Some things just stick in your memory, like a broken record; they repeat and regurgitate, rearing their ugly head, debilitating, like a choking feeling you can’t escape.

The day I got the phone call was one of those days.

I had allowed myself a couple of hours off work, which was uncharacteristic for me, a through and through workaholic.

Looking back, it’s as clear as day that it was an escape mechanism from the storms in my life, but at the time, I saw it as me being ambitious, able, serious-minded and professional. I was secretly proud of my achievements.

I designed tiles for the stars. Even Elton John’s architect wanted me to design his bathroom and flew me out to Atlanta. Of course, there were plenty of others—actors, singers and football players—they all loved my sense of piquancy and designs.

I tried to focus and paint my future with the success I worked so hard to attain. My showroom was beautiful. It had everything in it; it was quirky, it had high-class displays, and it had something for the “man on the street.” It was utterly original, and wherever you looked, it told a story and reflected the world and its inhabitants; the displays were put together eclectically. No one in the world had a showroom like mine!

I invented and developed countless design methods not used previously in my industry. I combined brass, wood, granite and sparkling quartz stone to create floor medallions that would not shame any hotel lobby, and splendid mosaic designs so intricate and palatial that people would stare in awe. The front of the showroom boasted a large framed panel that depicted the star’s constellation on jet-back porcelain tiles. I had sand-blasted sections of it to make it matte, with a rough and charcoal-like appearance, creating a contrast from the shiny black “world.” I had an astronomer draw me a map of the main stars, then I had drilled holes there following their design. Then I put tiny fiber-optic bulbs inside each hole that shimmered and reflected like the universe around us. It always drew comments from visitors to the showroom.

I like Art Deco, always have ... I designed a bathroom with little stainless-steel mosaics in different widths and heights to give the appearance of skyscrapers, which I put against shiny dual-pigmented large white gloss tiles as the background. I took some of the mosaics out and replaced them with pieces of glass, giving the impression there were lights in the buildings. It was a modern and unusual display that was featured in magazines.

With all that, I think my favorite moments were when I was serving customers. They’d ask: “What is your name?” I’d answer, with a smile: “I’m Simmy, nice to meet you.” So often, their response was: “What? The Simmy, as in Simmy Ceramics? This is your place?!”

I loved that, my ego was boosted, and my sense of pride heightened. I loved what I did. It was the only place I felt I received some recognition; it was the only location in which my self-worth was awakened.

That afternoon, I had just completed a very nice order for a couple of containers of granite and marble for a developer. I am now not only an importer but an exporter, too. I felt a sense of growth, moving forward in my business ... finally!

I was getting orders on a scale that far outweighed the residential bathroom and kitchen tiles I provided to most of my clientele on a daily basis. I was going to break the barrier and “show them.” I was going to make something of my life, my business and my passion.

I mentally ran through the various pallets of expensive marble and stone I had delivered a few days earlier. The client called himself James; funny, he didn’t sound like a “James” to me.

“Oh, well,” I thought, “maybe he adopted that name; people do. Yeah, I need customers like him. I would try to focus my efforts more on high-value orders, even if the profit margins were compromised.”

And then my mind went back to “James.” Something about him had bothered me. I remembered our last conversation; I had confirmed the delivery details, thanked him for his order, and ended the conversation as I so often do with: “G‑d bless!” There was a slight pause, like he was taken aback, and he barked into the phone, “Wass dat, you say?” I repeated: “I just said ‘G‑d bless’.” He mumbled something that sounded like “Hummph,” and the line went dead.

I now played this conversation in my mind for no real reason, and once again, it bothered me.

Then my mobile phone rang; it was from an unknown number. Some guy was screaming on the phone that I would go to prison because I stole his house, his living, his mortgage money, his life.

I really thought he was deranged, some lunatic, clearly, out of his mind. I couldn’t make much sense of what he was saying, but when he said his name, sirens started going off in my head—the type of high-pitched silent screeching you experience just before you feel sick. He sounded nothing like “James.”

The truth surfaced bit by bit. This man was not the person to whom I sold the marble containers; instead, it was his money someone else stole to pay me. Not only was the cash taken and used straight away to compensate me, but his sim card was cloned and his telephone number compromised as well.

The credit card company was now taking back that (large) payment from my business, even though I had already paid for and delivered the goods to this scammer. When I later went to the address where the goods were delivered, there was no one there and no containers.

It felt like the world was spinning, spiraling into an abyss, a deep ache that threatened my stability, my integrity, my future, my reputation, my business, my life—the blood drained from my face.

