Unto Your Heart
A memoir of light, loss & Heart Homecoming to Hashem*
*A respectful Hebrew term for G-d
With thanks to our Creator, I dedicate these first chapters to my dear parents of blessed memory, Rachel, daughter of Ruchama and Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib, son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak. My amazing parents will forever inspire me to kindle the light of kindness.
"... The fundamental intention of creation is to transform darkness into light."
~ Rabbi DovBer (1773-1827) "The Gate of Unity"
On your sacred heart journey, you are never alone, even in the darkest of times.
You are nurtured, as you quest to reveal light from within.
I was born three months premature. In 1961, doctors had yet to learn of the vital contribution of nurturing human touch towards the thriving of children and especially for the survival of premature babies. No one, not even my dear mother was allowed to hold me during my 3 month isolation in the incubator. It was a miracle that I survived. My parents named me Haya which means "life"in Hebrew. When I was released from the neonatal ward, doctors instructed my mother not to allow me to cry as I was too weak to cry. I proved them wrong.
My parents had accrued much life wisdom by the time I arrived.
My father was a widower, father and a proud grandfather for many years by the time he married my mother later in life.
My mother had waited until her early forties to finally find her soul mate. My parents shared a uniquely joyful relationship and deep dedication to family, community, Israel, and to all of humanity.
Mom had a twinkle in her eye for Dad, and Dad had a twinkle in his eye for Mom. My two married siblings and I, were the apples of both their eyes. My bright, fun, loving mom was instantly embraced by my older siblings. She became a beloved grandmother to my nephews and nieces.
Since 1932, my father had been a beloved orthodox community rabbi in Ohio. As man of values, as soon as he could afford to forgo a salary, he refused to accept payment for his Rabbinic skills. He built quality family homes and apartments for a living while he dedicated most of his time to community spiritual leadership. As his congregation outgrew its modest house of worship, Dad built his flock a spacious, welcoming synagogue.
My strong dad, the middle-aged, respected rabbi, was able and honored to do all heavy manual labor, shoulder to shoulder with his esteemed employees. They loved him dearly. He took a keen interest in their well being. He was that way with everyone he met.
My mother had a habit of celebrating every person she encountered. She just loved people for their beautiful uniqueness. My parents had a lot of values in common.
My parents were seasoned wellsprings of love, patience, wisdom and humor. They were old enough to be my grandparents yet they were youthful, active and full of life. More often than not, the three of us could be found singing and laughing, especially during our frequent long walks together and during long car rides to visit family.
My parents both escaped early 20th century antisemitism in Eastern Europe. They were each firstborn and they each lost many of their loved ones in the Holocaust or pogroms. They each tragically lost their fathers at a tender young age and they both matured quickly to care for their widowed mothers and siblings.
My parents were living examples of exceptionally healthy and endearing relationships with all, especially with their in-laws. They knew how to spring back from loss and rebuild from scratch, while tenderly caring for loved ones. In doing so, they acquired faith and resilience.
Without many words, my parents instilled faith in me.
When I was 3 years old, I was so very small for my age, that my little legs could not reach up over stairs.
I could barely reach the pedals on my tiny tricycle. Nevertheless, I got the hang of it and was soon riding circles around my dad as my blond curls blew in the wind.
My proud father sang a little ditty to me: "Round and around she goes, where she stops, nobody knows...". His beam was a clear vote of confidence in me. I remember feeling a tremendous sense of wonder. How far could I go? Nobody really knows...
I can still hear Dad's voice in my heart and see the twinkle in his eye. His lifelong confidence in me remains my cue for faith and resilience in the face of uncertainty and seemingly insurmountable odds.
In moments of self doubt, I remind myself of how I felt inside:
I may be small, yet I am a trailblazer.
I am never alone, as I boldly venture into the great unknown ...
My earliest memories were of sitting on my father's lap in as he chanted, learning from our precious Torah. On my father's desk stood a picture that I would enjoy looking at. My father would tell me it was my Zaide, my righteous Hasidic grandfather, of blessed memory, whom I never met. The picture was, in fact, a small reproduction of The Praying Jew (Rabbi of Vitebsk) by Marc Chagall. My handsome grandfather did look a lot like the Rabbi in the painting. His kindness shone through his features, much like those of my smiling father, of blessed memory.
