How can this be happening?”

As I listened to Raizy’s words, I was thrown back to the shock of four years ago, when I heard that a close relative of mine was very sick with cancer. This relative had looked healthy, fine. Yes, she had lost some weight, but she was also always on a diet. Yes, she had complained about being tired, but who isn’t tired when they run around nonstop all day? We found out that this relative hadn’t gone to a doctor in more than two years! She missed her yearly checkup, and we didn’t find out until the illness had already spread and ravaged her entire body.

Raizy. I force myself back to the conversation with Raizy. She tells me once again that she doesn’t understand how a person can feel well and look good on the outside, and be so ill on the inside? Life doesn’t usually have such inconsistencies. You look and feel healthy, and most likely you are. You feel and look under the weather, and you see a medical professional. So how can it be? It’s a scary thought . . . that a person can walk around and feel fine, look good, yet on the inside, something detrimental is going on.

She then tells me that they caught the cancer early on, thank G‑d. The test saved her life.


It feels like a long day, and there are a lot of prayers. I go through the viduy, the Yom Kippur confession. From aleph to taf, from “A” to “Z,” I stand and reflect upon the words that I’m saying.

. . . And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally . . . And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly . . .

I come to the end of the viduy:

For [transgressing] positive and prohibitory mitzvot, whether [the prohibitions] can be rectified by a specifically prescribed act or not, those of which we are aware and those of which we are not aware; those of which we are aware, we have already declared them before You and confessed them to You, and those of which we are not aware—before You they are revealed and known, as it is stated: The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, that we may carry out all the words of this Torah. For You are the Pardoner of Israel and the Forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation, and aside from You, we have no King who forgives and pardons.

I come to the end and it hits me—not just physically, but spiritually. Can a person walk around living their life thinking that they are fine, that they are doing everything just right, and yet spiritually they could be ill? Could a person live their life and not even be aware?

And then I realize what a gift we have with this time from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. It’s like the months that Raizy spent taking care of herself—months of effort not in vain, but that were helping her strengthen herself so that she would have the energy for the healing ahead.

Really, thank G‑d, she was exercising and eating healthy because her body is able toWhat a gift we have with this holy day! battle the illness with more force. The doctors are telling Raizy that after her treatment ends, she can go back to trying to conceive, which is so promising and hopeful.

What a gift we have with this holy day, Yom Kippur, the day when G‑d says: “Even if you are not aware, I am aware, and I still forgive you and accept you and love you.” What a gift we have to open our eyes, to reflect and see where maybe we need to seek guidance, to do a “checkup.” Where maybe we need to examine ourselves and make sure that we are as “healthy” as we feel. To heal, to return to our spiritually healthy selves, to repent, to be stronger, more alive and better! What a gift we have; what an opportunity!

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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