Latest update: April 22nd, 2013
Several weeks ago I started a series on hashgachah pratis, or Divine Providence. Every believing Jew knows that events do not just unfold randomly; the story I told of two brothers named Yaakov and Yedidya clearly testified to that reality in a contemporary setting.
My column about the boys’ experience inspired many readers to share how their own personal challenges had enhanced their awareness of the guiding Hand of G-d in their lives.
What I never expected was that I would be sharing my own story of hashgachah pratis – certainly not under the circumstances I am about to describe.
For many years now, I and members of my family have spent Pesach at various resorts. This year was no exception. I had the opportunity to experience with some of my family the wonderful KMR program, run by the Werner family and featuring caterer Michael Schick, in the picturesque setting of the Park Hyatt Aviara in San Diego.
The program features a beautiful synthesis of entertainment and inspiration. Rabbis and rebbetzins are responsible for the enlightening Torah aspect of the program. In this case the rebbetzin, as you may have guessed, was me.
I was scheduled to speak at the beginning of Yom Tov and during the concluding days. The first days, Baruch Hashem, were wonderful, but the last days gave me a jolt I never anticipated.
On the final day of chol hamoed, in the middle of the night, I fell.
Some might wonder what on earth was I doing at 3 a.m., but those who know me are aware that my hectic schedule prevents me from going to sleep at a normal time. In any event, I fell, and it was not a simple fall. In all my years I don’t think I ever experienced such excruciating pain. My screams woke many guests. My daughter, whose room was nearby, came running with my son-in-law. I couldn’t move, not to the right or to the left. The pain was all encompassing.
Quickly the medics arrived and they called for an ambulance. As I was lifted onto a stretcher my agony became even more unbearable. While this was happening, it occurred to me somewhere in the back of my mind that most likely I would need surgery. Here I was in San Diego, far away from New York where I am familiar with the hospitals and doctors who attend to such acute injuries.
My daughter requested that the ambulance driver take me to the best hospital and, Baruch Hashem, we were not disappointed. I was blessed to receive the finest medical care and to encounter the kindest and most compassionate staff of nurses and physicians at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, led by an amazing CEO, Carl Etter.
The orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Christopher Hajnik, operated with dispatch. Time was of the essence – the evening would usher in Yom Tov.
As I learned firsthand, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas is one of the finest medical centers in the country. Of more than 6,000 hospitals in U.S., it is ranked in the top 100. Even as I write this column from my hospital bed I am in awe of this facility. B’ezras Hashem, I will be soon be transferred to Scripps rehab where the process of learning to walk again will commence.
In the interim, in the midst of my tears, I knew I had to give honor to Hashem – something that my saintly parents – HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avrohom, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a”h – taught me and that I try to do on all occasions. I spoke words of Torah and I discovered listening ears, minds and hearts. This was evident among the nurses and physicians – and CEO Carl Etter as well.
Prior to being wheeled into the operating room I blessed Dr. Hajnik and prayed that Hashem should send the Malach Rafael – the angel of healing – to guide his hands. I was so grateful to see his reaction. His eyes reflected faith rather than cynicism.
This same faith was seen everywhere. I shared words of wisdom from our Torah with this genuinely warm group of people. Soon I discovered that the calling card of Carl Etter is his humility. He spoke of his genuine faith in G-d. He expressed this by referring to teachings from the Bible. He spoke of truth, compassion, charity, integrity, honor, love and loyalty. He told me of his admiration for the wisdom of the Jewish people, the people of the book.
Carl spoke of his passion to teach and share with others G-d’s Word. He considers himself a wealthy man with many treasures – spiritual treasures all stemming from his faith in G-d.
Then I met the physical therapist assigned to help me. He was humming a tune, and the lyrics made me pause: “G-d brought forth the people of Israel on wings of eagles…” What an amazing song to hear in San Diego at Scripps Memorial from my physical therapist. Of course, we Jews – Am Yisrael – should be singing about wings of eagles – wings that will carry Elijah the Prophet as he announces the coming of Mashiach, soon in our day.
As I was absorbing these events I realized Hashem may have been telling me, “Esther Jungreis, this is your opportunity to write that new book you’ve had in your mind, that book that you want to call Footsteps.”
Footsteps our zaidies paved for us. Footsteps just waiting for us to follow. Footsteps of Torah.
As I write this article, prayers and berachahs are pouring in from those who know of my situation. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I only ask that G-d grant me the years to share with you, my precious friends, many more simchas.
Esther bas Miriam.
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