A Story About  How To View And Overcome Our Challenges

Jamie’s Challenge

Jamie was born and raised in New York but had been living for the past 10 years with his Israeli wife Tammy and their 3 kids Shiri, Sari and Sefi in Glen Hazel, Johannesburg. And… Jamie was seriously stressing out! Why? What was going on in his life? Well, let me tell you…

So… Jamie was living in South Africa on a basic work visa. For the past 10 years whenever Jamie’s visa was due for an update he simply brought his passport, a letter from his employer and a few other documents to Home Affairs and he had it renewed. He would also renew his wife Tammy’s visa and their kids Visas at the same time and they would be given an accompanying spouse and childrens visa. It was all pretty straight forward.

Then, one week before Jamie was planning to renew his and his family’s visas the laws concerning work visa allocation significantly changed. The new laws required Jamie to present a certain document from the Department of Labour when applying for his work visa but it was impossible for him to acquire this document given that his particular job was not on the list of jobs that could be awarded this document. On top of this Jamie discovered that his wife and kid’s last visa application had been processed incorrectly and now instead of their visas being linked to his they had been linked to another employee in his firm (who had been applying for his own work visa on the same day). This just exaserbated the problem of renewing the visas.

Now, even after seeking advice from visa lawyers Jamie simply could not see how it would be possible for him and his family to get their visas renewed. It looked like they would have to leave South Africa and reapply from outside the country. The problem was that even if Jamie could successfully reapply from outside of South Africa, he had nowhere to stay in any other country, he had no money to rent a place or for living expenses and no school lined up to transfer his kids to… And Jamie had no idea how long the whole process would take (during which time he would not be earning a single penny from his present company which required him to be physically present in the office to retain his employment). Jamie worked out that it could easily take as long as 4 months to apply for the documents that he needed from outside of South Africa, then to make a new application and then to wait for it to be processed so he and his family could come back. So this is what Jamie had weighing down in his mind and why he was stressing out. Now, with that as an introduction to Jamie’s predicament, our story starts with Jamie standing outside of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria after a physically exhausting and fruitless day…

The Meeting

So Jamie had been running around Pretoria all day unsuccessfully trying to organise various documents that he and his family needed. Before heading home he decided he would nip over to the Israeli Embassy and see if it was still possible so late in the day to put in a request for an Israeli Police clearance certificate for his wife. He parked his car near the embassy, ran to the window to find out… And the answer was no.

Jamie sighed at how pathetically fruitless his day had been. “O.K.” Jamie thought “I guess I had better get back to Joburg.” He turned around to walk to his car and as he did so, he noticed someone standing outside the Embassy who in his rush to get there he hadn’t noticed before. It was an old Jewish man with wise, twinkling eyes. The man looked like he was speaking to someone, but… there clearly wasn’t anyone around for the old man to be talking to. Upon seeing Jamie looking at him the man stopped speaking to whomever he had been speaking to and he smiled a warm smile at him.

“Hello” Jamie said, thinking that the man must be somewhat crazy but not wanting to appear rude now that the old man had made eye contact with him. “Em… How are you doing?”

The old man looked at Jamie, his kindly face shining. “With me…” he said, “everything is good! But you don’t look too good.”

“Ugh! I’ve had one of those days!” Jamie sighed. Then realising that this old man really didn’t seem so crazy Jamie’s curiosity got the better of him. “I don’t mean to be rude” he said “but, you looked like you were speaking to someone just now, but there is no one else here. Who were you talking to?”

“Oh!” the old man chuckled “I came here with my neighbour this morning but he finished what he needed to do much earlier than I did. I only finished now. So, seeing as I no longer had a lift back I was just asking for one.”

“Oh!…” Jamie exclaimed a little confused. He looked around just to check if perhaps there was another person very close by that he had missed. There wasn’t.

“Well I’m going back to Joburg right now. That’s my car over there.” Jamie said pointing to his silver Toyota Corola. “You’re more than welcome to come back with me!” He was a mench after all.

“Thank you!” The old man said with the same warm smile as before. And then Jamie was pretty sure he saw the old man say another quiet “Thank you!” to the same invisible friend that he had been speaking to before. 

The car ride

“What brings you here?” the old man inquired of Jamie after they had both gotten into the car.

Jamie told his story to the old man whom Jamie noticed had the most tranquil of dispositions, perhaps more so than anyone else he had ever met. The old man listened with an expression of empathy and compassion on his face.  

“And so… really I don’t know what I can do” Jamie ended. “I came to Pretoria to try and arrange these documents but even if they come in time which it doesn’t look like they will, it’s incredibly unlikely that they will help me anyway. Bottom line, I’m in big trouble, I’m stressing out and I don’t know what to do.”

“In that case” the man said smiling at Jamie. “Let me teach you something that can turn everything around for you. You know… It might be that the very reason that you were put in this incredibly unpleasant, stressful scenario was so that you would learn what I am about to teach you right now.”

Put in this scenario?” Jamie repeated with a look of perplexed non comprehension on his face. “I’m in this scenario because the law changed a short while before I had to put in my visa application and because they mucked up with my wife’s and children’s visas!” Jamie plainly stated. “And I’m being dealt with by a bunch of lazy, incompetent idiots. I wasn’t ‘put’ in this situation. It just happened. And with respect, I doubt that there’s anything that you can teach me that is going to help me turn things around!”

