On my daily catch-up call with my son, he casually told me what he had done the night before. He had ridden on a friend’s motorcycle from Ra’anana to Herzliya (this involved traveling on a highway) to take a bus to Kever Yosef Hatzaddik in Shechem. This trip took place between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., as it is more dangerous to travel there during the day.
Even as I was thinking if he was crazy, I had to admit to myself (and in all fairness to him as well) that if I were in my 20s, I would have taken a motorcycle ride in a heartbeat – which quickly would have accelerated with the motorcycle. I was also adventurous, although kivrei tzaddikim wouldn’t have been first on my list for adventure. (I possibly would have made the trip at night.) Josh assured me that the mitzvah of his travel protected him. I’m sure doing this mitzvah provided security for him during the exhilarating, teeth-rattling ride down the highway.
Asleep between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., I was blissfully unaware of what dangers my son was exposing himself to. And when I recited Hallel on Rosh Chodesh the morning following the conversation, I paused at the verse, “How can I repay Hashem for all His kindness to me?” (Tehillim 116:12). I realized that the reason I cannot repay Hashem’s kindnesses, besides due to my limited mortality, is that there are a plethora of them I’m not even aware of (nor is anyone, for that matter).
In Israel, we routinely hear of terrorist plots that were thankfully and miraculously foiled at the last minute. But I’m sure that, for security reasons, there are more that go unreported. How many times have we been at a location where tragedy occurred just moments after we departed, a tragedy that would have impacted on us greatly?
Although my son shared his holy nocturnal adventures with me, I only found out about them after the fact. While he was, Baruch Hashem, safe, how many “adventures” do our families and friends partake in without sharing those experiences with loved ones for fear of worrying them?
In our stressful and ever-mobile lives whereby dangers lurk on the pages of every newspaper, it feels as if we should bentch “HaGomel” every time we return home.
I don’t know how many people were sleeping when the drama of the ultimate plague played itself out in Egypt. But like today, when not everyone is still awake at the Seder’s conclusion, I’d venture to guess that at least some of the nation – perhaps the oldest and youngest – were sleeping when God passed over their houses, shielding them from the Angel of Death and setting the stage for their redemption.
Even in the best of times, life is not free of calamity or crisis. But like the well-known Jewish expression goes: “It could be a lot worse.” This is not the soothsaying of pessimists but the realization that we have much to be thankful for, and God, in His mercy, watches over us and protects us from our worst fears, our worst enemies and sometimes from ourselves.
I told my son that he has a very good reason to not consider buying a motorcycle; I would insist that he take me for rides. I don’t think he’d like that. He assured me he wasn’t going to buy one since he knew someone who had just been injured while making a delivery. Yes, that was motivation enough. One more thing: the brakes almost failed on him one time.
I asked my son not to do these things. But my request was half-hearted because at a certain age all of us are reckless, trusting in our imperviousness. But I also know that my son trusts in Hashem and at the end of the day, whether we’re sleeping in our beds, speeding down the highway of life or idealistically pursuing our spiritual quests, we are all dependent on Hashem’s kindness and protection. And most of the time, we too are blissfully unaware of how much we have to be thankful for.
Seder night is known as leil shimurim, a night of special protection. We pray that as Hashem protected us on this night in Egypt, He continues – on every day and night of the year – to protect us, redeem us and bestow His kindness upon us.