I grew up lost and confused. Through no fault of my loving parents, life dealt me an early blow, which swiftly headed off any sense of meaning or purpose that might have naturally evolved.

It took many years, 38 to be precise, before the process (and my entire worldview) was totally rebooted in a way I would never have expected—all in the space of just a few moments.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the I grew up lost and confusedchassidic movement, taught that everything we see and hear has a particular message for us about our unique mission and how we should be in the world. In a way, I knew this many years before I had the privilege to explore my Jewish heritage. Let me take you back 20 years or so.

I was 38, a psychiatrist working with indigenous people who had suffered major cultural, communal and individual traumas, and with women who had been sexually abused as children (as I myself had been at the age of 3).

I saw people healing from things I would have thought it impossible to heal from. I knew that this was coming from something deep within them, not anything I had learned in my training. That if they were safe in their outside lives and in therapy with me, there was a central organizing process happening, an inner drive to heal, make sense of things, find meaning and move on. Just as when we get a cut we do not have to think about every step of the clotting process which stops the bleeding, and about the proliferation of connective tissue that heals the wound, so too I found a healing process taking place in the inner worlds of my patients.

I had found Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning in an outdoor bargain bin at a secondhand shop, and began to ask some deep questions, but I had not yet found any answers that spoke to me about the mystery I had happened upon.

All of this changed one lunchtime with a fleeting visit to the newly established Baby Memorial at the old West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide, South Australia.

A number of women who had lost babies at birth over the past 50 years had been referred to me for grief counseling. It had recently been exposed in the media that that their babies had been buried in unmarked graves across a grassy area in the old cemetery, and the women had banded together to approach the government for some kind of memorial to allow them to grieve.

Since I was encouraging these women to visit the newly designed memorial, I felt I had better go and take a look myself. One lunchtime, on the way from my private rooms to the Indigenous Health Service, sandwich in hand, I stopped in at the cemetery for a 20-minute visit.

The memorial itself was very beautiful and comprised a walled-in, womb-like area for women to sit privately and grieve, and then a large flat area shaped like a pond, on which there were more than 500 copper plates shaped like lily pads. Each one was engraved with the name of the stillborn baby; the day, month and year the baby died; and the name of the hospital.

The pond was oval-shaped, with no beginning or end. I stopped randomly in the middle to look at one leaf, a baby girl born on July 2, 1956, at Memorial Hospital. A baby girl born the same day I was, at the same hospital!

I What happened that day?feel to this day the reverberation of the tremor that passed through me at that moment. What happened that day? I was given a life, that baby wasn’t. I must be here for a reason!

This was my first lesson in chassidic thought, long before I had a chance to explore my Jewish heritage and begin to learn Tanya. Later I learned, and now I teach others, that our body and soul come in a perfect match, chosen by our Creator. That no soul in a body that ever was or ever will be has the particular mission of our soul in our body. We each have our own unique, irreplaceable part in the healing of the world.