Our Need … His Presence
A Life Lessons Story by Chana Klein
Everyone was against Nechemiah (book of Ezra-Nechemiah.) They plotted to hurt him and his project.
They wanted to stop him.
With so many people against him, he turned to God.
That is often how I feel in my own life. I work so hard and others are against me.
And yes, I turn to God for really there is no one else there for me consistently.
And I get help, immediate help – Our need. His presence.
Story of Nechemiah
The story behind the rebuilding of the wall illustrates closeness in a time that a Jew needed God.
The story of Nechemiah begins in Persia, which was in those years, a very powerful nation ruled by the mighty King Artaxerxes.
Nechemiah, (445–433 BCE) in the book named after him, is a Jew, who is not a prophet, but is one of the king’s important helpers. His job in the palace is to drink the wine before the king does to make sure it’s not poisoned.
Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
Nechemiah resolves to rebuild the walls and prays to God for His help.
Right after his prayer for help, Nechemiah asks King Artaxerxes for leave to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. The king not only agrees but appoints Nechemiah as Governor of Judah with a mission to rebuild, and gives him a letter for Asaph, the king’s forest keeper, ordering Asaph to provide as much wood as Nechemiah requests to build the walls.
Nechemiah arrives in Jerusalem and sees the walls breached, and the gates of the city devoured by fire.
He gathers the city officials and they agree to help.
He assigns a different piece of wall to each family.
But at the same time, Nechemiah is facing opposition from all sides.
When enemy attacks against Nechemiah did not succeed, and the enemy saw that the rebuilding continued, they went so far as to craft false reports about Nehemiah that they delivered to the king. Sanballat, a Moabite, who secretly hindered any progress Jews attempt. accuses Nechemiah of planning a rebellion against the king. Actually, Sanballat hires an emissary to frighten and hinder Nechemiah.
Again, Nechemiah turns to Hashem for help.
If that was not enough, Nechemiah is opposed by the Jewish nobles and prophets.
The opposition from the surrounding enemies was fierce. One enemy after another conspired to attack. There was opposition from powerful neighbors, the Samaritans, the Ammonites, the Arabs, the Philistines, as well as the city of Ashdod.
In the face of all that strong opposition in an impossible situation, the wall gets completed. Against so many odds, Nechemiah restores the wall.
But how did this happen?
How could that wall have gotten built in the face of so many enemies dedicated to Judea’s destruction, to Nechamiah’s destruction?
But God undid all of the plans of the enemy. In the time of Nehemiah — in the time of our great need — the presence of the Almighty was even greater. The wall was completed after 52 days of labor. The pasuk (passage) says: “And when all our enemies heard and the nations who were about us saw, they fell greatly in their own eyes, and they knew that this work was done through our God.” (Nehemiah 6:15)
No matter how our enemies tried to hurt us, God watched over us, protected us and brought us to succeed in our efforts. Our enemies could see that and even respected it. According to our great need was His Great Presence.
Could it be that the greater our need, the greater the presence of the Almighty in our lives even now, if we allow it?
I am 10 years old. I receive one of the regular beatings. As usual, I do not know that I did anything bad. Besides the strap marks and bruises, sharp pain in my hip makes it hard to walk. I am limping. Mommy is saying I am a faker, that it doesn’t really hurt. My 6-year-old brother, Michael, is agreeing with her that I walked without limping. How they hate me. It hurts so much to walk. I try to bike instead. Mom sees me from the window on the bike and says that proves that I am faking. (Years later, my brother asks me to forgive him for conspiring with my mother against me. He tells me they both lied to each other and told the other that they saw me walking normally after the beating.)
Mommy leaves the house. Usually when Mommy leaves the house, Daddy beats me. But this time I am lucky. Daddy leaves also, but not with Mommy. I am home alone, so far, for a few days.
I am on the way to the movies, to the Sheepshead Theater, to see “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” with my friends. We are walking the mile to the theater. But my friends don’t wait for me. I walk slowly and laboriously behind them, as I agonize each step. I cannot keep up with their pace. They are way ahead, out of sight, until I get to the theater. I pay for my ticket and look for my friends. The pain is very great.
I must have passed out because I open my eyes to see a sea of kids’ faces staring at me as they lean over the seats. I do not remember passing out and do not know how I got to be lying on my back in the aisle of the theater.
I believe I am faking. I believe my mother, and that is what she told me.
Several men carry me into a roomy carpeted office and seat me by a large mahogany desk angled in the corner of the room. I say to myself that I will keep pretending for a short time that I am hurt, and then I will get up and go home. The pain is excruciating. But I am sure that my mother is right. I am faking!
The seat is so uncomfortable. I cannot find a painless position. I decide that it is time to get up, enough pretending. I try to move my butt from the seat of the chair but I am unable. My leg is jumping involuntarily as if it has a will of its own. I do not understand what is happening. I am so confused. Why can’t I move myself? Wasn’t I faking?
The man moves the phone next to me and tells me to call my parents. I do not know where either of them is, and it does not occur to me that that is odd. I dial what I think is my grandmother’s phone number. (She is senile and would not have been able to do anything. But at the time, there is really no one else I could think of to call.) I hear the ring through the phone. A man’s voice answers. He tells me I have the wrong number. I dial again and it is the man again. I try again and it’s him again. More tries. Then, it’s a lady. She tells me that I have the wrong number. I keep dialing the same number. Finally, after several more attempts, the lady asks me my name. I tell her. She tells me that she is Eleanor’s mother and that the man is Eleanor’s father.
Eleanor had been my best friend from before school age, when I lived on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, until the beginning of 4th grade. Eleanor’s mother often would ask me if I ate that day, and then she would feed me. In the middle of the school year, we moved to Sheepshead Bay. I had not really kept in touch with Eleanor, but here I was calling her number when I had never even known her phone number. I thought I was calling the number of my grandmother. I had never spoken to Eleanor on the phone, for in the late 1940’s to 50’s kids did not really use the telephone unless it was an emergency — at least I never did. How did I end up calling that number?
When they hear me calling on the phone, Eleanor’s parents ask me where I am. I tell them I am at the Sheepshead Bay Theater and that I seem to be hurt. Both of them come to the theater in their car. They park in the back of the theater and I am carried to their car. They drive me to the hospital. Every time they go over the slightest bump I feel unbearable pain.
Eleanor’s parents, Ruth and Abe Block, took me to Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and found for me Dr. Jack Levine, the best orthopedic surgeon there at the time. It was days before they could find my mother to sign for surgery. But I would hate to think what would have happened to me had I not dialed the “wrong” number.
What explanation can there be for my fingers repeatedly dialing the same “wrong” phone number more than 10 times? I am so dyslexic even today that there is no way I could dial the same number twice in a row, correctly or incorrectly.
What guided my brain and my fingers to get the help that saved my leg and saved my life? How did I dial a phone number that I had never known in the first place? What power could have done that?
I needed the hand of God to guide my hand. As greatly as I needed Him, so great was His presence.
And so it was that I remained in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital for more than a year, fighting necrosis and osteomyelitis.
And so it was that I took God Himself to be both my mother and my father.
And so it was that I have felt guided and protected every day for the rest of my life, no matter what is befalling me.
Presently, Eleanor and I have found each other again. I get to have the opportunity to give back to the child and to the grandchildren of the woman and the man who selflessly gave to me, and who in reality saved my leg and my life. May their souls have an aliyah (spiritual elevation) in the merit of what they did for me.
The greatness of the presence of God is proportional to the greatness of our need and our allowing Him to help us.
So it has been since the beginning of time . . . .
Copyright © Chana Klein 2015