It was all too much to take in. I kept hoping against hope that this was somehow an error—that all would be solved, that it was just someone’s administrative error. Errors happen all the time, don’t they?

Then I got a call from the bank. They were saying they were on their way to my showroom to disconnect my PDQ machine and conduct a full investigation to see whether I was a willing participant in this scam. I couldn’t take credit-card payments anymore; my bank account would be disabled. Horror, absolute horror. How could I face my life?

I immediately called “James.” I can’t say I was too surprised when I realized that the phone was disconnected and a repeated message of “The number you have called has not been recognized, please hang up and try again.” So I did, again and again. If I kept busy, perhaps it would stop reality from setting in.

Almost everyone, apart from the few expressing the odd bit of empathy, took the stance of: “Simmy, how could you let something like this happen to you? You’re an intelligent girl, what were you thinking?” “Tell me again, what did he say? How could he get away with it?”

So now, not only was I busy kicking myself every waking hour, but I also had to justify myself to all, like I was the thief. I was sad, ashamed, distraught and pained.

My boyfriend at the time looked at me with such disdain, such revulsion, that for the umpteenth time I felt mere inches tall. He didn’t shout, he never shouted. He would bring his face right up close to mine, so I could almost feel his breath on my face, and say in a low, measured, controlled voice, “What does it feel like to always be wrong?” No sympathy, no empathy, not a single hint of compassion.

I think he reflected what I felt about myself.

Weeks passed, and the business was failing fast. We had no active bank account; how could I trade? What was I to tell my clients who wanted to pay for their orders by credit card or a check? How was I going to pay the staff their salaries? Questions, worries and pain greeted me each morning as I awoke.

I played that phone call in my mind countless times. Each time was followed by my going back in time and playing a different scenario, a different outcome. It was just a matter of time before my beloved XK8 Jaguar convertible was sold off to pay debts. Who knew whether I’d be able to keep my house? My son was all of 6 or 7 years old; how was I going to support him? My reality was a barrage of unanswered questions. I ate, drank, slept and breathed guilt.

Then, my sisters took me out to a “cheer you up” dinner—somewhere posh, somewhere lovely, the kind of place I reveled in. I started telling them with colorful descriptions and hand gesticulations about what I would do if I ever caught “James.”

Judy expressed so much understanding and empathy, it felt like she really shared my pain.

Rachel, whose wisdom has never ceased to inspire me, looked me straight in the eye: “Shhhhh,” she said, “Don’t do that. Bless him!”

I was indignant, angry and half thought she was joking “BLESS HIM??” I almost screamed, “Bless him?? What do you mean? Are you serious?? Why? He took everything from me, ev-ery-thing! He doesn’t deserve my blessing!”

When I finished my outburst, she was still looking at me intently, I saw endless love and compassion in her eyes. “He took everything, did he?”

“Yes, of course, he did!” I retorted

Again, softly, quietly, in a voice full of more love than I imagined possible, she asked: “Simmy, did he take your child?”

“No, don’t be silly, of course not!” I answered a little irritated.

“Simmy, did he take away your health?”

“Thank G‑d, no. Well, apart from my anxiety ... ”

“Simmy, did he take your memories?”

“Nnnno-o, he didn’t take my memories.”

“Let’s see now, did he take away your talents?”

“Nooooo, he didn’t touch that.”

“Well, maybe, he somehow compromised or took away your soul?”

“No, no one can touch my soul!”

“Did he take away your future?”

“No, I admit, he couldn’t touch my future apart from the obvious financial impact.”

“Well, perhaps he took away your kind heart?”


“Ah, I know, did he take away your essence?”


“Did he take away your love of art?”


“Did he take away your love of nature and the world?”

“No, how could he?”

“Did he take away your senses?”

“No.” I could see, hear, smell and touch.

“Did he take away your friends?”


“Hmmm ... in that case, I don’t think he took everything away from you. Other than money, what did he take away? Nothing! And you believe that absolutely everything comes from G‑d, so bless this James character for being party to your lesson, your learning, your journey. It’s not a punishment. It just had to happen, it was your destiny.”

She continued: “A person’s income is fixed from Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah (Beitza 16a). Understand Simmy, no one, absolutely no one can touch one penny of yours, and you cannot take away one penny of anyone else’s, even though it may not seem so. Everything, is a decree from G‑d.”

I thought long and hard about that conversation and narrated it many times since. I haven’t got one-tenth of the wealth I had then, and maybe I’m not supposed to. But I do harness the belief that everything, absolutely everything, happens for the good and G‑d is looking after me.

The steps of man are ordered by G‑d, Who delights in his journey (Psalms 37:23).