"We are spiritual beings, trying to exist in a human environment..." was the response one Chabad Lubavitcha woman gave Oprah Winfrey last night during Oprah's new show on OWN. It was a fascinating look inside this community. Granted it was a very short two-hour program, but it opened up a world that so few of us know about and even fewer understand. I enjoyed the program immensely.
What does it mean to be Lubavitch and who are the Chabad? The women answered that to be Lubavitch means to try to live this life to be closer to God. To recognize the spiritual wonders of this Earth and to celebrate its joys. It means to live a good life and a pure life. To think of others before yourself. To honor your husband, your wife, and your children. To understand that the center of the Jewish world is the family and to hand down to the next generation the values, the beliefs and the love of the God of Israel nurtured over almost 4,000 years of Jewish existence. To be Lubavitch is to know that because you have lived, you have made this world a better place. That is it in a nutshell or so I hope I understood what the women were trying to convey.
Truth be told we in the autism community have come across a number of Chabad Lubavitch in our day. They are the Friendship Circle. That wonderful supportive, all inclusive organization willing to help anyone and everyone with a special needs child.
Then we also have heard about the Chabad, they are a world-wide organization that has help-centers in every major city in the globe. No you do not need to be Jewish to go there if you need assistance but if you are Jewish, they will try to get you pray, so be warned. We heard about Chabad, during the terrible Mumbai terrorist attacks. One of the places assaulted was the Chabad house. The young rabbi and his wife and their support staff were all tortured and murdered by the terrorists, for the crime of being born Jews or helping Jews. It did not matter to these killers that this was a way-station, a place of rest and support and joy for those that needed it. All they wanted to kill as many as possible. It is amazing to see what happens when evil meets the spiritual.
But there was a great story one of true courage and fortitude during that attack. A little Chabad boy was hidden by his Indian nanny who had had a chance to flee to safety for herself, but she wouldn't leave the boy. She hid with him in a closet until she heard that the murderers were gone. She risked life and limb to save a child not her own. Not a Christian child. Not a Hindu Child. Not an Indian child. But a child, not just because she loved this child, but becasue he was above all else a child. It is amazing to see what happens when spiritual meets evil. BTW today she lives with the child in a kibbutz in northern Israel along with his grandparents and other relatives.
So what does it mean to live a spiritual life? To honor God and his world? To ensure that the world you enter is a better place when you leave it? Honestly I am not really sure. I myself had been so angry for so long about so many things, at times I forget to be happy and to sing. It's one of the main reasons I have started this blog. If for nothing else, to remind myself of the beauty that is our world.
When and why did this happen? I will tell you...it may be a familiar story to so many of you, I have told it before..
I loved the God of Israel. Loved him with passion and an understanding. I felt he lived inside my soul. (You don't have to be Jewish to get this part. Love of God is not just a Jewish ideology.) While not even close to a Lubavitch in my way of living, my attachment to my ancient roots was complete and intense. I tried to live a good life. An honest life. A pure life. One where I thought about my fellow humankind and the creatures of the earth. I lived to be a better person and to leave the world a better place.
Then came the day that CM1 was diagnosed with autism and I never felt so betrayed in my life. I railed against the world, against the Earth and against God himself for how he betrayed my child. Angry doesn't even begin to describe it. As I have told many people over the years, I think Job was a moron. So I left my love of God in the wake of destruction and in the wake of a soul that was lost.
Meanwhile when CM1 was in third grade they found a mass on my ovary. After a sonogram the gynecologist wanted me to go for that blood test that everyone should get every year to detect ovarian cancer but insurance companies only pay for if there is a hint of a problem. It was Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the Jewish year.
This is the day, the Day of Atonement, when God looks down at us, his children and decides what will be in the year to come. This is the day we ask God to forgive our transgressions against him and hope beyond hope that he understands that we are truly sincere. But I did not go to synagogue that day. Truth be told I had not stepped foot in a synagogue since the day of CM1's diagnosis. I went instead to get the blood test.
Now I live in an area with a large Jewish population. But not mostly Jews by any means. So while the Jewish community was in synagogue at prayer the rest of the world went on as usual. Yet on my way to the lab, there were no other cars on the street. The lab, which usually has a several hour wait for any testing, was completely empty and they took me right away. The nurse seeing what test she was drawing blood for tried very hard when she was talking to me to keep her voice from quivering but I heard it. I knew. Here sat before her a very young woman who ouldl be finding out shortly if she had been handed an untimely death sentence. Make no mistake ovarian cancer is a death sentence. It is the rare individual who lives for five years post diagnosis. So it is without a doubt beyond frightening.
I got back into my car and began to drive home. I had to stop at a red light in an intersection in the middle of town. Invariably i drive through that intersection daily still. I sat there looking at the traffic light and said out loud..."God just so you understand, it is the Bar exam I want high numbers on and the ovarian cancer blood test that I want low numbers on not vice-versa. You freakin' owe me...."
Then suddenly I knew. I felt calm. I felt no more anger. I felt a sense of peace and understanding. I knew at that second, at that minute, at that hour, at that moment that I was going to be just fine. I think God knew he owed me and he owed me back big time. He definitely paid that particular debt in full.
In the years since, we joined a Temple, the only one that would bar-mitzvah my autistic children. Then left the Temple because of the rabbi's politics and outlook on the secular world. We celebrate Jewish holidays, Jewish religious milestones and the boys know and understand who they are and where they come from. What the boys will do as far as their Judaism in their future, that is totally up to them. But I hope that I have passed along my spiritual understanding of their heritage and that they will always respect and honor their ancestors, what they believed and what they fought for.
So yes, I understand when the Chabad Lubavitcha women talk about that people are spiritual beings trying to exist in a human environment...I understand it because I know I am living proof of it.
Qi en Pace,