Dad taught me Torah in a unique way. He would never impose anything on me. He would gladly teach me anything I wanted to learn, provided that I initiated the process. To learn our beloved Torah, I had to ask questions. I quickly became an initiator.
I have often wondered if G-d has the same educational policy. Our Talmudic sages taught, "On the path upon which a man wants to walk, he is lead." It appears to me that we are called, through life's unfolding, to initiate Divine connection and to find meaning in every moment.
My father's sweet voice leading our congregation in prayer was the soundtrack of my early childhood. My visual memory was of the swaying congregation, as I viewed it from beneath my father's talit, his long woolen striped prayer shawl.
The synagogue was my home, the place I belonged was among my people deep in prayer.
In early June of 1967, my smiley parents appeared unusually worried. They sat glued to the radio in the kitchen and told me in a hushed tone, "We are praying for Israel." Within days, the somber spirit gave way to great gratitude and singing in our kitchen.
Only later did I understand that our humble homeland community was miraculously saved, yet again, from the most serious military threat on all fronts. I did not know just how profound a miracle this was, until years later. My family and my people had just been comforted after generations of suffering.
The following summer, my parents and I came to Israel to give thanks to G-d.
My parents smiled at each other and at me. I saw tears of gratitude in their eyes as we caught sight of the newly liberated Western Wall, where people of all faiths could now pray in safety.
A breeze blew across the ancient stone plaza. I looked skyward as white doves glided overhead. I was filled with a sense of peace and awe. We were not alone in this experience which we shared with the many people swaying in prayer.
I must have absorbed some of my father's uplifting sermons about Israel, over the years. Even as a young child of 7, I sensed we were witnessing an historic moment, which I prayed to be part of. Not only here, under the blue skies of Jerusalem, but all over the world, something was gradually changing. A new hope was emerging for a better world.
In retrospect, I think that I was sensing a shift I could not fully understand. As an adult I reflect upon those times...
Something great was transpiring, it seemed to encompass more than our tiny coastal country along the eastern Mediterranean.
It felt like a cosmic prayer being answered.
Were we witnessing the first stages of the Redemption we had been praying for, three times daily, for thousands of years?
Were the recent miracles in the Holy Land harbingers of the return of revealed Divine presence to Zion and to our plane of existence?
Would this city soon be a House of Prayer for All Nations?
I looked up and noticed an entire flock of white doves swooping from one side of the wall to the other and then hovering, landing gently in crevices between the huge ancient stones.
A week or two later, I was lying on a couch in a modest Tel Aviv apartment. My head felt as though it would explode. The searing pain was unbearable. My parents sat at my side, sponging my forehead and singing to me. My fever would not respond to medication. I remember shivering, crying and calling for them as mom and dad rushed out the door to get more ice from various neighbors. As they assured me that they would be right back, my pain suddenly stopped.
I was amazed by my sense of relief...
I found myself floating effortlessly...
Continuous currents of peace supported me, uplifting me...
I was soon spiraling upward into an infinite field of warm, welcoming light. Unconditional love and serenity swept through me like a gentle wind...
Although I couldn't see it, I felt welcomed and comforted by the Source of this infinite light and love. Without words, I was enveloped in hope for all existence. I was filled with song. As I soared like a dove on currents of light, I sang tones of infinite gratitude for the One who gives life to all.
All existence was shimmering. Not only every star and planet, but every rock and grain of sand, glittered. Every living being, from the smallest of microbes, to every beautiful plant, animal and human glistened with the light of infinite love. All were sharing divine light generously, with all creation.
I noticed Humans appeared to gaze within into divine light. They radiated it not only outward, but discretely inward, to to the core of every aspect of creation, blessing all that is, from the the Source of all goodness. Most people seemed only semi aware of the light within and of their capacity to bless. They often seemed to stumble through a confusing shadow of pain and suffering which but lightly concealed the bright light of their hearts. To the degree that humans supported each other and empowered each other to open their hearts, through the encounter with shadow, they soon found the greatest luminous love within. I saw human hearts were ever blessing all, here, there and everywhere...
