People look at me and mourn the life I lead. But when I see myself, I do not see a victim. On most days, I no longer see my wheelchair as a burden. I see it as my blessing; a gift which allows me a special freedom. The rows of medicines, syringes, marks from frequent blood tests and the oxygen tubing which trail around after me, do not make me a helpless patient. Nor do the series of long complicated words and acronyms which make up my various conditions define who I am.

I see myself as strong, straight-backed and sure of step. I see my hair long and flowing. I hear the music which used to grace my fingertips. I recall my students, and while their faces are not distinct, the stories of their strengths and talents linger.

My Hebrew birthday falls out on the second day of the Jewish month of Av. Because the Jewish Temples were destroyed on the ninth day of this month, Av is traditionally a month of mourning. But even though I was born into this time of mourning, I do not mourn for myself, and I certainly do not want others to mourn for my having to endure what they perceive to be a life full of suffering. For what they perceive to be unfair.

What they don't understand is that it is not about fair and unfair. G‑d runs this world, and this life is His.

On the second of Av, do I mourn? Do I celebrate? Yes and yes. I allow myself a moment of reflection for the life I had hoped to live. I even allow myself a few tears. And I mourn for our exile, I mourn for our Holy Temple

But I also celebrate. I celebrate that I have merited to live another year, a year in which I have breathed, prayed, talked, laughed, cried and loved. I celebrate being given a new beginning, a new chance at life, and this profound time in which to reflect on what was, and what, with the help of G‑d, will be.

On the surface it may seem a little paradoxical having a birthday during a time of mourning, but the way I see it, it is a time to be blessed and a time to remember.

It is a time to remember every morning, with a morning prayer on my lips, to thank G‑d for privileging me to see a new day; for all His wondrous blessings, and for allowing me to be free. And I ask Him that I might merit to use my day well, both to serve Him and to serve others.

It is a time to remember each night after I say the Shema, to count all the blessings that G‑d gave me that day. And I ask Him to bless all those I love and care for, and all those who care for me. Not just my dear family and friends, but my doctors, nurses and all the other wonderful people whom G‑d has sent to look after me. It is a time to bless their presence, not a time to mourn my needing them in my life.

So, with strength from G‑d, as I approach another Av, do not mourn for me, for I am blessed. But do mourn for the People of Israel and for our exile. Do hope and pray for our People and for our redemption. Send your prayers to the heavens. The doors are open.