Last Rosh Hashanah 5771, I walked with a heavy heart to the small synagogue in the hospital at Tel Hashomer. Two and a half months had passed since my son David’s terrible accident, and he was still unconscious. The doctors remained split. Some tried to explain that this type of injury did not leave room for optimism. The days, weeks and months that passed seemed to wither our hope.
The first day of prayers passed unremarkably. I arrived at the hospital synagogue early, chose an inconspicuous place in the back row, hid myself in my prayer shawl and attempted to concentrate on the words in the small prayer book. From the anonymity of the crowd and my general distress, I was able to feel alone with my Maker and to verbalize my supplications. Nobody paid any attention to me. That, at least, is what I wanted to think.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I once again set out for the synagogue at the same time and with the same heavy heart. Once again I took my place at the back of the small synagogue. But as the time for the blowing of the shofar approached, a murmur wafted through the congregation. Everyone turned around, calling my attention to the large wheelchair that was cumbersomely making its way to the front of the synagogue.
I did not understand immediately why everybody was looking at me until I realized that it was David laying/sitting in the chair, and that the person pushing him was my wife Tzippy, who had decided to set out on the difficult trek with the unwieldy chair from one end of the hospital to the other – so that David would hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. I quickly approached them. Suddenly, I realized that I had not been alone in my prayers. Everybody in the synagogue was praying with me. I found myself standing with David at the front of the room, and when the time came to read the Torah, I was called up to make the blessings.
To me it was an obvious act of God as the portion of the Torah to which I was called up was the story of the akeidat Yitzchak (the binding of Isaac), read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. I recited the blessing of the Torah and read along in a whisper straight from the Torah with the congregation’s Torah reader.
“Take your son, your only one, whom you love,” the holy letters crashed into my being straight from the parchment, as my whole body began to tingle. “…And the two of them walked together.”
At that moment I felt that the letters were talking about the father and son standing right there. My son, at my side, and I were now being brought to the akeidah. Tears that I had repressed deep inside me since the accident welled up and out of my eyes, straight onto the holy Torah scroll.
At the end of the prayers, I walked lightly to the rehab ward. My heart was no longer heavy. I felt that with this prayer session I had accepted God’s judgment that leaves no room for fear. Perhaps this is also how Abraham and Isaac felt during those fateful moments. All the prayers, blessings and acts of kindness by members of the nation of Israel – big and small, more observant and less observant – that had flooded us since the accident enveloped me. I felt that everybody had prayed for David and that I had prayed as hard as I could, and now it was in God’s hands. Whatever He decided, I would accept. That was a huge relief.
Rosh Hashanah 5771 ended. The Ten Days of Repentance flew by quickly. Three months had already passed since the accident and David was still unconscious. I decided to spend Yom Kippur at home with our other children. Just moments before the sun set on Yom Kippur eve, Tzippy called from the hospital. “David is talking!” she shouted almost hysterically. “Talk to him and hear for yourself!”
“Shalom,” I heard the familiar voice of my son, weak but clear.
At the end of the conversation I wrapped myself in my prayer shawl and turned toward the synagogue for the Kol Nidre prayers.