In this week’s Torah portion – Lech L’cha – G-d tells Abram (before he became Abraham) that he must leave all he knows behind and go forth to a new land, where he is promised a blessed future for him and his descendants. Abram and G-d make a covenant (brit), and he essentially takes a leap of faith to follow G-d into the unknown, along with his wife Sarai and nephew Lot who are joining him.
In the spirit of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Temple Beth El observes Pink Shabbat. When I think of my own experiences, as well as contemplating so many other women who share this diagnosis, I feel that the moment when you hear “You have cancer” sets you also on a journey to the unknown. In an instant, it throws off all your plans, balance and control you think you have over your life. And we too have to take a leap of faith – in our doctors and G-d – and try to visualize the light at the end of this dark tunnel and the blessings we don’t expect to find along the way.
With the help of a few brave women from our Beth El family, I would like to dedicate this Shabbat message to anyone who might now be on this difficult path. With these messages of hope, we want to remind you that you’re not alone – we’re here to help you see that light and be at your side on this journey.
“Having breast cancer became a journey for me to learn that adversity can be overcome with a positive attitude. I appreciated the blessings I have with the wonderful caring from my children, my extended family, my friends, and my community! Eleven years ago I looked at this illness as a glitch in my summer activities and didn’t let my head go to the dark thoughts of having cancer. I am so thankful that I can wake up every day and share my life with family and friends who embrace me with their love and support.”
-Patty Beck, Former Temple Beth El President
“34 years later I still carry with me lessons I’d learned from my experience:
I am a very “in charge, be in control” person and this was beyond me; but at the same time, I was not about to have breast cancer control me. I encourage friends and colleagues to do self-exams and get mammograms. I want to provide support for others, including my daughter who has been proactive about her health due to this. The amazing support of Temple Beth El and Rabbi Singer checking on me every day contributed to my healing so much! I still get nervous during check-ups but I am an example that you can survive and thrive after having a breast cancer diagnosis.”
–Robin Eisenberg, Director of Jewish Learning and Living Emerita
“There’s a saying that goes something like, everything happens for a reason. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I asked myself, what is the reason for this? That diagnosis forced me to slow down and take a moment to reflect on my life. I realized that it was up to me to decide how this would go, I could succumb and suffer or I could fight to survive. I chose to SURVIVE AND THRIVE. The realization that I had the power to choose was my why and now being 14 years in remission I am always reminded that I have the power to choose especially in moments that seem too daunting or hard to overcome.”
-Cindy Chieffo, Chief Financial Officer of Temple Beth El
Abraham and Sarah’s journey to the land of Canaan was one of the tests that G-d put before them. And later in the parasha (14:13) G-d refers to Abraham as “Ha-Ivri” (העברי) which is believed to be rooted in the word “la’avor” (לעבור) – “to cross over”. In essence, to be a part of this people is to join hands with those who cross over.
If you’re currently facing the challenge of medical exams, surgery, or treatments – may you be blessed with the strength and resilience to overcome everything – and cross over to health, energy, and all the blessings life can offer.
R’fuah Shlema & Shabbat Shalom,
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton