This past summer highlighted to me how “charity, prayer, and repentance help to annul the evil decree.”
I try to visit my grandparents’ graves in Israel every summer. They are the parents of my late beloved father, Rabbi Dr. Joseph I. Singer. When my father wasn’t able to go to Israel due to illness, I would go to pray at his parents’ graves and pay for the upkeep.
Many years ago, I met a wonderful couple from London and we became friends. We met again in Jerusalem and kept up our friendship. When they were blessed with a daughter, Peninah, we would meet them all in Israel. We always met at the same hotel in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, her father suddenly passed away one December, and we arranged to meet this summer.
We arranged that we would meet in the lobby on August 20 at 4 p.m. to go to the Jerusalem zoo. As president-elect of my Hadassah chapter, I was scheduled to go on a morning tour of the Ein Kerem branch of the hospital, where I worked as a volunteer social worker many years ago. I needed to take my own transportation and everything seemed to take longer. Hadassah Hospital had grown and I got lost. There was even a shopping center, and it was fascinating to watch the hustle and bustle. I remembered how I had wished to stay in Israel and work here after grad school, but the ensuing war changed that. Although I am a senior social worker in a hospital, I could feel the excitement in the air and remembered the special feeling helping our brethren in Israel.
I received a tour and wanted again to view the Chagall windows. I prolonged my visit speaking with a social work supervisor regarding the problems I encounter in New York and we compared notes. Instead of returning to the hotel at 1:00, I came back before 3:00. As soon as I closed the door, I heard a loud noise that sounded like a bomb or a terrorist attack! I opened the door and shakingly viewed the whole ceiling falling down on my floor. I could not believe my eyes, and I realized I might have been killed by a freak accident.
Soon, Peninah came up to look for me. I told her about the accident and how lucky I had been. I was deeply thankful and grateful to G-d.
The next day was Thursday, and I bentched gomel at the Kotel. I hired a taxi and drove to Kever Rachel, and then to Mearat Hamachpela to pray at the kevarim of our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
The next day, I hired the same driver and we went to the Mount of Olives. I found the 82-year-old Arab in charge of the cemetery, and he guided us to my maternal aunt and uncle’s graves. The Arab explained that the graves needed fixing, and I decided to take care of the graves as a chesed shel emet.
I also asked the Arab about my great-grandfather’s grave. He could not find it, but took my phone number. I knew he would contact me if he found the grave.
On the way out of the cemetery, a car honked and it was the Arab. He made a sign to follow him. He stated that he had found the grave of my maternal great-grandfather, who was buried near the Gerer Rebbe.
The next day, I flew home to the U.S. Two nights later, the Arab called. He had found my great-grandfather’s grave, and sent me photos.
The next time I prayed at my grandparents’ graves, the man in charge of the graves told me that he felt that G-d had saved me in the hotel because of my mitzvah of taking care of their graves.
I felt the deep connection of fathers saving their children.
As I prayed on Rosh Hashanah, I remembered the words of the Belzer Rebbitzen when I told her of the incident in the hotel. She stated it was a miracle. I truly feel blessed to be alive. Not only tzedakah and tefillah, but also teshuvah annul the evil decree.
I have undertaken to increase my tefillah, to try and give more tzedakah, and to try to be more tolerant and understanding of people.
I also think of my beloved father of blessed memory who gave me a book listing all the family yahrzeits. He knew when he was on dialysis and could not say Kaddish that I would arrange to have it said for our family members. I have undertaken to continue and observe all the yahrzeits, and I am grateful to the members of the community of Manhattan Beach who get up early to help form a minyan for the yahrzeits.
May the link of loving-kindness continue from generation to generation, as fathers and children continue to be linked in an unending chain of chesed.