“Suffering? I’ll Pass … Or Maybe I Won’t” appeared in the December 8, 2010 issue of Family First (supplement to the weekly Mishpacha magazine – mishpacha.com). I know the author and the circumstances and her words encouraged me to develop a deeper level of faith and trust in G-d than I had before reading the article. The author opens honestly, “I am alone in my apartment, battling very aggressive, stage-four cancer. Multiple tumors are rapidly growing throughout my body,…” The directness helps me understand her medical condition. The clear description inspires my prayers.

We might expect the author to dwell in self-pity. She writes just the opposite. “I should feel alone, depressed and frightened – yet, surprisingly – I don’t. Amazingly, I feel more beloved and secure than I ever have before.” I know this person – she was the healthiest, most active person I knew (before the cancer). I always thought she felt secure and beloved! Her experience with cancer deepened her connection to G-d: “However, since the onslaught of my cancer, I feel that I have a ‘Partner’ Who loves me and Who is ever-present in my life.”

The author continues. “When I first moved into the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood [in Jerusalem, Israel], I knew no one. What I also didn’t know was that the name of this amazing community was to be taken literally. [“Shaarei Chesed” means “Gates of Loving-kindness.] As a result of my illness, the gates of chesed [loving-kindness] truly opened…” The author describes the meals, personal concerts, and the freshly baked cookies her neighbors brought – a delicacy she rarely allowed herself to have during her healthy years!

I can relate to the loneliness, the pain, and the nights. “Somehow at night, everything gets worse. If you are alone and in pain with no one there to comfort you, you start talking. You talk to the only One Who is still awake and listening.” This reminds me that I can always speak to G-d.

The openness continues throughout the piece. “Suffering is on no one’s wish list” – again, I relate. I’ve had some very challenging times. The author reminds me that, “…when it [suffering] becomes a part of our lives, we must take time to realize the beauty it brings with it.” “Beauty” within the suffering? Yes! “Treasure the closeness with Hashem [G-d] that you have achieved through the repeated contact and communication. Appreciate the constant parade of kindnesses that has been directed exclusively toward you.”

The author acknowledges her place within her community, and suggests that we can achieve what she has through reading her experiences. “I am not a rebbetzin [rabbi’s wife who teaches] or tzadeikes [righteous person – I respectfully disagree with her self-assessment] – I am just like every one of you, put in an unfortunate situation. Yet my suffering has provided me this true clarity and I hope that through hearing of my experiences, you too can achieve the closeness and ahavas Hashem [love of G-d] that I have.”

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My friend, Esther Feige, passed away January 20, 2011, in her home in Jerusalem.

Dearest Esther Feige bas [daughter of] Rabbi Michoel, thank you for sharing your incisive insights, your honesty, and your pain. May your essay be your ticket to the front row in Gan Eden [Garden of Eden] you deserve.