Monday, October 16, 2006

Sukkot is over. All the holidays are over; Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. For us, it was a time of introspection, of reflection. Actually, that's how it's felt since we've been here. From the minute we stepped off the plane at Ben Gurion I've marveled that we actually quit our jobs, sold our home, packed everything up, said goodbye to family and friends, and moved to a new country. And here we've been for just over three months, basking in the wonder and awe (and frustration) of starting over, settling in, making new friends, finding a new place for ourselves. And then,


Hashem hit us with a right hook that no one could see coming. When I say "us" I mean a whole lot of people. The war in Lebanon and Gaza was big when we first got here. But when an unexpected event happens so close to your heart that you know you will be changed forever, even when it doesn't personally happen to you but to people you know well and who have had a major impact on your life, it's as if all the breath is literally knocked out of you and you wonder if there will ever again be a phenomena known as "normal".

Living 6000 miles away doesn't change anything. Every time you think of a new ramification of this event, it's as if the horror is beginning all over again. You can only think, "Oh, my G-d, oh my G-d, please help! Please let them be all right! Those who were in the accident and those who have to sit by the bedsides of those who were injured. Please, G-d, let them be all right!!"

Remember how I asked G-d about "do-overs"?

Here are some specifics as I know them second hand: Rabbi Grunberger and his 15 year old daughter, Aviva, were in the front seat. They had air bags and although both had concussions and were pretty beaten up, they were both released from the hospital the first night (last Wednesday, October 11). Chaim, age 7, suffered a broken hip or leg, I'm not sure which. He had surgery on Thursday and was released from the hospital before Shabbos on Friday. Elisha is still in Children's Hospital. He broke his collarbone, one eye is swollen shut, he has a gash on his face and may have internal injuries. But he is out of intensive care and is no longer intubated. He may even be released from the hospital later this week. Tehilla, 17 and a senior at Bais Yaakov, is at St. Louis University Hospital. She broke her jaw in 3 places, hit her head and has a very bad break of her leg/tibia. They did surgery Thursday on her leg and plans are for surgery on her jaw on Tuesday. They’re keeping her heavily sedated because the pain would be too much for her to bear.

And then there's little Dovid, age 7. Dovid was thrown from the car and landed on his head. There is severe swelling, even after surgery last Wednesday night to try to reduce it. The doctors say that if he makes it through the first week, his chances are better. As of this writing, the swelling is getting worse. He's in a third hospital (they were all airlifted from the scene of the accident to 4 different hospitals).

It's a miracle that none of them died at the scene. Two of them were never unconscious and remember everything, which will no doubt live with them forever.

How are we to understand this? I keep asking rabbis and other people, and of course, there are no answers. I hear that there are scores of people at all the hospitals, people arranging rides, cooking meals, trying to feel that they are helping in some way. Tehillim is being said all over the world, mishmeres groups have been formed (not speaking, listening, or writing gossip for a one or two hour period each day) in the family's merit. People are learning Torah in their merit, donating money, doing acts of kindness. In the face of this personal tragedy for this family and those who know them (and many more who don't), so many people are changing their thoughts, speech and deeds, so many people are beseeching Hashem for His mercy, so many people are thinking twice when they put their children in their car and fasten their seat belts, so many people are thinking about what's really important in their lives and changing their priorities. Is good coming from this nightmare? Yes, I guess it is. There has to be some meaning to it. We'll all be trying to find that meaning for a long time to come.

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