I remembered the luminous hearts of my parents.
I suddenly found myself hovering gently near the ceiling of a sparse, white Israeli bathroom. Below, my shining parents appeared deeply troubled, huddled together over a limp, little blond girl. I realized, that would be me! I could swoop down to let them know I was ok. I would tell them of the light and love which shone down through their hearts and through all that is!
Within a moment I was back in my body, shivering uncontrollably. My parents quickly wrapped me in warm towels and in a tearful embrace.
My mother said that I had fainted. She described how, when I awoke, I spoke repeatedly of a light. I was not sure she understood what light I was talking about.
I knew I was changed...
G-d became my very best friend and confidant. The trees, birds, bees and even the big wild dogs who towered over me, greeted me as my pals.
I would ride my banana bike in circles around the boulevard back in Columbus, Ohio, singing songs to G-d.
I found Heaven in the here and now of every given moment. My heart filled with gratitude for every breath, for life itself...
Occasionally I would relax, lying on the ground, gazing toward the sky as I relived a familiar hovering sensation...
Every breeze and sunbeam spoke to me of Divine unconditional love, which I longed to share with all.
I was grateful to bring smiles to the faces of people around me. I devoted myself to lifting the spirits of my parents and of my ailing, sweet maternal grandmother, who lived with us. Although it wasn't easy, my recent experience helped me stay strong for my family, at least for now.
I had a what could be called a charmed early childhood with my amazing parents. By the time I was eight years old, however, my mother was increasingly insecure and my father was beginning to worry about her.
My brilliant mother had skipped 3 grades in school and was accepted to the University of Manitoba at the age of sixteen, without entrance exams, in a time when few women were admitted to University. Unfortunately, her mother, my widowed grandmother, couldn't afford tuition. My mother made sure to educate herself nevertheless. She read voraciously. She readily quoted volumes of prose and poetry by heart. Mom's humorous articulation and wise sense of organization had helped her write children's stories for family, to manage businesses and to preside over charitable organizations.
My highly intelligent mother, was showing troubling signs of cognitive decline.
She was likely frightened as she noticed herself becoming confused. Her mind was now increasingly failing her. Nevertheless, mom wanted to reassure me that all was well and spent a lot of fun time listening to me, singing with me and playing thinking games like scrabble with me.
The finest physicians were soon hired to treat mom's mysterious malaise. Paradoxically, mom experienced a sudden shift in personality during this time which was attributed to her progressing illness. In retrospect, I wonder if her cocktail of anti-anxiety medications were further handicapping her. Well meaning doctors prescribed the new wonder drug Valium and other similar Benzodiazepines, which are now known to cause uncontrollable rage in many individuals. My mother was likely over medicated which left her not only confused, but ironically increasingly agitated. She would often pull the car to the side of the road on our way back from my school. She would sit there and sob uncontrollably: "This Valium is making me so sick, I can't even drive!". When withdrawn from the drugs, temporarily, her anxiety worsened so the doctors concluded that she absolutely needed the medications. She needed them in increasing doses.
My gentle, fun, affectionate mother was now so agitated that she could no longer play with me or even listen to me. She wouldn't allow me to cry as my lonely sobs propelled her into a helpless, raging panic. For fear of hurting me, she would avoid being around me and disappear for hours at a time.
This was not the mother I knew.
It was a very frightening time for all of us. I spent a lot of time alone, trying to stay out of harms way. Although my mother regretted her rages and apologized every time she hurt me, she seemed not to be able to control her impulses. I too apologized profusely for annoying her. I blamed myself for asking for a bit of her attention. I was afraid mom would leave home and never come back because of me. I was helpless to help my mother. My memories of the love and light I once knew, often faded into what seemed like a deep darkness inside me.
