Rebbetzin Henny Machlis, a”h, was known for her wide-open Jerusalem door and her even wider heart; her love of every fellow Jew knew no bounds. Yet everyone who met her, or read about her in the book by Sara Yoheved Rigler, Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, was aware of her number one relationship– with Hashem. There is a chapter in the book called “Talk to Hashem,” which describes the way Henny lived her belief: that the purpose of life is to connect to Hashem, and prayer is the means to make that connection. She would remind others that we each have a “direct line” to Him and that we can move worlds with our prayers.
“Closeness to Hashem is at the essence of the mitzvos,” said Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, zt”l. “When Hashem came to us at Har Sinai, He said, ‘I am Hashem your God Who took you out of the land of Mitzrayim’ (not: I am the God who created heaven and earth).” This expresses the personal relationship that is possible to exist between us and Hashem, Rav Pincus suggests.
Times of suffering can also bring us closer to Hashem. “When difficult times come, we should know that we have a great and loving Hashem. We don’t understand everything. The world is beyond our comprehension. But we always need to remember that Hashem is personally the God of each and every one of us,” said Rav Pincus.
He described, “It’s a relationship of love. Like a mother standing over her sleeping baby, who does not even know that he has a mother! Hashem is with us, loves us, and protects us all the time.”
It’s still so hard!
I read in the name of Rav Pincus that many times a person breaks down crying and it doesn’t mean they have a lack of trust in God. It is normal and natural to cry when things get difficult. Most people are not on the level of full awareness that Hashem is doing the best thing for them. The rav validates that sometimes, “We can accept [this] from an intellectual standpoint, but to wholeheartedly live this awareness is beyond our ability.”
I was asked to share some meaningful ideas from Tehillim (the Book of Psalms). Tehillim is a Jew’s comfort, hope, and arsenal. Tehillim is like dynamite, I once heard (perhaps also from Rav Pincus!?). Every time we pray with or say Tehillim, it is as if Dovid Hamelech himself is saying it, and its effect can burst barriers.
I turn to Psalm 18, which is very long, but I find it particularly meaningful right now.
It mentions many dangers and distresses, and Dovid Hamelech’s attempts to cry out: “Hashem is my Rock, my Fortress, my Rescuer, my God, my Rock in whom I take shelter, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold…”
This psalm describes multiple ways that the enemy (physical or spiritual) is overturned by devouring smoke, scattered arrows, confounding lightning bolts, water moving in ways that reveal dry land. Hashem could do all of this, says the psalm, “mi’nishmas ruach apecha” (by the blowing of the breath of Your nostrils!). That easily!
In the middle of this psalm there is so much hope of rescue, of being saved from that enemy: “He saved me from my enemy…Hashem was a support…, brought me out…, released me…”
And did Hashem help the enemy? Look at verse 42 of that Psalm: “They cried out, but there was no savior…I pulverized them like dust…, like mud…”
In verse 49 it mentions the name of a “certain enemy” that is destructive in our times (translated here as “violence”): “You rescue me…You raise me, from the man ‘of violence’ You rescue me.” [See Psalm 140, which also contains that name/word several times with a similar theme.)
It doesn’t just end there with being saved, though. Spotlight on the mission of a Jew: gratitude. Rav Hirsch points out that this psalm continues with Dovid Hamelech’s decision to devote his renewed energies to broadcast Hashem beyond his own family, extending throughout the generations: “Therefore, I shall give thanks to You among the nations, Hashem, and to Your Name I will sing.”
Psalm 18 ends with words we say at the end of Birkas Hamazon: “Magdil yeshuos malko.. v’oseh chesed limeshicho…” Who magnifies the salvations…and does kindness to His anointed one David and his offspring forever.
We are those offspring! We can still broadcast the message!
I also love Psalm 46, which calls Hashem a shield to all distraught people who seek His support. I love how it describes Hashem as a “very accessible” refuge (“nimtzah me’od“) and ends off with using one of the reserved names of Hashem in a statement of hope and strength.
In such a stirring time, people are moved to improve. One very practical suggestion I heard is to work on saying the bedtime Shema (better, more properly, or more regularly).
Rav Pincus says a Jew who takes the five minutes to say Shema properly before bed gets to be in the “embrace of Hashem” for six (!?) hours, like sitting in Hashem’s lap, so to speak. “When we recite Shema Yisrael, and say in Adon Olam, ‘I place my spirit in Your hand,’ our neshamah is with Hashem and becomes rejuvenated. This is a fountain flowing with joy, health, and everything good.”
May we all always have that knowledge, and feel it, too! May we merit closeness with Hashem and with one another, through only compassion, not suffering.
Julie is an occupational therapist, photographer, and author of several books including her newest, titled Making It Mine. You may recognize her as the author of Pesach While You Sleep, or one of her other titles available here. Julie lives with her husband and children (who wonder which occupation is her ‘real job’) in Detroit, Michigan.
Learn more about the author: https://juliehauser.my.canva.site/
View the book trailer for her latest book full of inspiration and practical interviews that bring it all home: https://tinyurl.com/MakingItMineh20