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Friday, March 7, 2014

Love & Faith

There are laws and customs that have been passed down for thousands of years on how to choose a name for your baby. Names are extremely important in Judaism. An individual's name is said to be like the direct line for a soul’s energy to enter the body.  We like to name our children after important people, especially biblical figures, and beloved deceased relatives.  A name is not merely a medley of letters put together as a convenient and trendy way to refer to someone. A given name is believed to be a definition of the individual and a description of his personality and a translation of their character traits. As far as I know, Erika, is a Nordic name and means, "eternal ruler", "one ruler", or  "ever powerful". I was always proud and happy to be, Erika (Ehta), named after my Grandma Edith, of blessed memory, who died appallingly young after battling breast cancer in her thirties.  In the case of tragic death, parents don't always choose to name their baby after that beloved relative or they add another name that will be used as the first name.  My Hebrew name, Ehta became controversial when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer. People, around the world, prayed for me, using my Hebrew name, which also happened to be my mother's Hebrew middle name and lots of chaos and questions came out. We consulted with a rabbi and decided to ask people to pray on my secular given name, Erika. Not my Hebrew name, Ehta.  My dear childhood friend, D. a devout Hassidic woman, asked her husband to consult with their rabbi, a learned and respected Torah Giant. After consulting, D. begged me to change my name. In my community, we call our kids by their given Hebrew names. Erika doesn't quite fit my religious circle but I always clung tightly to the name my parents gave me, even after immigrating to Israel where NO ONE is named, Erika. Erika was me. I cherished it.

When we knew that the cancer was back, confirmed in December, discussions about my very unHebrew name were rehashed. Once again, close friends and family members, unconnected to each other, questioned whether I should change my name. I began to question it. My dear friend, E.'s  husband met with a great rabbi who said I should change my name, to a specific Biblical name, which I just didn't connect with. "We'll speak with another great Rav, " my friend assured me. There was one name that I'd always been excited about and had wanted to name one of our daughters. "No way we are going to give any of our kids a Hippie name," said my darling husband. My 2nd PET CT scan was on Sunday and a few hours later, the tip of the iceberg crashed through the calm of my seemingly healthy and less stormy reality. It's a true kindness that I don't have to wait for days to know whether the results are positive or negative. My oncologist tries to minimize my anxiety and emotional torture whenever possible. I went home with some bad news and knew I'd get more detailed answers in two days, when the official radiologist report came through. One thing was certain, the cancer proved to be spreading quicker than we hoped and if I don't begin treatment, my future on this Earth is unlikely. We received an answer directly from an extremely well respected and learned Torah Giant that I should choose a new name that my soul connects with.

When we met again with my oncologist, we learned to what extent the cancer had advanced. Throughout my abdomen and pelvis, in my liver and chest wall and in multiple lymph nodes far and wide. What's on offer? Chemotherapy. Carboplatin and Gemcitabine. No way!!! I made up my mind. No chemotherapy yet! I want to wait for my mice... I don't want to be the mouse! Chemo failed last year and I don't want to go through that again!

Love and faith... are all I have.  If I decide not to take chemotherapy, I might die. Chemotherapy might not work either or it could work and I might live. It's my choice and yet I have no control of the outcome. ONLY how I choose to deal with it today. Will I cry? Be angry? Will I still be happy? Laugh? Celebrate? Dance? That's what my #happylanche is all about. Will I continue to cling to Hashem (G-d) and have faith at ALL times?

My sister in law, Briana, invited me to attend a shiur (a class) in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. A very spiritual class with Rebitzin Emunah Witt and I had my own unique experience. All the months of debating over my name suddenly converged on an impulsive decision as I meditated, with Briana's hand in mine, on love and faith and faith and G-d and love, achdut (unity) and a whole lot of faith through the worst test of my life. We are all Earthbound but we hope to get to Heaven someday. Whether I'm 38 or 120 when I go, what do I want to leave behind?
 photo credit: Nechama Verter sent AFTER I changed my name!

Ahava = Love

Emunah = Faith

We took a long and spiritually guided journey to the Kotel (Western Wall) and on the way MANY wonderful things happened.

I washed the great stones of the Kotel with my tears - crying and begging G-d to please help me. 

And then, I left Erika behind. 

I want to be known as, and called, Ahava Emunah. Whether I go or I stay, that's what I want to be and emulate, and share. AND now, I have a new strength to face the next step. Chemotherapy AGAIN.... and spread love, and have faith that no matter what, it's all for the good. It will be okay.


  1. You. Are. Beautiful.

    1. what she said... hugs. You are Ahava Emunah - you always have been. It is so you.

  2. What a beautiful name. May you be blessed to share your special attributes with your people here on earth for many long years.

  3. You are an incredible woman. Praying for you. Keep the faith.

  4. I echo what everyone just said above, and probably what everyone will say below.

    Chizki ve'imtzi.

    You ARE Ahava Emuna. You always have been. It is your essence and overflows into the world.

    Bless you on your healing path.

    Bless you for bringing so many of us to the truly uplifting and amazing experience of davenning for Ahava Emuna bat Chava Ehta.

  5. Ahava Emuna, may you have a refua sheleima b'mheira b'yameinu, and a long life of health, happiness, love, and faith.

  6. Leonie LachmishFriday, March 07, 2014

    Thankyou so much for sharing that with us, it's so strong and gentle, so true to the person you clearly are. Refuah shlemah, Amen !

  7. With Love and Faith, how can anyone lose?
    Love for Hashem - love for fellowman
    Emuna in Hashem -Emuna for the rest of us who are going to be holding you up to Hashem in prayers.
    Hashem will hear. Amen.
    Ahava Emuna - so many love you, count me among one of them. Most of all Hashem loves you.
    You are just beautiful! :)

  8. Wishing you strength on your journey. May your life be filled with both ahava and emunah

  9. An incredible name for an incredible woman!

  10. Thank you for all the help you've given mommies and babies. I am a fellow LLL leader in New York. May the work of your hands be for a blessing.

  11. Thank you for all the work you've done for mommies and babies. I am a fellow LLLleader. May the work of your hands be for a blessing.

  12. Such a beautiful story. Your writing gets better each time you pick up the pen! I wish I knew u in the real world, I feel such a kinship to you and know we would be great friends! You have truly chosen the name that you will LIVE in..wishes for a quick recovery..I have done the same 'cocktail' certainly is not fun..keep your faith and love your family.

  13. Wishing you a complete healing, refuat hanefesh and refuat haguf amongst all of Klal Yisrael who are in pain and in need of yeshuot. Your name rings a special cord for me being that I write daily emuna articles appropriately named "Daily Dose of Emuna". May you merit to see only revealed good soon, amen.

  14. May you merit to have a complete healing amongst all of Klal Yisrael who are sick. Your 'new' name hits a special cord being that I write daily emuna articles appropriately named the "Daily Dose of Emuna". May your ahava and emuna serve as a zechut for you to see only revealed good, amen.

  15. May you go from strength to strength, Ahava Emunah - in love and in faith. I think you could not have picked more perfect names - may you carry them with you until 120...and only then into the next life with you. May God bless Ahava Emunah - with love, with faith, with life sweet and healthy.