G ilad’s life was crumbling fast.

It was only a short while ago that he was living the American dream. With his promotion at the hedge fund, he’d purchased a gigantic house in a Boston suburb for his grateful wife and happy kids. Like so many secular Israelis living overseas, Gilad didn’t have too much time for spirituality between his work, his family obligations, and the new golf-and-tennis club they’d joined.

And then all the glory collapsed practically overnight, after his boss disagreed with some judgment calls that Gilad had made. There were a few meetings and then quicker than it went up, everything came crashing down. After being abruptly fired, Gilad had no problem finding another job at a slightly decreased salary. And yet the shame and the frustration remained inside and it was dragging him down. Being a responsible father and husband, Gilad knew this wasn’t a good place to be, and so decided to come into my clinic in Boston for an evaluation with the goal of preventing his anger from returning home with him at the day’s end. After ruling out a primary mental illness, we discussed the role of mindfulness, relaxation, and cardiovascular exercise to let off some steam. A week later, Gilad called to let me know that there was no need for a follow-up appointment and I was happy to trust his judgment.

I didn’t think too much about it until I received a call from him a few months later requesting an emergency appointment. After confirming that he wasn’t in a dangerous spot, we scheduled a time for early in the evening.

Gilad looked like he’d been run over by a truck when he came in. Apparently he’d heard that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating his old employers and was grateful that he’d left in time — that was until he was greeted by a pair of suits and flashing badges outside of his gorgeous new home. Although he adamantly denied anything illegal, Gilad was being charged with a variant of insider trading. Whether guilty or not — and I was inclined to believe the latter for reasons I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on — Gilad was in big trouble and had been coerced into signing a plea bargain. The only way he could pay the fine was by selling his house.

“Here I was thinking I’d dodged a bullet by getting fired just in time, and then they tell me they’re gonna take my house,” he said tearfully. “I didn’t even do anything.”

“You lawyered up and it’s not helping?” I asked curiously.

“It’s helping, all right — they wanted to give me two to five years, and now I’m going to get off with a fine, community service, and losing my license.”

“All things considered, I guess that’s not so bad.”

“Compared to what?!” Gilad exploded. “Sure, it’s better than getting your hands cut off in Arabia for stealing, but remember that I didn’t do anything! I wasn’t even working there anymore, because I got fired for doing things my own way. Doesn’t that prove that I had no desire to do things their way?”

Gilad couldn’t contain his distress. “You know I’m not the most G-d-fearing man around, but this is awful. What did I do to deserve this? I guess it’s better than jail, but do I really have to be grateful every day that I’m not in jail? There’s no reason I should have been there in the first place!”

Gilad was a secular guy, so I felt somewhat compelled to use secular answers. “Maybe there’s a message here, but maybe there isn’t a message here at all,” I replied. “Maybe you just need to stay focused and try to figure out the next steps to provide for your family.”

“That’s all you have to say, Dr. Freedman? I can do the planning for my next job with my old mentor and for my finances with my accountant. But I came here to see you to give me something more. Aren’t you a religious guy? I could have heard this from anyone, but you’re supposed to be a baal yirat Shamayim. From you I want a better answer.”

“I’m not your rebbe, Gilad, but there is probably a deeper meaning out there.”

“Probably? I’ve been crying since Rosh Hashanah, and now we’re past Yom Kippur. I need some answers, Dr. Freedman! My saba used to always talk about how we traced our family line back to the holy Chozeh of Lublin. Shouldn’t that help me somehow?”

I couldn’t hide my own joy. Hashem had orchestrated that I’d just learned a wonderful piece of chassidus, which would be the perfect medicine for Gilad. “You know,” I told Gilad, “I was just learning from a sefer called Bnei Yisaschar that was written by Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, one of the Chozeh’s foremost talmidim.”

There was no atheist in the foxhole and no descendant of the Chozeh of Lublin who could refuse chassidic wisdom in a time of desperation. “Reb Tzvi Elimelech writes that Succot can give a person ruach hakodesh, because on Succot we have just what we need and no extra distractions. We’ve survived Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and all the trials and tribulations of last year to be given a fresh start. Hashem made it that the best way to start off fresh is to be simple. With only a flimsy wooden structure, we’ll sit with our families under the stars and realize that we don’t need all the luxuries of modern society or even our regular furniture and dishes to be happy. Sitting in a wobbly succah with our wife and kids will be enough to bring us to a tremendously high spiritual level.”

Gilad laughed heartily. “You know, I haven’t done Succot since I was in kindergarten, but I’m gonna have to live in a succah anyway, seeing as they just took my house away.”

“Baruch Hashem you have your wife, your kids, and your freedom. That’s enough to be happy about.”

“Wait, isn’t Succot called zeman simchateinu? Wow, I guess I remember something. So what you’re saying is that feeling G-d’s presence in a succah is all I really need to be happy? You know, Dr. Freedman, I thought I needed a huge house and a pass to the country club to be happy — I really did. But now that it’s all gone, it hasn’t really broken me. I mean, I’m still standing, still breathing, still have the energy to push forward. So maybe we’ll do Succot this year and all of us will try to be happy with what we have. And maybe I’ll even get to ruach hakodesh like you said. Right, Dr. Freedman?”

“You’re the chassid, not me. I’m Sephardi, remember? I get my ruach hakodesh from learning the Zohar all night and rolling in the snow.”

Gilad liked that one and laughed again. “I can do this, Dr. Freedman. I grew up poor as can be and I built up a big fortune here. I did it once and I’ll do it again. Yishtabach Shemo, I have my freedom and my family.”

“You’ll get a fortune again if it’s in the cards. If not, at least you’ll have all that you need.”

The last I heard from Gilad was a thank-you call a month later, letting me know he had returned home to Haifa with his family. For some reason I had the feeling that I’d be seeing him again, maybe even telling his story at a Hidabroot convention.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 680. Jacob L. Freedman is a psychiatrist and business consultant based in Jerusalem. He serves as the medical director of services for English-speakers at Bayit Cham, a national leader providing mental health treatment and outreach within the religious community. Dr. Freedman can be reached most easily through his website www.drjacoblfreedman.com.)