An Ex-Prisoner’s Guide to Passing Life’s Tests
Yesterday I heard such a moving talk on Chazak Hotline (phone numbers below) by a man named Yerachmiel, a religious father who spent 3 years in a federal prison after he was convicted of insider trading.
There was so much wisdom in this talk, based on the many things Yerachmiel learned during his painful imprisonment, separated from his beloved family, isolated and eaten up with worry about those he cared about back home.
Here’s some things he said, general suggestions to people overcoming challenges:
No need to take to heart the difficult stuff other people say and think about you. Do not let their opinions define you or get you down.
Your wrongdoings aren’t you. You are bigger, holier, greater than your sin.
When facing a challenge, just focus on getting through each day as well as you can. You will cope with tomorrow when it comes.
Focus on the good that can come from the challenge you are facing. Yerachmiel devoted himself to making a Kiddush Hashem in prison, being as good a person as possible to provide good PR for Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people.
A great rabbi who visited Yerachmiel in prison told him “this experience is preparing you for battle,” making you a far greater person than you’ve ever been.
The most powerful thing for me that Yerachmiel said was about the human heart.
The human heart, he explained, is the toughest muscle in the body. It is very difficult to open it. In fact, in life, it only opens at two times: during times of great joy and times of great challenge. The difficult times in your life provide unprecedented opportunities for growth. “During my time in prison,” Yerachmiel explained, “I experienced a lot of pain, but it was also, by far, my greatest experience of growth. I grew as a person far more than I ever have at any other point in my life, before I was sent to prison.”
The key, he explained, is focusing on what positive can come out of the challenge you are facing. And allowing that test, like a key, to open your heart.
Here are the phone numbers of the free chazak hotline. Choose option 2, talk 216 (the newest recording, to hear Yerachmiel’s talk).