I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be doing with my time these days. My lifestyle had been largely altered due to my health. The simple act of breathing had become quite a chore. I was listed for a double-lung transplant. It is an unpleasant illness, Emphysema.
So what to do with my days? I surely was not going to spend them just thinking about all the things I would be able to do again, G‑d willing, after the transplant. And who knew when the call would come?
Life has purpose. Life has meaning. We are supposed to be contributing to this world. I found myself feeling alone and not worth very much. After all, what could I do to contribute to this world, lately?
As a Jew, I could not even go to shul (synagogue). Most times I couldn't go for Shabbos dinner at my Rabbi's, which had becomes such a highlight in my week. Torah class was becoming more and more difficult to attend. Really, I saw my options diminish. I certainly was becoming depressed and I didn't want a pill. These were understandable reasons for not feeling like a million dollars.
I did what I usually do when I have exhausted my own brain for answers. I go to my Rabbi.
One afternoon I got to shul and waited for him in the library. We had an appointment and I was early, so sitting in the new library with all the books and the comfortable couches was particularly inviting. The atmosphere so peaceful; all the books; the sun streaming through the windows. I felt peaceful. Already, I felt peaceful. Even with the small oxygen tank next to me on the couch, I lay down, resting, waiting, for someone to tell me my Rabbi had arrived.
After a short while, Rabbi New came into the library. After a few words we decided it would be best to speak there. No need to get up and go to his office. More energy, more strain. No, this was just fine, where we were.
"Rabbi", I asked, "What am I supposed to be doing with my days? I cannot go to shul. I cannot come to class. Shopping and other activities are difficult. OK, the hairdresser is a necessity...." And we laughed. "What does a Jew do when he cannot do what seem to be the simplest of things?"
You know, I knew his answer would be something very simple. He has the ability to crystallize a complex question into a seemingly-easy solution.
"Masha," he said, with his kind eyes smiling, "It's really very easy." (I was smiling from the inside out and listening to his every word)... "Every day, read Chumash, Tanya, the Psalms, say Grace after meals, give Tzedekah, charity. I assure you, your days will be full."
"But Rabbi, how am I helping others with this? Isn't this selfish? Just doing all this for me? I can't even come to shul and be a part of the process...”
His words were clear. “G‑d doesn't need you in shul if you are too ill to come. G‑d needs you to do what you can. And certainly giving Tsedakah, making brochas, doesn't just help you. It helps the entire Jewish people and the world. Doing these things elevate everyone and everything. No, Masha, this is not just for you. Do these things, just do these things...”
I was quiet. I was happy. My rabbi had spoken and told me something I probably knew anyway but I needed my teacher to speak these words in a tone that reverberated in my heart. I needed to be where he was to get the message. And so, I was.
That week, on Shabbat morning, I rose quite early. I prayed with my Siddur, prayerbook. It was a beautiful day and I went downstairs to sit outside on my porch with my prayer books to read, to pray, to enjoy Shabbat in the sunshine. There I sat and behold, walking down the middle of my street at seven in the morning, were three young men wearing kepas, dressed in suits, passing by my house. Obviously, they were on their way to shul.
I nodded a hello in their direction. Hmm....no acknowledgement. Finally, a few moments later, I mustered up some breathing power and said, "Good Shabbos!"
The three of them stopped. One of them started to backtrack and approached my driveway. "Excuse me, but do you know where Manuel Street is?"
I smiled. They were halfway there, to the shule, in either direction. I told the young man he could proceed directly in front of him and make two turns, or turn back and proceed directly making two turns in the opposite direction.
He smiled. He thanked me. He wished me a Good Shabbos. I believe these three men got to where they were going. I had been sitting on my porch and and transported to shule for Shabbat, by giving directions. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing. Just like my Rabbi said and what G‑d had expected from me.
Be where you are. G‑d will find you.