|Photo Credit: Breslev Israel|
I know that I am not the first person in the world to lose a mother. It is one of the most sorrowful yet inevitable realities of life, but not everyone goes through a whole personal metamorphosis in the process.
The 4thof Tammuz (this year June 24th) is my mother's 22nd Yartzeit, the anniversary of her death. It is hard to believe that 22 years have passed, yet it seems like much more than 22 years since I last spoke with my mother. It actually has been more than 23 and a half years since we had any sort of normal conversation. Neither ripe old age nor some disabling disease caused her death. It was the tragic result of a horrible road accident.
Driving with my mother on an intercity freeway, my father fell asleep at the wheel and as a result the car flipped over several times before landing in a rocky ditch at the side of the road. The fact that both of my parents weren't killed instantly was in itself a miracle. The car was a total write-off. A valuable lesson to be learned from this would appear to be; never drive while very tired. But that isn't why I chose to write this in my mother's memory. There is a much more urgent message I feel compelled to pass along: In times of greatest despair, have faith (emuna) in G-d and believe in miracles. And most importantly, never underestimate the power of prayer! These may not be new or unique concepts for those of you who are frum (religious) from birth. They are fundamental principles which should be ingrained into the core of one's intellect from day one. But for those of us who are chozer b'tshuva (penitent), who made the conscious decision to redirect our lives, we often require a boost to reinforce this major leap of faith.
The whole incident occurred as my husband and I were just beginning our journey down the road of religious observance. It had been less than a year since we began to keep Shabbat and Kashrut. My first test in this ordeal fell on me like a load of bricks just a half hour before the onset of Shabbat. As if it wasn't shock enough to receive a phone call with the unthinkable news of the crash, I was faced with the most difficult decision of my life. Yet, there was really no choice to make. Despite the doctors' pleas for us to hurry to the hospital and be at my mother's side for what they claimed would be her last hours in this world, we could not desecrate the laws of Shabbat by driving. There was no case of pikuach nefesh here. There was nothing I could physically do to help save her life. The doctors were doing all they could for her severe head trauma and other multiple injuries. So I chose the only thing that was available to me and the one thing in which I had placed all my hope....I prayed to HaShem to save my mother. (My father sustained multiple fractures and external injuries, but nothing life-threatening, thank G-d)
The fact that my mother survived over Shabbat was the first sampling of the numerous miracles that encompassed me over the course of the next year and a half. The initial diagnosis of her impending death was followed by an unequivocal prognosis that if she did survive at all, she would be a 'vegetable'. Ultimately, she proved the doctors totally wrong and far surpassed the expectations of all involved. These medical practitioners were forced to admit that they had been mistaken, calling her progress nothing other than miraculous. With limited space in this article, I will refrain from all the grueling and cumbersome details of all that transpired until her final departure from this world, when she finally succumbed to a heart attack. Suffice to say, all that occurred was beyond the realm of earthly reason and logic. Our fervent prayers were answered with chillingly unexpected results beyond any of my wildest expectations. It was a humbling experience which brought into my being a conviction so unwavering that there was no longer any doubt in my mind of the existence of G-d. In addition to that profound understanding was the underlying essence of something much more cliché; learn to value all of HaShem’s blessings and never take them for granted since one never knows when they will be gone. As the old saying goes, appreciate each day as if it were your last.
On this day, I look back with love and gratitude for the gifts that I was blessed to have received. When my mother passed away I was entering my eighth month of pregnancy. The unborn child I was carrying gave me unparalleled strength. Instead of being left with a huge void in my life, I looked forward to bearing a new life. The sharp pains of mourning were replaced with the sharp pains of labor. He came into the world quickly on Shabbat, twelve days before Rosh Hashana.
|My family when I was a baby|
Only with the comprehension that there is a Greater Power than man, the Holy One, Blessed be He, Creator of the Universe, can one make any sense of what is going on in the world today. It is not for us to question why things happen as they do, but to grab onto them and discover ways to improve ourselves. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do more to elevate our actions, to become better people and grow closer to G-d. We will thereby not only bring peace into our own lives, but to the world itself via 'spiritual osmosis'.
The Torah reading for the week of the 4th of Tammuz 22 years ago was Chukat. This Parasha tells the story of the time when the Jewish people were crossing the desert on their way to Israel and found themselves in desperate in need of water. G-d spoke to Moses and told him 'speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it will give forth its water' (Bamidbar 20:8) With the entire congregation assembled before Moses and his brother, Aaron, it was the prime opportunity to sanctify G-d's Name and give witness to this undeniable miracle. But, instead of trying to produce water from the rock by speaking to it as he had been commanded, Moses struck it twice with his rod. One interpretation of this episode explains that his show of anger appeared to the people as if he did not have faith in G-d. For this he was punished and not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. How relevant this lesson is today. We must trust in HaShem and abide by His Laws, in order to deserve the right to keep our Land and the privilege to dwell there.
I share this with you in memory of my beloved mother. As time fades the vision in my mind's eye of this once-vibrant and beautiful woman, her strength and courage is indelibly etched in my memory. As I groped through the fog of anguish to find meaning in adversity, her pain and suffering was the catalyst through which I confirmed the true meaning of life. This testimonial is but a taste of the full depth of that revelation. It is my hope that I have succeeded in imparting at least some of that enlightenment as an inspiration to others.
This article was first published on Breslev Israel on my mother's 21st Yarzeit: