When I was a little girl, my grandfather, Yehoshua Leib ben Dov of blessed memory, would hide a book for me each time he visited our house. Under a pillow, in a drawer, behind a door... I would find them after a long and dramatic search, and with a delight matched entirely by my grandfather's.

My grandfather did not have the benefit of a Jewish education. His mother, Yetta (whom I am named for), and his father were from observant families and preserved as much as they could of their heritage in the face of the major dislocations in their lives. Fleeing pogroms in Russian-controlled Poland, they arrived in Limerick, Ireland, only to face a pogrom there. They then fled to Manchester where my grandfather was born, then emigrated to Broken Hill and then eventually to Adelaide—both in South Australia.

They preserved as much as they couldWhat my grandfather did not realize, and I now realize with immense gratitude, was that he was laying the path for my healing and return to observant Jewish life, a journey which would begin some thirty-eight years later. Only this time it would be my Creator who would lay out the books for me with such love and care…

On my forty-third birthday I went to visit my ninety–year-old great-aunt, Ella, of blessed memory, who was in the hospital after having broken her hip. On the way I stopped to buy her a gift on a street I had not been to since my childhood.

On impulse, I walked into the kind of discount bookshop I would normally avoid: the kind that displays books about jaded film stars and fast cars in the window. To my surprise, in a pile of cookbooks I found a guide to observing, and cooking for, Shabbat. At this stage, my children and I were just beginning to explore our Jewish heritage. It was six months before we would meet our local rabbi and I would begin learning the Chassidic text of Tanya, but from that week on we began to light Shabbat candles ...

I was struggling to reconcile my preconceptions with my intense attraction A year later our kitchen was kosher, and I was looking to buy a house close to the synagogue so that we could observe Shabbat. I was struggling, however, to reconcile my preconceptions about the role of women in observant Judaism (a product of the feminist-activist stance I had adopted throughout my university and post-graduate medical days) with the intense attraction I felt for all aspects of Jewish tradition and in particular Chassidut—and the undeniable fact that the most respectful and caring marriages that I had ever seen were those of the two Lubavitch families I had had the privilege to meet.

On my way back from work one day, I drove past a book sale in an old hall on Norwood Parade (a street I had always loved because my grandfather had a menswear shop there when I was a child).

In the philosophy and religion section I found a thin but intense book on women in Judaism. The author, an academic with a particular interest in sociology and comparative religion who began to observe Judaism as an adult, addresses—step by step—all the issues I was struggling with and shows the beauty and infinite wisdom of the Jewish approach to life and the unique role of the Jewish woman.

Until that time I had been reading books written by women who grew up observant, but they did not speak to me in the way that this book did, as it addressed exactly the shifts I needed to make in my conceptual thinking to be able to recognize deeper truths …

Another year later, we were living closer to the synagogue and keeping Shabbat. However, I was now facing the Family Court in my attempt to ensure a Jewish education for my children. I was facing major opposition, even from members of my own family, and was feeling particularly isolated and vulnerable. At this time I was working as a psychiatrist in the public mental health system in a very disadvantaged area some distance from Adelaide, where we lived. One day, I realized at lunch time that I had forgotten to bring lunch with me so I drove a further five kilometers in search of a supermarket that sold kosher food.

I knew then that I was not aloneNext to the supermarket was a book store, in the midst of a closing-down sale. On the front table I found a book dealing with the Jewish approach to facing and overcoming challenges. A few patients canceled that afternoon and I had time to read and came across the following words, which touched me very deeply and helped me through the next few months:

"… Everyone will have moments when their true identity is offered to them, their integrity and with it their life direction… Anyone who has ever believed in them, strengthened their wholeness, and offered them their love will be there with them, no matter how long ago it was or how far away." (My Grandfather's Blessings – Tales of Strength, Refuge and Belonging, by Rachel Naomi Remen)

I went back the next day to try to buy another copy to give a friend, but the store had closed down.

Six months further into the Court process I wrote a long affidavit, for the first time ever really putting myself and what I believed on the line, knowing that I was facing a very painful and drawn-out process and not at all sure I had the stamina and the knowledge base to be able to follow through. I finalized it in my consulting room, drove to my lawyer to hand it in, and drove back to my place of work in a very distressed state.

When I returned I noticed a package, which had just been delivered, propped up against the locked door. In it, I found a book of psalms in Hebrew that I had ordered at a bookstore six months previously, when I was in Melbourne, but which had not been available at the time. It had arrived just when I needed it most.

I knew then that I was not alone….