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The Fulcrum of Fear

Sara Pardes

“Unesaneh tokef, let us proclaim the power of this day’s holiness…” Three women describe having their lives overturned, facing their deepest fears — and finding Hashem beside them

Monday, September 18, 2017

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“After I personally learned what it’s like to stand before a judge, Elul took on a different meaning. I saw that you can’t rely on status, that even being a member of Knesset or minister doesn’t mean much. The insignificance of man took on new meaning. I understood that one can’t rely on his deeds, even good deeds, when approaching a trial, but only on the kindness of Hashem, undeserved kindness”

W

ho Will Live and Who Will Die

“Man comes from dust and his end will be in dust… like a shard of pottery, dry grass, a withering blossom, a passing shadow…”

“Once, before my world was turned upside down, I tried to be a good Jew and feel the fear of judgment during the Yamim Noraim,” says Chani Weinroth. “I tried to understand that at any moment something could happen and change my life irrevocably. But I wasn’t so successful. Reality was too good to be able to imagine something black and terminal.”

But then Chani was diagnosed with cancer. The young mother underwent treatment and, thankfully, went into remission. Slowly, her world began to right itself and life returned to its routine. Chani was busy caring for her children and studying for her master’s in psychology. While she still needed routine follow-up testing, she was confident that the days of illness were behind her.

Until everything changed. Chani was about to go out shopping; a babysitter watched her kids in the next room as she prepared to leave. “The phone rang while I was getting dressed,” she remembers. “I answered immediately and heard the terrible news: You’re sick and have no chance of recovery.”

Chani collapsed. “I felt like my life was slowly ebbing away. My children were in the room next door, happy and exuberant, but in my heart, I had already taken leave of them.”

Her babysitter, hearing the thump, ran into the room and tried to call an ambulance. Chani stopped her. “I told her ‘I’m not sick,’ ” she relates. “ ‘I’m already dead. There’s nothing to do.’ I couldn’t see any ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel.”

“People think that Rosh Hashanah must be very hard for me, but the truth is that for me, there’s no difference between Rosh Hashanah and any regular day"

Chani’s husband returned home and tried to calm her, but he too was unsuccessful. He made an appointment for her with her attending physician, and Chani says that — ironically — her doctor was able to give her hope, even as he shared the crushing details of her illness.

“He reiterated that there’s no documentation of anyone surviving this condition,” Chani says. “But that’s only statistics, and I’m 100 percent human. He also told me about a woman with my diagnosis who lived for four years. I think he exaggerated — that lady lived for a much shorter time — but I suddenly saw that I have hope.

“In the 99 percent death rate, there’s a single percentage of life, which I grabbed like a drowning person grasps at straws. Since then, I take hold of it again and again, even when my condition is very serious.”

Chani says that she was able to return to leading a full life, but that the shadow of death still hovers over her. “I always remember that my children aren’t mine, they’re Hashem’s, and my time is borrowed. The boat of my life isn’t stable.”

Nearly eight years have passed since that black day.

“Even that doctor could not have imagined that I’d live until now,” Chani says. “My oldest then was about five, and I lived to celebrate her bas mitzvah. No one would have believed that I’d be zochah to reach this day.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 560)

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