I was sitting in the hospital bed on Shabbos morning after having given birth just a few hours before. I was starving. I had no food with me. We came to the hospital with the bag that I had packed and that's it. It was shabbos. I didn't have my phone with me and even if I would have had it I wouldn't be able to call anyone to bring me something to eat. I was alone. I was tempted to call one of the nurses to ask them to look out for a Jewish girl who was visiting someone and see if they could go to the bikkur cholim room to get me something to eat. I just gave birth. I couldn't go myself. I was alone. And I was hungry. And I needed to eat.
I felt like crying. Where was I going to get food from?
Hashem, I said, I'm hungry. I need to eat. Could you please send someone to my room to give me some food?
I was close to tears.
Mi K'amcha Yisroel. It didn't take long for a volunteer from Yad Ephraim to come into my room with a bag full of food. She had grape juice for kiddush, danishes, cake and some warm mazel tov wishes for me.
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Today is Ta'anis Esther. Picture the scene so many years ago. Put yourself in Esther's shoes. She is married to Achashveirosh and has to stand before him and make a request that would save her entire nation. The entire Jewish People is looking to her, relying on her for their salvation.
At that moment, she bursts into a prayer of "Keili Keili lamah azavtani"-Hashem, why have you forsaken me? Why did you leave me? Just at the time I need you most...I feel so alone!
What an emotional prayer. What could be worse than the feeling of loneliness? Than feeling that you have no one to turn to, no one who can help you?
Yes, as a Jew you should know that you can always turn to Hashem. You can daven to Him and beg Him for help. But sometimes...that's not enough. You need something real. Something to hold on to. Someone to hold on to.
And I think maybe that's why Hashem gave us people to rely on, people to turn to for emotional support. Even if there is no one who can actually do anything practical for you, whether it's for financial help, to find you your guy, to help you with a job, to get you into a school or just to help with something real, when you feel alone and you have someone to talk to, it makes such a difference. There is something about having a friend that makes the burden a little bit easier to carry. Yes, you still have to go through the challenge anyway but when you have someone walking alongside you, you feel less alone and you feel like you could do it.
We all have times when we feel alone. Yes, we should turn to Hashem and ask for help but when nothing is going to change-because sometimes the situation stays the way it is and you don't see a way out, you can know that Hashem gave you something to make it a little more bearable. A good friend.
Today, many people take out their tehillims and say Perek Chaf Bais-the 22nd chapter that begins with "Keili Keili lamah azavtani". When a Jew feels alone, he takes out a siddur, he takes out his tehilim and he turns to Hashem. But sometimes, many times, that's not enough. You need something real. And that's what a friend is all about.
The purpose of a fast day is not about the food and about how hungry you are. The point is to get you to stop and think. We are still in galus. We know that sinas chinam is one of the things that is keeping us from getting out. Don't we all want to leave?
Today, take a minute to focus on your relationships and think about how you can be a better friend. A good friend, a real friend.
May you be able to be there for your friends to support them through the tough times and to celebrate with them in the happy times.
Have an easy, meaningful fast.