It was one of those months when everything seemed to go wrong—and I do mean everything. The first week we moved into our apartment, it began flooding. We weren’t even sure where the water was coming from. Our landlord told us that there had never been a problem before, and he had no idea why our floor was flooded.

A neighbor came over to see the little pool, and concluded that it must be coming from a hole in the water filter. We spoke with the water filter man, who told us that nothing was wrong with it. We then thought that maybe all the water was coming from our refrigerator. Could it be that when the movers had carried it up to our apartment, they had broken something that was now causing it to leak? It was so hard to tell.

“Let’s move away from here. We can’t live like this.”We called a refrigerator repairman. He charged us for the visit, and concluded that it definitely was not the refrigerator. Nothing was broken. Again we called the landlord, and again he told us that this had never happened before.

This went on for at least a month. Then my oven broke. As the repairman fixed the oven, I asked him, “Do you have any idea why our apartment floods?” I showed him where we always had water on the floor.

“You must have a blocked pipe,” he told me.

“A blocked pipe?” Could all this water on my floor be coming not from something broken, but from a blocked pipe?

A plumber came to my house—three times. Each time he would unplug the pipe. A week would go by, and again water would flood the floor. My husband was ready to give up. “Let’s go,” he urged. “Let’s move away from here. We can’t live like this.”

“We are not going anywhere,” I told him. “We are doing all that we can. The rest is up to G‑d. I love the area where we live, and we are going to make it work.”

I reminded him that we also didn’t have any money to move again, even if we wanted to. When our apartment flooded again for the third time, we called a new plumber. He put his de-plugging tube deep into the drain. It went deeper and deeper, and then all of a sudden a big blue pencil sharpener flew out of the pipe. (Yes, this is my real life, and yes, even the plumber was shocked.) That, thank G‑d, has been the end of our flooding (at least so far).

I learned a very important lesson from this pencil sharpener.

A person can go through life feeling down and dejected. You make a mistake; you feel terrible about yourself. You don’t have a job, or you have a job that you don’t like. You have problems with friends or family members. You, G‑d forbid, don’t have friends or a family. You are missing something, and you can’t get what you want. You tell yourself that the reason all these things are happening is because there is something wrong with you.

You are wrong! In those moments of darkness, when you feel like there is nothing about you or the situation that you are in that is right, you always have to remember, “It’s not that there is something ‘wrong’ with me. It’s not that I have a hole or a defect. I just have to remove and ‘unblock’ the thing that is pulling me down.”

In order to acquire something of value, it is first necessary to appreciate its true worthThe Talmud mentions a case where a man bought a house and subsequently found that an ancient treasure lay buried beneath it. After hearing the news, the previous owner argued that he had never intended to sell the treasure. The Talmud rules that since the seller never had reason to suspect the existence of the treasure, it was not his to begin with, and the court must rule in favor of the buyer. The reasoning behind the verdict is that if a person has something of great value but doesn’t realize it, it is as if he does not really own it. In order to acquire something of value, it is first necessary to appreciate its true worth.

Every Jew must know that he or she is inherently good, and that within each one of us, we have a direct pipeline—our soul—that goes straight up to the Source of all blessing. Our sages teach us that the Creator searched all of His creation for a vessel fit to contain blessing, and found nothing better than peace: “G‑d gives strength to His nation; G‑d blesses His nation with peace.” When a person has peace within, they become a vessel for blessing.

So how does a person “unblock”? First, value who you are and what you do have. Second, work on freeing yourself from all foreign and unhealthy influences, whether they come from within you or from your surroundings. Depending on the situation, you might need to seek help in order to do this. You might ask a friend, a rabbi or a mentor. (Or even a plumber!)

Last, remind yourself over and over that you are intrinsically good and that you are directly connected to the Master of the World, in whose hands is contained all the world’s blessing.