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How To Keep Smiling

Six years in prison was hell. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. It made me the observant Jewish man that I am today. It gave me a lot of strength and a will to fight hard. But it was very challenging. And one of the hardest things about being a young man in his 20s in prison is that there's no opportunity for a shidduch. Everyone my age is getting married, having kids, and starting their lives, and I'm stuck in prison. And yes, we believe that everything H-shem does is for the best, but it's hard to be alone and isolated from the world. H-shem created the world that a man should find a wife and be fruitful and multiply, raising his family as servants of H-shem in the halachically correct manner.

This took a heavy toll on me; it was just one of the many things about prison that weighed heavily on me. So, what did I do to take the weight off my shoulders? I studied, I prayed, I did mitzvot, I worked out, I wrote, and I stayed positive. I did many things to fill my time with purpose and shed light on the darkness.

But there was one thing in particular that really helped me. One of my fellow Jews in prison gave me what appeared to be a business card. It wasn't an actual business card, but it had a beautiful message printed on it. It said in big letters, "Keep Smiling!" This little card, so simple, light, and small, gave me unimaginable strength. For the last five years of my prison sentence, I had it pinned to my board so I could always see it. And when I was having a bad day, I often looked at the card and smiled! It was a reminder that no matter how tough your life is, smile!

Baruch H-shem, I was released from prison on February 17, 2022. After so many years of solitude, I told myself that I finally had the opportunity to find a shidduch and start a family. So, I put myself out there. I joined Jewish dating sites, and most of all, I put all my trust in H-shem, that He would send me the right one at the right time.

In May 2022, I met a fantastic girl on one of the Jewish dating sites called JSwipe. The first time we spoke was over the telephone. I told her I had been incarcerated for six years within the first few minutes. It's something I felt I couldn't hide. When she asks what I've been doing for the past six years, do I tell her I was on vacation? (Humor is a must!) She was a little reluctant at first, but when I told her my story and how I completely changed my life in prison, she decided to give me a chance.

We spoke over the phone for the next couple of weeks, getting to know each other. And finally, one day, we decided to meet in person, obviously by the halacha.

The first time I met her was at her job. She wanted to show me what she was doing with real estate and how she spent her day at work. It was super interesting to see her drive and determination. We spoke a lot about different subjects. And the most fascinating part is that we both had a deep love and desire to serve H-shem.

And as we were speaking, I looked at her work board, and in the bottom left corner, I couldn't believe what I saw. She had pinned right there on her workboard the exact "Keep Smiling" card I had in prison! I was in utter shock. Seeing that she was wondering where my mind had gone, I quickly explained, "You won't believe it. Do you see that "Keep Smiling" card that you have? Well, I had that same card in my prison cell for 5 years…."

Now we were both in utter shock. Yes, we just met each other, but it was a vital sign. If it wasn't meant to be between us, at least we can say that H-shem was telling us both at that moment, "I'm right here!" There's nothing better than when H-shem shows you He's right with you.

But it doesn't stop there! A few months later, we're dating and getting to know each other. We thought it would be nice to put ourselves out there and connect with the Jewish community here in Las Vegas. So one day, we go on a double date with another orthodox couple. We love telling the keep smiling story to people, so we thought it'd be nice to share it with our new friends. After telling the story, just like everyone else who hears it, they were in shock.

The wife, absolutely amazed, comments, "Wouldn't it be so cool if we knew who created those cards, and we could tell him the story!" Right beside her, her husband said, "We know the guy! He goes to our shul. His name is Barry Shore."

The couple invited us over for Shabbat. And Friday night, we go to shul, and the husband points me out to Barry Shore. I go up to him and tell him the keep smiling story, and I tell him a little bit about my time spent in prison. Barry was so happy to meet me. He gave me a big handshake and a big hug. He wasn't expecting to hear a story like this in a million years. We sat for a few minutes, smiling huge smiles. All we could say is how amazing the hashgacha pratis is and how amazing H-shem is.

When we see a sign from H-shem, we're not prophets, and we can't say what's meant to be. The whole purpose of the sign is H-shem saying to us, I'm watching you, I'm still in control, and you are entirely in My hands. And when we experience H-shem's hashgacha, it brings us so much joy. May we merit seeing H-shem in every detail of our lives, and most of all, may we Keep Smiling!

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1 comentário

Shawn Balva
Shawn Balva
10 de out. de 2023

Very well written

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