It had been a long day. I was exhausted in every possible way. I felt lost and vulnerable and scared, and I didn’t know where go. So I hopped in my truck without any particular destination in mind, and decided to let the road take me to its end.

I just let the truck drive itself. I don’t remember exactly what was going through my mind at the time. The truth is, I was so confused about so many parts of my little 18-year-old life; the social pressures, the forbidden intrigues, family stuff, expectations, performance anxiety.

What I do remember is where the road took me that day . . . I wasn’t exactly the type to just “drop by” the rabbi’s officethe rabbi’s office. Just for a little perspective here, it should be known that I wasn’t exactly the type to just “drop by” the rabbi’s office. I was more the ditch-5th-period-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance kind of a girl. Not that I had anything against rabbis per se; I was just young and more interested in carving out my own brand of spirituality. But here I was, as low as I had ever felt, knocking gently on the proverbial “heaven’s door.”

He opened the door and welcomed me with a warm and loving smile that ripped right through me. I was so vulnerable, so off course, that in that one brief moment of his totally genuine and accepting presence I let down every defense I had so carefully designed for myself. I was sobbing. Not little sobs, by the way, but big embarrassing sobs, where you have to catch your breath three times in a row.

He was so patient with me. He just let me just sit and cry for a while, didn’t try to stop me or make me tell him what was wrong. He just let me get it out. Eventually I pulled myself together and was able to organize some cohesive sentences. I told him about everything that was weighing so heavy on me; it felt really good to put all that emotion in words.

Then when I was just about finished I said to him, “Rabbi, I’m so sorry to be here like this. If I were feeling well, I wouldn’t have just stopped by to say hello. But I feel so broken. I am so lost. That’s why I came here; I only use religion as a crutch.”

I waited for confirmation from him. I imagined that he would agree that I was in fact a total loser and proceed to tell me how horrible I had been and that there was no such thing as a “quick fix” with G‑d. But he didn’t say that, not at all. He leaned back in his chair, stroked his graying beard and asked me a question, as rabbis often do.

Sarah’leh, when a man breaks his leg, what do you tell him to do? I only use religion as a crutchRun a marathon? No! You give him a crutch until he can stand up on his feet again. That’s what it is here for; use it.”

I let that sink in a bit. Then I told him honestly, “but I’m scared, Rabbi. I’ve seen you and your beautiful family, and I’ve eaten at your Shabbos table. I’ve seen the candles and the wine and felt the sweetness of the whole scene, and I’m afraid that if I use this crutch that I might start to like it, might come to depend on it. And then, well, I might become like you . . . and I like you, but with all due respect, I don’t want to be like you.”

He didn’t even flinch, just smiled wide and looked in to my eyes and said, “Sarah’leh, do you know the story about Moshe’leh the paratrooper?”

“Not a chance, Rabbi.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. Moshe’leh signed up to become a paratrooper. He went through all the training, and finally his big day came. The pilot yelled out to the guys waiting to jump, ‘Shmulik, jump!’ and he jumped. ‘Yossel, jump!’ and Yossel jumped. ‘Moshe’leh, jump!’ Moshe’leh couldn’t do it, he just shook his head and said, ‘I can’t do it, I’m afraid.’ ‘No problem, Moshe, maybe next time.’

“Moshe went up another few times, and each time all of his friends jumped, but Moshe’leh wouldn’t do it. So one day the pilot decided to ask him about it.

“‘Moshe’leh, I understand that you’re afraid to jump, and that’s okay, I’m not going to make you jump. I’m just curious: if you’re afraid to jump, why did you sign up to be a paratrooper?’

“Moshe responded simply, ‘Well, I never really wanted to be a paratrooper; I just really like to hang around with them.’”I like you, but with all due respect, I don’t want to be like you

The rabbi looked at me intently and said, “Sarah’leh, you can try as hard as you like to be like me; you’ll never be like me. And I can try as hard as I like to be like you, and I’ll never be like you. Just take it one step at a time; you’ll find your way.”

There were many days of discussion and learning and eating and babysitting that followed. But I suppose it was that day in the rabbi’s office where one road ended and another began.

I still haven’t jumped out of an airplane or anything like that. My journey has been a gradual process. I have been blessed to find myself in good places with good people and with kind teachers all along the way. I am very proud of where I am, and look forward to what lies ahead. I choose to hang around with people like my rabbi and his family. It’s a choice I make every day. And, thank G‑d, I don’t hit the same kind of lows that brought me in tears to his office that day.

But every once in a while, G‑d reminds me with a metaphoric limp in my stride. And then I humbly remember what it feels like to need Him. And for these times, I am very grateful.