I’d gone in for surgery to remove a benign fibroid that was getting too large. When I woke up, the doctor told me that they had seen some unrecognizable cells and made the decision to remove all my reproductive organs.

Needless to say, I was in complete shock.

I felt aggrieved and completely deflated as a woman. My body was now scarred, and so was my soul. I returned to shul as soon as I was able, hoping my attendance would reignite my spirit, or at least compensate for my inability to pray. I didn’t just question G‑d’s ways; I had the audacity to be angry at G‑d Himself—a feeling I was not very comfortable with.

I knew I had much to be grateful for, so I made an appointment with a rebbetzin, my mentor, to talk it through. I’d attended her classes over the years and she always recharged my spiritual battery and inspired me better myself. I regarded her as the epitome of what a religious teacher should be because she practiced what she preached. She was always accessible for questions and never asked for anything in return. I had already discussed my feelings with her when I turned 40. I knew she would be understanding and kind, but I felt more vulnerable than ever. I told her about my surgery and my grief. I told her I was angry at G‑d and then too ashamed to have had the audacity to be angry at Him.

My rebbetzin reassured me, “If you are angry at G‑d, that means you still have a relationship with Him. If you were indifferent, now that would be a problem.” Whew, I thought. So, I’m not completely lost. But I felt very lost.

“I can barely pray when I feel this way.”

She looked at me with kindness in her eyes and said, “You are human. It is normal to grieve and to question. If you cannot use the prayer book, pray from your heart. Talk to Him directly. Tell Him what you feel.”

With one brilliant stroke she absolved me of the burden of guilt. She reassured me that faith is often coupled with doubt, and that it was okay. She gave me an alternate way to speak to G‑d till this anger would pass. She gave me a way to carry on.

I carried on.

The Phone Call

I carried on, but I struggled. At this stage, my dreams of motherhood were elusive. Perhaps I’d be a stepmother or adopt a child, but it seemed unlikelier than ever. I had spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to become a Jewish wife and mother. I had that role instilled in me by my schooling, my society, and my own desire, however by G‑d’s design and my missteps, I had never achieved that goal. What did G‑d want from me? Was the ultimate mission to be a Jewish wife and mother? If so, what was my mission now? I would need to re-evaluate my purpose on this planet and recalibrate.

I doubted the power of prayer. Yes, it was very nice that Sarah, our foremother, prayed for a child, but I was fairly certain that I myself would not have a child at 90 years of age, no matter how hard I prayed. I would not even want a miracle like that at that age. It already felt too late at this stage. Sarah, Rachel and Chana were “remembered” on Rosh Hashanah and granted children.

But there were many others – even great, pious rabbis and their wives – who were denied children. Were their prayers meritless? Were mine half-worthy or even heard at all?

I had learned that no prayer was ever in vain or unanswered. Perhaps in place of what was intended, another blessing was received. But I was a grieving woman with no clear answers.

One Shabbat morning, I sat with my prayerbook in my lap, unable to pray. It felt completely futile. I stared at the words on the page without seeing them. I shut the siddur and placed it back on the shelf. The words on the page did not express what I was feeling. I could not pray from my heart as I had been advised either. G‑d knew how much I’d tried and how much I’d cried. I hoped He understood.

Sunday morning, I felt miserable for not having prayed on Shabbat. I pulled the siddur off the shelf again, determined to pray this time. I knew the world was unfair and that I could not see the big picture. I knew I had plenty to be grateful for, but I still didn’t want to be one voice in a community of voices. I wanted to stand out and be heard. I want a one-on-one with You, G‑d.

This time, I heeded the advice and I prayed from my heart. I stared at the light fixture the same way I gaze at my candles Friday night. It somehow seemed appropriate to look up there. Where are You? I knew G‑d was everywhere. I talked to Him: G‑d, I’ve prayed to you for years and years begging for a spouse, for a family. Perhaps the answer is “No.” Perhaps there is a reason why I’m still alone. But how do I know that You’re listening to me or hearing me at all?

I looked away from the ceiling, feeling absurd. I rocked gently in my recliner, my siddur open, flat on my lap. I closed it. Please give me a sign that You’ve heard me, even if Your answer is “No.” I beg You, give me a sign so that I know.

I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and sighed from the intensity of my efforts. The phone rang and startled me.

Ha. That must be G‑d. What is He going to sound like? I thought, knowing it couldn’t possibly be Him. Or could it? I had goosebumps. I didn’t recognize the phone number. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but if I didn’t answer the phone, I’d always wonder who it was.

Ring a ling a ling. My heart jumped at the sound. I grabbed the phone.


“I’m calling from the charity for ...”

My heart sank. What had I been hoping for?

I cut her off, “I never pledge over the phone. You can send an envelope my way ….” I was in no mood for this sort of call, and I truly never pledged for fear I would forget.

“I’m not calling for a pledge. I’m calling to let you know you won our Chinese auction and should be getting your prize in the mail soon.”

“I won?” I’ve never won anything in my life. I looked up at the ceiling again, trying to recall which auction this was.

“Yes, you won a tri-color gold necklace and bracelet set. Please let us know if it does not arrive in a few days.”

It did arrive, and was beautiful and dainty with little white, yellow, and red gold beads.

Was the call coincidence? Divine Providence? I had begged G‑d to give me a sign and the phone rang. I call it my “G‑d-is-Listening” jewelry, and I wear it when I need to feel G‑d close to me.