Dedicated l’ilui nishmas and in loving memory of Mireille Knoll a”h.


Just yesterday, Monday, I had my wisdom teeth removed.  At least the bottom two, that is.  My mouth is small, and susceptible to overcrowding by its white inhabitants.  The roots were growing abnormally, and if the operation hadn’t been done this soon, it was likely that no one else could’ve done it later on.  Thankfully, the doctor and his assistants were very sensitive and encouraging, and they supplied me with a wonder called Novocain that minimized the pain to a duller pressure.  Still, the pressure was forceful, and difficult to go through.  I’m sure the surgeon was finding the job challenging as well.  Now it’s over, and with some antibiotic, a few stiches, and an appointment for their removal in a few days, I am home and recovering.

Thank G-d, I can speak normally, focus normally, and function normally.  I wear the title I was given, “trooper,” with pride, and am difficult to keep down and relaxed.  As a person who thrives on schedule and keeping busy with my colorful array of responsibilities and tasks, I find incapacitation to be proactive extremely discouraging.  And that particular discouragement is beginning to trickle in: My family is admonishing me to slow down and take it easy, my head throbs sporadically, my jaw aches, and now… my face is swelling.  With a bit of painkiller, a short, hot, muscle-relaxing shower, and a soothingly-cool scoop of coffee ice-cream, I felt pretty good last night, shortly after the mini-surgery.  I fell asleep fine; but when I arose this morning and faced my bedroom mirror, I halted, caught off-guard by the sight meeting my eyes, and stared in shock.  I had morphed from a human girl into a chipmunk overnight, and was rapidly developing into a bullfrog.

The author, at an event prior to her operation.

I’m trying to find humor in it, and had success in making a few others smile with my self-deprecating jokes, but I just can’t truly shake off the discomfort – not only the physical type, but more notably my dissatisfaction with my appearance.  Slowly, the more-or-less graceful outline of my face is transforming into a shapeless (some might say squarish) mask that doesn’t seem to be my own.

My face… my own “mask,” indeed.  It hit me earlier this afternoon as I sat writing in my bedroom, and I impulsively approached the mirror again, to look deeper and probe the reflection before me.  I can change my appearance (to some degree) based on how I’m feeling, I hypothesized.  I brewed up a sort of experiment employing the mirror to prove it.  As I stared, I allowed a potpourri of negative thoughts to wash over me, just for a moment.  I’ve had quite a bit on my mind lately, a number of which are concerns; and this pain taking over my head, accompanied by my new amorphous look, wasn’t helping emotionally.  Ugly and just struggling to manage, I mocked.  Like a shadow, a slight scowl spread over my face, and my eyes betrayed anger and storminess.  Stop.  I am master over my thoughts, which give birth to my emotions.  It was time to change the scenery.  I turned my focus to positive thoughts:  There are so many blessings in my life… Hashem is helping me through this…  I can do whatever must be taken care of, for I’m not given a challenge that I cannot handle… I have a strong and beautiful Neshama.  A unique energy chased the darkness from my face,  a confident light shined forth from my eyes, the corners of my mouth turned up in a faint smile, and I lifted my head.  I could almost forget the swollen thing my countenance had become; I could see past it now.

The author, one day after her operation.

What did I find, beyond and within, that prompted this miraculous transformation?  “I have a strong and beautiful Neshama…”  This is the secret.  And we each are graced with and possess one.

Will my skin forever evade the wrinkles of age?  Will my dark and thick hair always remain young and pretty?  Throughout my life, shall my stance and posture remain straight and firm?  Shall the steadiness and vigor of my gait be preserved?  “This, too, shall pass… {Ecclesiastes/Kohelet}”  Nothing earthly and physical is eternal.  It is all worn down by the tests of time and bonds of nature.  This is how G-d wills it.  My (re)discovery, of something already affixed there, was in fact my soul.  It is the spark of G-d within me.  A concealed vestige of reality.  The true me, disguised beneath the illusion of my bodily self.  It’s eternal; everything else is but a mirage, a reflection of the truth.

Hashem (G-d) not only transcends all worlds in His indescribable, unrivaled unity and perfection, but He fills them all simultaneously.  He broaches the “impossible” of the known and nature, spanning Heaven and Earth, investing them with a flow from His essence – without losing even an infinitesimal spark of it – for He is the Source and Core of it all.  We can be nothing but overawed when we just begin to grasp this ultimate miracle.

Now, the true beauty of everything is revealed.  If only we choose to open our eyes, we can perceive deeper than its reflection.

And we can shine its light – our inner light – too.

שֶׁ֣קֶר הַ֖חֵן וְהֶ֣בֶל הַיֹּ֑פִי אִשָּׁ֥ה יִרְאַת־יְ֜הוָ֗ה הִ֣יא תִתְהַלָּֽל:

Sheker Hachein Vehevel Hayofi Isha Yirat Hashem He Tit’halal.

Charm is false and beauty is vain; a God-fearing woman is to be praised.

{Proverbs/Mishlei 31:30}