When It Goes Up in Flames

There’s an old woman in China who used to work as a seamstress until, when she was 20 years old, her entire home and workplace burned down. To gain income, she went to work for her mother who cooked porridge and noodles for her fellows in the slums. Her mother reluctantly allowed her to cook on a particularly busy day, and she began to develop basic cooking skills. One day, she burned her oil but cooked the noodles anyway, out of frustrated stubbornness. This dish was delicious, her popularity and creativity grew, and thus began her swift climb to global recognition as a brilliant chef.

When my husband and I had lived in our own paradise for less than a year, we felt called to convert to Judaism. This meant that we would need to move out of state, a difficult but necessary decision. So we moved and tried to find a community to join for the conversion process. The first rabbi was difficult to reach and, after multiple attempts, we moved on to reach out elsewhere. The second rabbi seemed kind and we were able to, sort of, begin the process with the community he led. But as nearly two years went by, a pattern of inability to connect and lack of direction emerged. In that time, we had moved to a house that was more expensive but closer, so as to try and be more available to the community. Personally, I was only met with rejection and judgement by the other women I encountered. I have a history of struggling with social interactions so in many ways I was used to this, but this particular situation left me heartbroken and confused.

Additionally, because of a number of sudden financial events, we ended up having to leave and go back to our hometown to live with family, which effectively halted our conversion indefinitely. Not only were we banished from our paradise, but we were denied a community, and therefore an identity. With no money, home, or name as a result of simply trying to pursue what I felt was a calling from God Himself, I didn’t understand the purpose behind any of this. It was the lowest period of my mental health, as long as I can remember.

Life moved on and I gradually began to float back to the surface - to get back to a neutral point of mental health, though I remained confused about the greater Message of the whole experience. Then, one day, I realized an old Christian song I hadn’t heard in many years had been playing in the back of my mind: “Heart of Worship

“When the music fades

All is stripped away

And I simply come

Longing just to bring

Something that's of worth

That will bless Your heart

I'll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within

Through the way things appear

You're looking into my heart”

I began to cry as the words resonated more than ever before. From that point on, my mindset shifted, and the pursuit of deeply seated passions ensued, taking me on paths I never would have considered or been aware of were it not for the hardships I had encountered. I realize now that everything happens for a reason, even when we are blind to it, and often the reason is to become something greater and stronger than our former selves, to become something more for the sake of the greater Good, the Grand Purpose, blessed by Hashem.

So, I may not become a famous chef in China, but I know, now, I would not be on the same path that I am today were it not for that time when my world went up in flames.

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