For my thirtieth birthday, a few years ago, the realization came to me to get in touch with my spiritual side that had quietly slipped into a faint whisper, by doing what all natural truth-seekers do when they need a lift.

I signed up for a spiritual Jewish women’s retreat. The hope was to get more clarity on my personal mission, to become more realigned with the side of me that was muted for so long, the side of me that needed to pray to G‑d and reconnect with Him, but had been so disappointed by Him that it seemed nearly impossible and very out of reach.

My spiritual side had quietly slipped into a faint whisperDon’t get me wrong. I am an observant woman, went to Jewish day school, even married a rabbi and had three kids by the time I was twenty-seven. I bake challah every week, cover my hair, go to mikvah, the whole routine. But there comes a time in a religious woman’s experience that you do things by rote, and everything numbs over. There's a difference between being religious and being observant; as my father used to say, “An observant person is afraid of going to hell, and a religious person has been there and back already.” So there I was, looking for my religious side to transform.

Five in the morning, on my way to the airport, I stopped to pick up my girlfriend, Gila, for our “Girls’ Spiritual Adventure.” Her eight-months-pregnant body waddled to the door, and she was still in her pajamas. “I’m not going,” she replied. “I’m having contractions, so you’ll have to go stag.” So much for our girls’ adventure.

I was turning thirty, right? I could handle it.

I landed in Monsey, New York, and was scheduled to meet and share a cab with a woman named “Sara.” I waited. When I realized we had missed each other, I decided to take a cab to the hotel, alone.

One look around at the group of women, and I was sure there was no one there who could relate or understand my issues and what I needed. Would I be judged for my shortcomings? Would their be other women like me, who struggle with connecting Heaven to earth as well?

Uncertainty began to encroach on my psyche. It was fifteen minutes before Shabbat, and my panic-induced doubts prompted me to call my dear friend back in my hometown for moral support. “Get a hold of yourself!” she said. “Go downstairs, light the Shabbat candles, and pray that you meet the exact people that will help you find what you are looking for.”

And so I did. I lit the candles, asked G‑d for guidance and began my journey.

Three hundred women were escorted into a hall, and an articulate woman shared a beautiful story that made a lasting impression.

Sara was a Rebbetzin with ten children. She and her husband were Chabad emissaries in a distant city in Argentina. In the late nineties, this wealthy Jewish community had been hit very hard by an economic crisis. Although their initial goal was to share Judaism, the broken economy had them sharing the basics with this very poor Jewish community. Along with teaching about Judaism, Torah, and spirituality, they quickly realized, their mission was to help the impoverished families by supplying food, medicine and the basic material necessities that this community had been lacking.

I was very moved by Sara’s talk. It was real. It was raw. It was not rhetoricBut Sara’s life was personally hit with a very serious challenge when her husband took ill. He contracted a condition that attacked his lungs. The doctors were concerned he’d face twenty-four-hour oxygen. And if the disease persisted, the course of treatment next in line was a lung transplant.

Within several short months, Sara’s husband’s health deteriorated rapidly, and he was indeed prescribed oxygen around the clock. His health had taken a turn for the worse. Yet despite his severe challenge, he still managed to raise the appropriate funds for his community. When the lung transplant became inevitable, Sara recounted her experience with great heart.

Sara relayed how she had questioned G‑d. Why her? Why her family? Why her husband? Eventually her questions led to conversations, and her conversations led to prayer. She spoke about her challenges with prayer. But after months of channeling her pleas to G‑d, a miracle occurred. Her husband received a transplant and eventually made a full recovery. One of the remedies she counted on involved the many group prayer sessions her community regularly participated in. Women would gather at her home and say different portions of psalms. She was sure these psalms read by the feminine songstresses directly affected Heaven’s decree to bless her husband with a full recovery.

That night I was very moved by Sara’s talk. It was real. It was raw. It was not rhetoric. It was authentic. And for the first time, I prayed with three hundred women entranced in the melody of the Shabbat song Lecha Dodi. The music swayed me like a flickering candle and moved me to a higher state of hope. G‑d is more subliminal, it takes more practice to feel his essence, to hear his voice of love and compassion. That night I felt His hug, as together our voices reached heaven. For the first time, I realized prayer is the intangible gift of time that has the power of creating an intimate connection that only song can link.

With tears dripping down my face, something else seemed to pull my attention. Sara looked so familiar. I couldn’t place it. At the end of the prayer service, I approached her and introduced myself. When I told her my name, she immediately apologized. She was the Sara I was looking for at the airport. I guess we were not meant to meet earlier. We were meant to meet there at that moment.

I shared with Sara how her story had touched me, how I had struggled with prayer for so long, and how her story moved me to a place I thought had been lost forever. We chatted a bit longer, and she asked me where I had grown up. “Long Beach, California,” I said. “Funny,” she mentioned, "I was a second-grade teacher in Long Beach about twenty-three years ago.” “Which school?” I asked. When Sara relayed the school she taught in, I immediately froze, choking on tears of newly-made realizations that were more than serendipitous.

Sara had been my second-grade prayer teacher. She had taught me how to pray at eight years old, and she had reinvigorated my connection to prayer at thirty. I never got a chance to tell Sara of our connection that weekend.

I was able to tell Sara, amongst a beautiful crowd, how our connection had taken root some twenty- three years priorAfter arriving back home, I decided to organize a fundraiser for the congregants Sara and her husband had sacrificed their lives for, in her honor. We flew Sara out to an organized parlor meeting, and although she was moved, she remained puzzled as to why I had done this. That evening I was able to tell Sara, amongst a beautiful crowd, how our connection had taken root some twenty-three years prior. She was truly honored. We were both moved by the awareness that our paths had crossed for a higher purpose. That night we raised five thousand dollars, which was enough money to feed fifty families for six months.

But my story does not end here.

Later, that night, after the fundraiser, I was on a high, and shared the entire story with my grandmother. My grandmother relayed to me the following story, one that she had never shared with me till that very night.

Years ago, after World War I, a wealthy baron, named Baron Hirsch, bought acres of land in Argentina. Baron Hirsch had understood the danger European Jews faced as a result of antisemitism. He not only bought land in Argentina, but had even offered to relocate many European Jews to settle this land for free, as long as they were willing to work the earth. My great-grandmother was one of these settlers brought out by Baron Hirsch himself.

Sara’s hometown, the very city we raised money for, was the very town Baron Hirsch had settled my great-grandmother in. He had saved her life, giving her the opportunity to move to the United States and give birth to my grandmother, my mother, and eventually to me. His statue stands erect in the town square until this very day.

Only prayer has the power to channel the mysteries of lost connection. Just when we feel that connection is not there, G‑d comes along and surprises us with His own whispers, letting us know He’s heard us.