I was building momentum on my journey back to Judaism, and was traveling at what felt like 150 spiritual miles per hour—until I ran heart-first into a brick wall.

When Yosef Sholom (“addition of peace”) was born, the first sounds he heard were my singing to him the Yiddish melody Rozhinkes und Mandlen:

In dem beys ha-mikdash in a vinkl cheyder,
Zitst di almone, bat tsion aleyn.
Ir ben yochidl yidele vigt zi keseyder,
Un zingt im tsum shlofn a lidele sheyn

. . . Dos vet zayn dayn baruf.
Rozhinkes mit mandlen,
Shlofzhe, yidele, shlof . . .

[In a corner of the Temple
The widowed daughter of Zion sits,
Rocking her only son Yidele to sleep.
She sings a tender lullaby:

That will be Yidele’s calling, too
Trading in raisins and almonds.
Sleep now, Yidele, sleep . . .]

The miracle of new life spiraled my spiritual momentum further upward.

Until the physician shattered the blissful ascent with a terse interjection:

“I think your child may have Down syndrome. Do you have any questions?”

His curt manner discouraged dialogue at that moment, and he left.

Wisdom requires the moisture of felt experience . . . as yeast needs water to come alive But many questions came later: How could G‑d do this? What about the concept of reward? Why three healthy children then, and this now? You know the many “why”s driven to expression from pain and loss: Yosef Sholom would not become wealthy trading in raisins and almonds.

A logical response might have been to turn away from G‑d in anger, to retreat on the journey. But instead I pushed forward to face the challenge and discover the meaning of Yosef Sholom. How could this be an addition of peace?

After exploring endless sources on the meaning of suffering, I discovered a deceptively simple answer from a sage rabbi: The meaning of Yosef Sholom is Yosef Sholom. Seeing my son as himself, as a unique individual, not as my projection of what I wanted him to be, transforms the suffering into acceptance and a true, ultimately deeper, love. G‑d defined Himself, “I shall be what I shall be.” Yosef Sholom needs no further explanation other than being himself in his uniqueness, an individual as G‑d willed him.

I recognized that he is complete and whole as he is, a loving child whose enthusiasm and joy when he greets me is full of endlessly fresh sincerity and spontaneity. If spouses would greet their mates with this joy, there would be a measurable increase in love in the world, an increase in peace.

But this understanding cannot be a mere dry, intellectual grasp. Philosophy fails at times of sorrow and pain. The philosophical Jew will abandon his faith, while the simple Jew will remain true. Ideas must be brought into the heart. This deeper and sustaining wisdom requires the moisture of felt experience to come alive, just as yeast needs water to rise and yield life-sustaining bread.

There is no better way to immerse oneself in experience than sitting in the sukkah. To dwell in the sukkah is the only commandment that encompasses the entire body. So it is not surprising that my transformative moment came during a small farbrengen (chassidic gathering) with two of my good friends and teachers.

My child needs no explanation other than being himself in his uniqueness, an individual as G‑d willed him . . . Over the months since my spiritual challenge, we had many helpful conversations about suffering, tests, meaning and acceptance. But here in the sukkah was a time for only joy. So we talked and sang and connected in joy. Then a light rain began to fall. Being new to Chabad, I began to glance towards the glass doors leading to the living room. Noting the gaze of my eyes, one friend said, “Let’s make l’chaim.”

Then the rain grew from a drizzle to a steady stream. My neck strained further towards the dry warmth of the living room. I noticed the eyes of my host’s mother peering through the glass window, seemingly beckoning her Jewish son to be sensible and come in from the rain. Perhaps there was hope.

At this point, my other friend, knowing my deep love of music, said, “Let’s sing a niggun” (chassidic melody). So we sang in the rain:

“Ay de di di dii dii diiiii diiii . . .” In response to our song, heaven replied ironically by opening its gates and releasing a downpour. Sensing my near desperation, my friends resorted to the ultimate involvement, “Let’s dance.”

As the three of us danced and sang in the sukkah, the transformative rain penetrated deeply, and I surrendered to the experience. I understood, not with the dry intellect alone, but with the wet, mikvah-like immersion in G‑d’s presence and will.

We sat down again to continue farbrenging, and I noticed that my hat, not Borsalino quality, was the only one bleeding black ink into the rivulets washing over the plastic tablecloth. In my joy, I knew these were no longer dark tears, but another message of transcending the limits of the physical and of conventional awareness.

Everything is good, even that which must for the moment feel bad. As the Talmud instructs: Thank G‑d with joy for the bad as well as the good.

In the sukkah state of mind, no rain can harm you. Bring the sukkah state of mind into daily life, and life’s adversity is transformed. Since that day, I have never used an umbrella. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe put it, “Rain is a blessing.”

The next day, when I went to put on my hat, it no longer fit. I wasn’t sure at the time whether the hat had shrunk or my head had expanded.

Since that day, I have never used an umbrella The friends who provided me with this gift of transformation were Dr. Zvi Yehuda Saks (of blessed memory) and Rabbi Yosef Deren. Words cannot express the gratitude, but perhaps song and dance can. I am grateful that I had the opportunity, together with several of his friends, to dance with Zvi Yehuda on the last day of Sukkot before his passing and his penultimate transformation—and to share with him the lasting positive impact he had on my life, as he had with countless others.

May we all have Yosef Sholom, a complete addition of peace, speedily with the coming of Moshiach.