Hashem works in interesting ways. In the middle 1990s, I had a really good psychotherapist who went for another job and I was broken up about it. Mom had her own health issues and it also bothered her that I lost a therapist we really trusted. I was depressed and Mom wanted to cheer me up.
It was Chanukah time and she was out shopping at the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia and there was a Radio Shack that was having a grand opening sale. They were selling radios and Walkmans and knowing my love for music, she thought, “This will cheer Phyllis up.”
She saw a radio that was on sale for around $10. She bought the radio and batteries and brought it home. I was feeling down. She explained to me that Radio Shack had a big sale and she had bought it for me. She told me I could listen to it at night in bed because she knew I had trouble sleeping, and any other time I wanted to.
I said, “This is great.” I was very happy. I listened to it a lot from a few days before Chanukah and all through Chanukah and I loved it. About my sleeping, my psychiatrist was afraid to put me on sleeping pills. With this radio, I could hold it up to my ear every night and listen to it and I was able to sleep. It¹s not like I can read myself to sleep because I am dyslexic.
One night, I was already in bed and I turned on the radio and nothing was on. I had listened to it so much that I had to get new batteries. They did not have rechargeable batteries in those days. I called out to Mom and told her. She said she would go shopping tomorrow or the next day to get new batteries. I said to her, “What do I do in the meantime?” How would I sleep? She said that if the AM was working that I should try to find a station that plays music.
I prayed to G-d, please let me find some music. After the prayer I landed on AM 990. When I heard music playing my reaction was, “He heard me! I found music. I¹ll be able to sleep tonight.” My mom said, “Good.”
I listened to the music and it was contemporary sounding. I never heard that song. I listened more and I knew that I never heard these singers. In the '80s and '90s, I thought I knew every song on soft rock.
The next morning my Mom said she would go out for batteries. I was more wide awake and I paid more attention to the songs they were playing. I listened for an hour and a pattern emerged from the music. Most of the songs had some reference or used words of reverence toward G-d. I wondered, “What type of a station is this?”
A live dj came on and said, “You¹re listening to today’s inspirational music. The best music this side of heaven. Love from above.” I was horrified.
I told Mom. It was hard for me to ever lie to Mom. I told her it was not gospel, just very inspirational. It talks about Hashem. I asked her, “Do you mind if I listen until I get batteries?” She listened to the station for a few minutes. “Do you like it?” she asked me. “Yeah," I said. She said, “I see why you like it. It¹s pretty music, it’s contemporary and they talked about Hashem. Keep thinking it¹s Hashem.”
Listening to the songs it helped me to realize that Hashem is not far off and distant. For the first time I believed He’s real. When I told my cousin about this, she said “He¹s talking back in the language you understand. He’s telling you he loves you in the language you know best.”
It¹s not that He talks just to me. I think he talks to everyone in different ways. But having the ability to understand that He¹s talking to you is also a gift from Hashem. It gave me a new image of Hashem.
To me it wasn’t another religion’s music. It was Hashem¹s music. Now (years later), there’s nothing that can tear me away from Judaism. The music that inspires me now is Avraham Fried, Mordechai Ben David and other Jewish singers and also secular music. With that music, from years ago, He knew what he was doing.
People are also my inspiration. I get many religious visitors, including girls from a Russian Kirev school. My friend from there tells me that we inspire each other.
I listen to Jewish inspirational songs. But so many of these songs are in Hebrew and I don¹t understand Hebrew. A pet peeve I have is I wish there were more English songs that talk about love of Hashem. Not every religious Jew understands Hebrew. Some of my friends who go to Yeshiva, they listen to Jewish music because their school tells them to, but they don’t understand the Hebrew.
Looking back, the radio was a great gift from my mother, and it was the greatest gift from Hashem in bringing me to Him.
All this aside, although I don¹t daven from a siddur, I talk to Hashem all the time now.
Phyllis Lit has an ever evolving and strengthening connection with Hashem that has helped her with her challenges including having cerebral palsy and being dyslexic. Two of her inspirational stories about her “journey to faith” have been published and she has been the guest speaker at an Emunah of America group. She is in the forefront of helping to start an organization that would provide funding to help people with special needs have a good living environment.