My encounter was too subtle to be defined as coincidence. G‑d was definitely tapping me on the shoulder whispering, “I’m here; I’m with you.”

Now that my children were getting older, the time was ripe for me to reach for more in my life. I began reading books on Eastern philosophy and attending assorted seminars and workshops. Reflective writing led to introspection, which led to restlessness, both professionally and spiritually.

Gradually,My spiritual yearning continued to surface unfilfilled I began to make progress professionally in the academic world, but my spiritual yearning continued to surface unfulfilled. There was a desire within me for a deeper connection. I felt like a wandering Jew looking for a lost piece of the puzzle, but missing the verbiage to express my needs accurately. I wasn't finding meaning in the Judaism I knew.

And then, an unplanned detour in my routine proved to be auspicious. One Thursday evening in March of 1991, I decided to forgo a meeting at Bank Street College, where I was enrolled in a master’s degree program. I chose instead to take an aerobics class and proceeded to the gym. Some women there questioned me as to why I was there at this time since I never take a class on a Thursday evening. I answered, “I must be here for a reason.”

After an invigorating workout, as I headed for the locker room I passed a woman drying her hair after swimming. She said, “Hello Susan.” I looked at her, quizzically, but couldn’t remember her name. She said, “It’s Rachel. You don’t recognize me because I just had a baby and gained weight.” We hadn’t seen each other since our ballet classes seven years earlier, and more recently, when she showed me houses for sale in the neighborhood. It was truly a reunion.

We shared mostly small talk, but I noticed that she had become more religious, so I finally asked her the question that had been foremost on my mind: “I’m looking for something spiritual, something authentic.”

She answered: “Don’t you know Judaism is spiritual?”

The small talk between us soon shifted to spiritual development, and as our conversation progressed, I began to understand for the first time that Judaism was indeed rich in spiritually. We talked that night until the gym closed.

It turned out to be a meeting that would change my way of thinking and alter my life, shifting my focus from surface concerns to those far deeper—from personal ethics to concrete character-building. Rachel knew and understood what I had been looking for. She invited me to her house the next day. She took me into her library and instructed me to pick out any book I wanted. I chose Living Each Day by Rabbi Abraham Twerski. Miraculously, it had the answers that my husband and I were looking for.

Rachel and I started studying together, and she introduced me to the rabbi of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. He set up study sessions in his house for women like me who were searching and took care to arrange these classes to meet at 3:30 in order to accommodate my work schedule.

In this non-judgmental environment, I absorbed information like a sponge. There were many questions at the forefront of my mind, however. Where was G‑d until now? Why did I have to wait so long to begin to clear up my spiritual cloud of confusion? In time, I began to understand that G‑d leads us in the direction we want to go and at a time in our lives when we are able to hear the messages.

The floodgates had opened. A tidal wave of information came to me whenever it was needed in the form of people, classes, books and experiences. In His kindness, G‑d had placed just the right people in key situations as messengers and guides to bring me on to the next step of my spiritual journey.

After two years of learning, when I was ready for it, I became friendly with Sarah Karmely. One day, Sarah invited me to her house. I thought I was going there for coffee. But Sarah wanted to teach me about mikvah. I didn’t think I was ready, but I agreed to listen to what she had to say on the subject because of my respect and admiration for her. I sat there politely, though not engaged until she said, “By going to the mikvah, you will also be positively affecting your children.”

Now, she had my complete attention. Initially, I was compelled to act on my conviction to do this wonderful thing for my children’s sake. But afterwards, I realized how much it had transformed and uplifted me, and enriched my relationship.

When I went to the mikvah for the first time in March 1993, my husband drove me and waited in the car. That day is etched in my memory. I remember what I was wearing: jeans and a T-shirt, a blazer and loafers. I felt special, as I was about to take part in an ancient ritual reserved for Jewish women spanning back generations—all the way to the Bible—and thus becoming a link in the chain of our people.

The helpful mikvah attendant made me feel special, too, like I was a movie star. Afterwards, my husband and I went to Annie’s Kosher Chinese Restaurant on Main Street in Kew Garden Hills. Fred and I sat across the table from each other, and my husband, who isn’t one to speak in New Age jargon, said, “Your face has an aura around it. Your face is glowing.” He was speaking to me with a sense of awe and continued, “Your face is at peace.” I felt so special immersing in the pool of living waters. It reflected an inner calm and a kind of rebirth for me.

Soon after, Rachel moved to Israel, and while I missed her friendship and guidance, I was invited to many evening Torah classes in my neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. At one of those classes, a special guest joined us: Chaya Sarah Zarchi, the representative of the Mikveh Association of Crown Heights in Brooklyn.

I was asked to tell my mikvah journey to the women who were there. This was to be the first time I told my story to a group of women, and to my surprise, the reception was incredible. My story made a memorable impression on the listeners. In the months to come, when the organization was planning a big event, I was asked to be the keynote speaker. All eyes were on me for 40 minutes; you could hear a pin drop. I reached deep into myself to reveal the truth of my journey, and my confidence grew stronger. While I couldn’t fathom it then, this was the launch of my spiritual career.

NowMy confidence grew stronger I carry that story everywhere with me, as if it were the screenplay of my life. I share my experiences and hope they touch those who need to hear it.

As there are no coincidences, I found myself one day sitting in at a meeting of influential women when I heard one of them say that she was writing a book about Jewish women. Without skipping a beat, I handed her my speech. Rivka Zakutinsky and I became fast friends, but I didn’t see her again until we found each other at the Kotel in the summer of 1995 on Tisha B’Av. She screamed out to me, “You made the book!” It turns out that I had my own chapter in her book, Finding the Woman of Valor, titled “Path to the Pool of Living Waters.”

One never knows the twists and turns that life can bring—the chance meetings that turn into lifelong friendships and opportunities beyond measure. I look back at that time in my life with gratitude to G‑d and know that as miraculous as it was, I am equally blessed now and look forward to what the future brings as my journey continues.