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Call of the Siddur

S.T. Agam

We were under a curse. Or so it seemed — and we weren’t the only ones who thought so. People contacted us with an endless stream of suggestions: Check your mezuzahs (we did — twice). Light candles l’illui nishmas Rabi Meir Baal Haneis. Visit the ayin hara lady. Ask your builders whether they haven’t blocked a window (the legacy of Rabi Yehuda Hachassid); and the icing on our burnt-out cake: move to a new home!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This last bit of advice was from a doting mother-in-law, who frantically begged us to relocate. She was just one of a chorus of concerned relatives convinced that better things awaited us, if we would only leave for fairer fields. We desperately needed a change of mazel. Since we’d moved to our current address, things had been going haywire in so many aspects of our lives. In a single year, almost every member of our family had been hospitalized — some for serious ailments, some for more trivial ones, while some of the mishaps were downright bizarre. By now, we knew hospital admittance procedures inside and out, and both my husband and I had been in multiple times. Along the way I had managed to wreck not one car, but two. Our ceiling had fallen in because of a neighbor’s faulty plumbing, and a floor had collapsed as a result of poor construction. And our finances were in such a mess we had no chance of fixing either. As we tried to catch our breath between one near-catastrophe and the next, my husband and I approached one of the gedolei hador for an eitzah. More specifically, we wanted to know whether to take my mother-in-law up on her offer. Since the latest development in our litany of misfortune had been the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness in one of our children, our energies were directed fully toward keeping our family afloat. We had little desire to add the upheaval of relocation to our already fragile package, unless a gadol affirmed it was a wise course of action. Still, so many people had voiced the familiar “Meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazel” as if that were our only chance of salvation, that the rav’s answer took us by surprise. “It’s not the house,” he said decisively. When asked what we should do instead, he simply replied: “Daven.”


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