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Heaven’s Door


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It was the first Sunday in April when my son called with the following query:

“Abba,” he asked. “What’s the name of the ’80s music group that rediscovered one of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits?”

I immediately answered him. As it turned out, my son was in a car at the time with a classmate’s father and the father’s friend.

I would have thought little of this exchange until I came home that Thursday night to discover an urgent message on my answering machine. To my surprise, it was none other than the fellow who was in the car with my son. When I returned the call, the man told me that he had an unusual story to relate.

His wife was involved with a chesed organization that helped arrange funerals for those in need. The mother of one of my high school classmates had just passed away and her son, an only child, lived out of state. When he was contacted about the arrangements for his mother’s funeral, he asked if somebody could get in touch with me so that I might attend the services.

I have no idea why he thought of me, as we hadn’t conversed in more than 30 years. But when the circumstances were explained, I readily assented. The following day, I came to the funeral home to pay my respects and to reacquaint with a former friend.

At this point, I discerned the Hand of Hashem. An innocent question about rock and roll allowed someone to hear my name so that a few days later, when he was in a position to assist in true chesed to the dead, he knew how to obtain my phone number and put me in a position to fulfill a friend’s request.

Oh, by the way, the name of that Dylan song was “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

Hey, you can’t make this stuff up!

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The highway was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and there I sat with hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, begging the cars to move. My heart swelled at the thought of seeing my son, who was just coming back from his year of learning in Eretz Yisrael. How I had missed him! Though I was used to him being away (if you can ever really get used to a child being away), a special space in my heart was empty – as I waited for him.

We live in a world that is often too cruel and unkind. Living in Israel for the last 30 years, I have attended too many funerals for those whose lives were taken through incomprehensible acts of terror. During the years of the second intifada there were many days that I found it impossible to continue teaching, as a student would burst into my classroom and announce that there had been another terrorist attack. How could I just go on with a regular lesson when lives were lost?

Once a week or so some of my friends and I get together for activities and a little socializing. Over time I have gone through some personal changes and growth, and I sometimes feel out of place with these girls, some of whom I have known for years. I experienced a real struggle during a recent get-together that will surely have a long-lasting impact on me.

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Note to readers: When I heard the words, “You give us seven minutes and we’ll give you the world” on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself – and I’m sure most of klal Yisraelcouldn’t either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.

My husband of 40 years is always ready to help people. He is also very kind to his family and is always eager to embark on a family outing. However, he has one stipulation. He would rather not drive long distances at night, as he has had challenging experiences driving in the dark in fog, rain and other inclement weather.

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