My dad made sure to spend as much time as he could with me and with my mother to help calm her down. He would often take me with him to synagogue or for a walk, to give me attention and to give Mom some time to herself. He even set aside time for all of us to go to Israel for a couple summers in a row. We would rent a modest apartment in Givatayim near cousins and Dad would sometimes take me out with him by bus and train to visit Jerusalem. It was during one of these outings, that Dad bought me a pair of pink tinted children's sun glasses I had long had my eye on at the Tel Aviv train station. The winding train ride from the coastal plain up through the majestic Judean Hills was awe inspiring. While Dad sat beside me, cheerfully deep in thought, I put on my pink sunglasses and enjoyed the view. Before long I found myself singing to G-d once again, as I had done a couple of years years back, before Mom became so ill. I made up a simple song about seeing the world through Rose colored glasses. For now, my new song became my motto.
When I was nearly eleven, we moved to Israel permanently. We were glad to finally be settled in our ancient homeland. Dad was still searching for a cure for Mother's ailment.
Meanwhile Mom was gradually tapered off of the psychiatric medications she was prescribed in the U.S. In retrospect it seems that after what may have been a dangerously rough period of withdrawal from the pharmaceuticals, Mom's drug induced, anxious rages eventually lifted.
Dad and I were sadly aware of Mom's deterioration yet we cherished her sweet, kind presence after a long terrifying absence of her personality.
Although fearful of her mental decline, Mom found empowerment in choosing to accept her fear. She was profoundly self reflective about her emotions. I found Mom's courage inspiring. I was tickled that Mom once again enjoyed my chatter. She was her compassionate, patient self again. It was such a joy to have Mommy back! I accepted that Mom repeated herself and had trouble following a train of thought, yet we celebrated each other's company daily. We would hug every few minutes whenever we were together.
Less than a year after our arrival, we endured the frightening Yom Kippur war which was forced upon us on the holiest day of our calendar, when most of the people in Israel are fasting and praying in repentance. As air raid sirens blared, my dad, the elderly rabbi, ran from synagogue in his white kittle and prayer shawl to join the urgent defense effort.
As my father helped shuttle young men to the northern and southern borders, my confused mother and I waited for dad at the home front. To the blare of air raid sirens, we ran in and out of bomb shelters day and night. When my dad returned with our tiny car, it had blue paint on the headlights. All headlights in Israel had to be dimmed, all streetlights were off and all shutters were drawn in homes to prevent Egyptian pilots from identifying our towns and villages.
In the dark, I hugged my parents and prayed for inner and outer peace.
Perhaps it was the stress of the war, or maybe it was Mom's rapid mental deterioration which took a toll on Dad. My previously strong, resilient father began to lose hope and gradually withdrew emotionally. Both his pain and his loving presence were now hidden behind layers of deep denial.
When I was twelve, my grief-stricken dad was hospitalized with a severe heart attack that developed into deep vein thrombosis. I gently led my demented mother on and off buses daily as we commuted for hours to the nearest hospital. For the first weeks, doctors were not sure he would make it. I had to be strong for both Mom and Dad.
We lived in a new neighborhood in the small coastal town of Netanya. During the early seventies in Israel, phone lines typically took years to be installed. It was considered normal to wait in line, with neighbors, to use pay phones on major street corners.
Because of my dad's precarious condition, the phone company kindly agreed to run our neighborhood's first home phone line through our apartment.
We got to know a lot of nice people, as we invited everyone from blocks around to come make free phone calls from our humble home.
Thank G-d, Dad recovered and strengthened himself to care for my mother and for me.
I can imagine that the same courage served him as an eleven-year-old, when he lost his dad to tragedy. By the age of twelve, he left home in search of work and training to help support his widowed mom and his younger brothers. As a boy, my young dad was a Torah prodigy. He was accepted to study in the greatest Yeshivas (Talmudic Academies) in Poland and Lithuania. He studied diligently by day and worked well into the nights, doing any odd jobs he could get as young boy, from shoe-making and cleaning to lifting heavy loads off wagons. He managed to cover his tuition, room and board and most of all, he was glad to send money home to his mother and younger brothers.
