A couple of weeks ago when I was applying for a job in Israel, I was asked to write an essay as part of the psychometric exam on two meaningful and life-changing experiences in my life. Perhaps my choice of topic wasn’t very original, but one of the examples I chose was the day you were born – – or perhaps better stated, the day I gave birth to you.
Childbirth is of course an amazing and miraculous experience, especially the first time around, mostly because despite all the preparation in the world, every birth is different and you cannot predict what it’s going to be like. There is simply no greater act of faith! I remember as my due date got closer and the La Maze exercises changed from theory to practicum, I stopped feeling excited and started feeling genuine fear and dread. How could I bear the pain? (I was opting for natural childbirth.) What if I couldn’t handle childbirth in any form at all? Well, there was no going back now!
Baruch HaShem, the LaMaze technique truly worked like self-hypnosis for me. I didn’t scream from pain; instead I worked with the pain with incredible focus and concentration and determination. I got so involved in the moment that I didn’t really suffer at all; instead, I felt it was a very aptly named process: “labor.” I had never ever worked so hard in my life to accomplish something. The feelings of elation and accomplishment beyond my wildest expectations after giving birth to you have never really left me. I have consciously and proactively relived that experience of working through the pain — and knowing that eventually, no matter how strong the hurt, the discomfort would eventually end and life would go on – on so many physically or emotionally painful occasions, and each time it has helped me heal, look to the future, and move forward with joy. I think the metaphor for the time leading up to Mashiach as being like labor and its birth-pangs is probably very accurate. Childbirth taught me that I can get through what is seemingly impossible at present, and impart that strength as a reassurance that I can use and fall back on to get me through whatever the future may bring. That is such a gift (a gift that many women who are afraid of pain and choose epidurals will never know. Not that I want anyone to suffer needlessly, but it is such an epic moment that changes your life forever, knowing that you have unlocked a heavenly key that shows your life’s potential in all its force. In that precise moment, “I can do this!” has been revealed to you without any curtain or filter.)
So, on your Birth Day, I may have given you the gift of Life, but you (with HaShem’s divine assistance) gave me the gift of Strength – physical and inner. You empowered me in a way I would have never known possible otherwise. For this I will be eternally grateful to you – – I thank you deeply – and wish you a happy, healthy birthday, now and forever more until 120.