I sit in the park and watch two mothers with their toddlers.

One holds her daughter’s hand as the child takes wobbly steps. She lets go. The child stands and looks at her mother. The mother says, “Come on, you can do it.” Sometimes, the child steps forward; sometimes, she falls and then picks herself up. The child learns to walk.

The other mother, she’s nervous. MaybeShe falls and then picks herself up it’s her first child, and she’s never done this before. Maybe it’s her personality. She holds onto the child. The child makes an attempt to let go, but the mother holds her back and says, “No, no my love, you’ll fall!” The child looks into her mother’s scared eyes and becomes scared herself, so she doesn’t try. Eventually, with the right tools and the right help, the child learns to walk, timidly.

I accompany a woman on her birth. As the birth of her baby draws near, she almost always shakes her head and cries, “I can’t do this!” I make her look into my eyes and repeat these words, “With G‑d’s help, I can do this.” She repeats the phrase over and over, and soon the baby comes into the world.

I’ve worked for many years now with women. I hear over and over, “I can’t ... change, give birth, get over, heal from ... ” I always ask them, “Why not? Who says that you can’t? With G‑d’s help, you can.”

I look at my children, from the smallest to the biggest, and I constantly tell them over and over, “G‑d willing, you can!” I tell my husband over and over, “With G‑d’s help, you can, this will happen ... ” I fall down and don’t want to get up, and I tell myself, “Elana, with G‑d’s help, you can.”

I know it gives them strength. I certainly know it gives me strength. But what exactly is the strength that we tap into by saying, “G‑d willing, you can; I can?”

There was a smart beautiful woman that lived many years ago. Her name was Rachel. Her father was one of the wealthiest men in Israel. This may sound like a storybook tale, but it’s true. Rachel fell in love with her father’s employee, an illiterate man named Akiva. Akiva had tremendous potential. She saw clearly what was inside of him. She saw his exemplary character, his modesty and scrupulous dedication to mitzvot. She wanted to marry him. Her father refused. She married him anyway, and her father disinherited her. After a short while, Rachel, without knowing what the outcome would be, made a decision to encourage Akiva to go far away to study Torah. It wasn’t his idea but hers.

She lived in dire poverty for many, many years while he was away. This was before telephones and email. Long-distance communication was basically non-existent. Rachel had no idea that Akiva was progressing tremendously in his studies. She had no idea that he was becoming one of the most famed rabbis and teachers of all time. All she knew was that G‑d created Akiva with great potential and strengths, and she believed in them.

When Rabbi AkivaRachel had no idea that Akiva was progressing tremendously came back from studying, 24,000 students accompanied him. When he saw his wife, he stood up before them, and what did he tell them?

“What’s mine [greatness, achievements, wisdom] and what’s yours comes from her [merit and encouragement].”

That’s right; it was hers. How? Because she believed in him? Not exactly. Rachel believed in the potential that G‑d gave him, and that belief gave him the power to believe in it, too. With that belief, he was able to try—and trying is all we can do.

In life, we have fears. There is a fear of failure and a fear of being let down. We have fears of not being in control and fears of pain or disappointment.

What was the message that Rachel gave Akiva? What was the message that led to his greatness? “Put the fears aside and don’t get stuck on thinking that you know or can control the outcome. Tap into your G‑d-given strengths and activate your potential by believing in it.”

She believed, he believed, and G‑d made it happen.

A child has the potential to walk. Why not believe in it?

A couple has the potential to have children. Why not believe in it?

A person has the potential to change and grow and heal. Why not believe in that?

We believe, and with G‑d’s will, the potential becomes a reality.