Dad's deep understanding, and his ability to explain complex concepts, was quickly noticed and he was soon hired as a young Talmudic tutor by many adult students. Before long, although he was barely an adolescent, he helped open new branches of the great Talmudic academies in Poland and Lithuania. Dad was a trailblazer even as a child.
When Dad returned from the hospital, he showed a remarkable determination to thrive. He rapidly became active and strong again, thank G-d, in spite of his age and his painful chronic condition.
Bandaging his thrombosed leg, he set out on daily walks. He was soon walking ten kilometers per day, rain or shine, for his health. My mother would accompany him on his brisk walks. This was a special time for both of them.
My dad seemed to have decided to make the best of the time he still had with my mom, and to engage together in helping others.
The first thing they did together was to help the local community fund raise for a much needed regional hospital. Fundraising for Laniado Hospital lifted my dad's spirits tremendously. I think he found meaning in his illness through contributing towards life-saving, local medical care.
My dad was so upbeat that he was soon hosting many immigrants who had just moved to Israel, just like our family. It was heartwarming to see the ingathering of our exiles from all over the world, around our Sabbath table. We regularly had Shabbat guests who had recently immigrated to Israel from the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland, the U.K., Australia, Iran, Ethiopia and more. What a special time that was.
My dad would would keep in touch with our guests, hear their needs as new immigrants and try to help them find jobs, housing and schools for their children. He even helped a few families start businesses. I remember the time he helped an immigrant American Navy veteran start an electronics factory. He and my dad had fun assembling stereo record players. I helped a bit too. It was fun.
Dad soon realized he needed to be with Mom 24/7 as she declined from what would later be diagnosed as early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Resourceful Dad did most of the cooking for our family and guests. I did some cooking and most of the cleanup. We were a team. Although Mom had trouble conversing, Mom appreciated meeting our guests. She loved people.
From the age of twelve I would regularly help out, give Dad a break and take Mom for a walk to the grocery store.
She enjoyed our our outings as it enabled her to meet people along the way.
She would greet every person with an eager smile and a heartfelt "Shalom".
Mom would say that sharing a smile with a complete stranger to brighten his or her day was a gift she could still share with the world.
Eventually my mother could no longer converse. We found our relationship within our deep heart connection.
Long after my father passed away, while I was raising the first few of my seven blessed children, I continued to seek a way to bring some relief to Mom.
By then, Mom was in a nursing home and was completely unresponsive to voices or faces. She made no perceptible voluntary movements. Although she was heavily medicated and her strong heart was still beating, she suffered chronic systemic infections and uncontrolled epileptic seizures. She appeared to be in great discomfort and was often rushed to the emergency room.
Well-meaning doctors assured me that nothing more could be done. Contrary to all conventional wisdom, I stubbornly refused to give up on Mom. I searched high and low for conventional and unconventional approaches to possibly reversing Alzheimer's disease.
I found no proven options. I found but one practitioner who's method was anecdotally effective in alleviating symptoms in a few cases of nervous system disorders. After much inner deliberation, I studied her approach and applied it for my mother. The approach involved completing damaged energy circuits in my mother's energy field by running them through my own healthy energy field. Although I was skeptical at first, over time, moms discomfort and infections seemed to be easing. Much to my unease, I began to develop brain fog and chronic inflammation. The practitioner who taught me admitted that her method caused her take on her client's symptoms and that she had trouble clearing them from her body. Could this be happening to me? I was not waiting to find out. I prayed to the one and only ultimate healer : "Hashem*, please teach me how to facilitate healing and wholeness that comes directly to Mom, from and through you!"
My fears had the best of me as I gazed at Mom's blank eyes and at her tightly clenched jaw. Her breathing was rapid, irregular and tense.
How could I help comfort Mom while I was overwhelmed by her discomfort?
I spent many blessed hours at my mother's bedside. There was nothing I could do but to be honest with myself and with G-d, by deeply acknowledging my fears. I started letting go of resisting my emotions. I gave myself permission to cry. I found myself fully honoring all the pain stuck in me, in my long denied fear of the inevitable. I sobbed silently to G-d, for what seemed to be hours of endless tears.
