Since the beginning of this year, many of us have felt completely overwhelmed. Our lives have been poisoned by fear and anxiety. But as I try not to succumb to despair, I remember the consequences that such a stressful environment brings upon people.

Growing up in the toxic environment of the Communist regime, we were plagued by fear. It felt like the air itself was contaminated with anxiety. I was scared to be identified as a Jew because it meant being labeled as an outsider. I was scared to say anything that could undermine my complete dedication to the Soviet government. I was afraid to live, dream, think for myself and to be the person I was meant to be. I was afraid to think about my future.

In 1989, my family immigrated to the United States hoping to rebuild our lives in an environment of respect, freedom, connection to our heritage and regard for human dignity.

Yet perhaps the most profound gift that immigration presented was my newly gained Jewish wisdom. Judaism views all seemingly unrelated events as a carefully crafted tapestry of one ultimate plan. There is a tremendous comfort in knowing that even the most chaotic times are carefully orchestrated by our loving Creator. Our human journeys are not random occurrences. When contemplating this idea, we can “see” beyond the mirage, and are capable of transcending the challenges and fears of our lives. And if we are patient and insightful, we sometimes get a glimpse of this profound wisdom.

My dear friend, Renata, who also grew up in the former Soviet Union, was 6 years old when her parents received a note from her school that she had failed the annual eye exam, along with a prescription for glasses and eye drops. Renata recalls, “My parents followed the instructions, making me wear thick glasses that gave me headaches. I was chastised by adults when I attempted to look over the glasses. But this was the only way to see clearly because looking through the lenses resulted in constant headaches. To make matters worse, the eye drops made my vision even more blurry. I basically had to lie down and wait for the drops to dissipate. I could only see shapes or shadows.

“I took the glasses off as soon as I left my house or school. I tried to spend as much time outside so that I could avoid wearing them and getting the drops. My grandparents, who I spent most of my time with, had to run around looking for me to bring me home. I went from a well-behaved child to a defiant one in a matter of days. It was agony.

“I complained to my parents for several weeks. When they asked the doctor, he told them that it’s normal for a child to be uncomfortable at first. My loving parents eventually realized that something was not right and took me to see another doctor, who said that I had 20/20 vision! He told them to throw out the glasses and drops. When confronted by my parents, the school doctor said that they most likely mixed up my test results with that of another child.”

Many years later, living in the United States, Renata had a baby girl, Angie.

“When Angie was around 2 years old, my husband and I noticed that she had difficulty with her vision. We took her to an eye doctor, who said he couldn’t properly assess such a young child who cannot answer questions, but he would dilate Angie’s eyes and look into her pupils to determine her prescription.

“I still remembered how terrible it was for me to wear a wrong prescription. To protect my daughter from a similar experience, I took her to about six doctors until I received a majority consensus. Several doctors’ prescriptions were completely wrong!”

Twenty years after her own painful experience, Renata felt grateful that G‑d had given her that experience as a child so that she could do the right thing for her daughter.

Renata with her daughter Angie in 2017.
Renata with her daughter Angie in 2017.

All events are part of a bigger plan, to bring us to a place of healing and Higher Consciousness. Our job is to recognize that Oneness in our lives.

The Shema serves as a focal point in our morning and evening prayer. In it, we declare, “Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is One.” This concept of “Oneness” creates a feeling of inner tranquility, peacefulness and security.

Perhaps, in time, we will merit to see the 2020 calendar year with a 20/20 vision. As for now, I try to remember that everyone and everything around us is interconnected by the Oneness of our Creator.

These complicated times call for resilience, faith and courage. Each time we feel a wave of anxiety rush towards our consciousness, we can remind ourselves that we hold our own “glasses” to inner peace and tranquility, through faith and connection.

Nothing lasts forever. One day, this experience will be a distant memory. We believe that G‑d is moving the world towards its perfection. This knowledge makes all the difference. It allows us to shift perspective from chaos to “seeing” a purposeful design of our lives.