The old man chuckled. “Do you know what the word for a random occurrence is in Hebrew?” he asked Jamie.


“The Hebrew word for a random occurrence is Mikreh. But if you rearrange the letters that spell Mikreh it spells out the phrase Ruk May Hashem which means ‘only from G-d’. There are no coincidences or random occurrences Jamie. If something pleasant happens to you, it is from Hashem. If something uncomfortable happens to you, that too is from Hashem.”

“Look… I hear what you’re trying to say.” Jamie countered. “But it was the bureaucratic employees who processed my family’s visas who made an error. They were doing their job negligently! It wasn’t G-d!”

“Jamie… Who do you think arranged for your family’s visas to fall in front of the less than meticulous person who processed them and not in front of someone else who would have been much more careful?”

Jamie turned for a second to look at the old man. “Are you saying that everything that has happened to me regarding my visa and my family’s visas is part of a bigger plan. That it wasn’t random and I wasn’t just unlucky?”

“Yes. That is exactly what I am saying!”

“And I suppose you’re going to tell me that G-d is the only one Who can help me and therefore I need to pray to him!”

The old man chuckled again, “What I’m saying is that the purpose of prayer is not to get you out of trouble. The purpose of trouble is to get you into prayer!”

“What?” Jamie scrunched up his eyes and his nose to show his complete lack of comprehension of that last statement from the old man. “You’re saying maybe G-d placed me in this scenario so that I would look up and realise He’s there and available to help me.”

“Maybe. Sometimes when our problems are big enough and we cannot see a natural solution, somewhere within us we remember that there is a higher Source Who can do anything! Perhaps you were put in this really stressful scenario to get you to work on your relationship with Someone you’ve been ignoring, in some respect, for a long time.”

“Hay! I believe in G-d! … But now I think about it, I guess I don’t think about Him so much … and when I do it’s kind of in a far away way, like He exists, but far away up in Heaven somewhere and not so much involved with my day to day life … Do you really think He’s trying to get my attention? Trying to remind me that He’s there?”

The old man chuckled. “I’m not a prophet. I don’t know what the reason that you’re going through this is… There might be something specific that you are being guided to think about and work on. I don’t know. What do you think?”

“I also don’t know… Maybe the Big Guy is getting me to think about something specific. Maybe He’s simply trying to get me to look up and remember He’s there…  I guess I’ll have to think about that a bit more. But forcing me and my family to move to another country when we have nowhere to go and I have no way to pay for it is a pretty hard way to be taught any lesson!”

“Who says you’re going to have to leave the country?”

“You have obviously never had to deal with the bureaucrats in this country. The chances of me getting the document I need from the Ministry of Employment and sorting out this mess with my family’s visas before the deadline to reapply is probably less than 1 in a 100.”

“My dear friend…” the old man gently said, “The first step is for you to simply talk to your Creator and to tell Him how big your problems are… even though He knows, but He wants you to express yourself to Him, for your sake… and ask Him to help you. The second step, after telling Him how big your problems are, is that you also need to tell your problems how big Hashem is! Your heavenly Father created galaxies containing billions of stars and atoms containing tiny whirling galaxies within them. He created the rain forests and the Great barrier reef. He created powerful volcanos and delicate snow flakes, each one unique. He has the ability to get you and your family your visas, even with all the bureaucracy that you are struggling with. Even if you can’t think how He’s going to do it.”

“Wow! Well I guess when you put it that way I hear your point. So what specifically does the Big Guy want me to do?”

“Well, first of all, it’s important to know that everything that has happened to you up until this point, your experiencing these difficulties in your getting your visas and all the repercussions that could come from that, all of that, as frustrating and stressful as it has been for you, was for your best. This is called living with EMUNA. You should make whatever efforts you can make to get your visas processed, as you are doing. That is called doing your HISHTADLUS, your ‘effort’. And, besides that, you should start the conversation that in your particular case you have been avoiding for many years and simply ask Him for what you need… knowing that He really can do anything for you. That is called TEFILLA, prayer.”

“Wow! I feel like I should be taking notes!” Jamie laughed. “But the truth is I don’t know how to pray. I was never really taught how to use a siddur. I see frum women sometimes sitting in the park and they read something whilst their children are playing. I don’t know what it is… Tehillim I think they call it. I don’t know how to do that!”

The old man smiled a warm smile at Jamie and the corners of his twinkling eyes crinkled as he did so. “I’ll happily teach you how to pray… But the truth is, it all begins with you knowing that your Maker is REAL and that He loves you and wants to hear from you because you are His child. He will listen to everything you say to Him in whatever language you feel comfortable with. To start off with, simply speak to Him from your heart, but verbally. Tell Him how you’re feeling… ask for the help you need.” 

“Well… I guess I can do that but I think it’s going to feel a bit strange… like speaking to thin air.”

“It will feel strange if you think you’re speaking to thin air. But you’re not!”

“Yeh! … It’s still going to feel strange!”

The old man laughed. “It’s going to feel different … But good different!”

Jamie smiled. “I’ll give it a go.”

 —– END OF PART 1 —–

>> Click here for part 2  << 

(In Part 2 Jamie learns a powerful 3 fold prayer formula that helped him and can help anyone with their personal challenges) 

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This story is dedicated l’ilui hishmat, for the elevation of the soul of Henna bas Avraham