I was making room for all my inner emotional parts. I was making room for my inner children from various times in my life to finally be, breathe through the emotions stuck in their bodies and cry, as I held them in love.
I remembered my inner child, who was forbidden to cry in front of my over-medicated mom. I recalled my inner premature infant, fragile and alone in the incubator for months, and not encouraged to cry even after arriving home. I cried out my pain while holding myself in the loving embrace of G-d ... I held and heard all my younger, vulnerable parts as G-d supported me compassionately, encouragingly... I sensed the loving presence of my mother, as I remembered her from my early childhood.
As I let these younger parts of me be and breathe and be heard, just as they were, with all their fears and pain. I was reaching into the past to free them, so that they could become fully present in their bodies where they were never validated for their experience. All this occurred within my mature self. I allowed all of us to be and become more of who we are, within the embrace of our Creator. Then, I allowed them to transform within me, to grow up inside of me, with all the resources we needed to thrive and to help others thrive.
My fully embraced emotions transformed within me.
My fear and pain opened up to reveal the kernel of love at their core. My heart opened to new wondrous possibilities.
I prayed that I was birthing my own emotional freedom, and a way to help my mom and others.
I then had a flashback to my experience as a child soaring peacefully into the light. I returned to assure my parents that I was ok and that they were ok.
We were more than ok. We were love.
Divine love lives within you, awaiting your soul awakening...
Divine love is where healing happens...
At our core we are each in love with G-d and with all that is...
During our time together, I would often detect a new kernel of stress emerging to be honored and embraced. It would show up as a constriction in her breath... As I held her stress in deep acceptance and compassion, she appeared to go deeper and deeper into the experience, until she spontaneously released a cleansing breath...Relieved, Mom's breathing would then slow to a calm, gentle pace, along with mine.
A sacred peace came over us as we shared loving presence with G-d and with all that is...
A warm flood of healing spread throughout both are our bodies.
Mom's tightly clenched jaw would relax... she appeared more serene... something was shifting deeply, during these moments of Divine Heart Nurture...
Within months of beginning our healing journey together, my mother's infections and seizures abated, thank G-d. She was successfully taken off all medication including antibiotics and Dilantin.
Within a couple of years of consistent healing work together, Mom began to react to my presence with a turn of her head and clear bright eye contact. Mom started to answer my yes and no questions intelligently with a knowing nod of her head. She recognized me.
My dear mother was back with us, however temporarily. Mom taught me so much about courage and love through her living example. She taught me just as much through her still, silent presence. We really never stop living and loving. We simply switch dimensions.
Mom passed away peacefully, at the ripe old age of 81. She lives on in my heart and boundlessly beyond.
What shifts in you, as you hold your emotions in compassion and acceptance?
Decades ago, while caring for my children and my mother, friends and neighbors asked me for support. I was glad to accompany them through their own growth and healing.
As I was developing Divine Heart Nurture, more and more requests for coaching healing came through both locally and from overseas.
As my family has always been my very first priority, while I was raising my blessed children, I rarely advertised my services. Amazingly, whenever I had free time and I was grateful and eager to share, the phone would just start to ring.
I thank G-d for connecting me daily with those who may benefit from my offering.
I'm absolutely thrilled when they share their unique light to inspire others.
To be continued...
You Are a Luminary!
Don't let your light dim for even a day.
Reconnect to your heart daily, and to your Creator within.
Breathe through every emotion in your body.
Be present with G-d for wherever you are...
Be Divinely nurtured through the core of your stress.
Observe and listen to your heart compassionately...
Hold all your inner selves in divine love...
Welcome all your exiled parts...
Allow their experience to be compassionately acknowledged...
Allow your being to evolve in the embrace of your beloved creator, until your heart runneth over with love...
Come share your light in the infinite symphony of life!
Are you are ready to shine your light through your own Heart Homecoming?
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* "Hashem" is a respectful Hebrew term for G-d, literally meaning The Name, to respectfully avoid pronouncing G-d's holy name.