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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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‘That Which You See And Hear’


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

As promised last week, in keeping with the dictum of our sages that “ayn doma” – there is no comparison to that which you hear and that which you see – I am sharing excerpts from a diary my daughter kept during Superstorm Sandy.

Sunday Morning:

I’m on my way to give a lecture in Connecticut and the car radio fills the air with ominous talk about Frankenstorm. What does this mean? I wonder apprehensively as I observe the growing lines at gas stations. My stomach is filled with knots. I want to get home to my children…. My husband is out of the country and, quite honestly, I do not relish facing Frankenstorm without him. My friend’s family lives a few blocks away and she graciously offers to have us move in. My husband and I decide that this is the best option. We had gone through hurricane Irene and, thank God, our community made it through with minimal damage but still, I feel relieved to sit this one out with friends.

Sunday Evening:

We pack up some belongings and leave. I lock up and kiss the mezuzah, wondering what the next few days will bring. I cannot help but whisper a silent prayer for our safe return.

We are welcomed into my friend’s home with warm smiles and hot drinks. It is not always easy to give graciously, but they do. And sometimes it can also be difficult to receive. Our host family helps us feel instantly at home. Even the children, all teens, open their hearts and make us feel as if it is the most wonderful thing in the world to have two families living under one roof.

Monday Morning:

We aren’t sure exactly when Sandy is supposed to begin. It has been hard to sleep. Things seem so normal outside. We listen to the news and wait. Each report brings us closer to the dreaded moment. Dire interviews with experts about what could happen add to the pounding of my heart.

Monday Afternoon:

The wind begins to howl. I watch trees sway violently in all directions. We know that the direct hit is soon coming. We live on Long Island. The storm promises to send shocking waves and a surge of water…. Only God knows what will be. We are being told the destruction can be of biblical proportions. I am afraid.

I take out my book of Psalms and begin to pray. The children find their prayer books and we are all reaching out to God. We are astounded to read the Psalm of the day: “Save me God for water has come up to my soul!” cried King David. I feel incredibly connected. The voice of King David becomes my voice. I seek a lifeline and hold onto his timeless words.

Monday Evening:

The time of the surge has come. I hear the sound of ferocious wind. We gather together in one room.

We hear that cars are floating away. Water is seeping into a house with a newborn. I receive a call on my cell from a relative: “My daughter just called. Her car is filled with water to the roof. Water is gushing up her floorboards from nowhere. They are taking the children upstairs. What will happen?”

I clutch my prayer book even tighter. The emotional words of King David leap out at me. “I lift my eyes onto the mountains, from where will come my help? My help will come from God who created the heaven and earth…. Out of the depths I call to You, God!”

We hear that the water has reached the block before ours. It is coming.

I have never felt fear like this in my life.

I want to shield my children. I want to build a lifetime of sweet memories. I want to take each child’s hand in mine and stand with them under the soft canopy of the chuppah together with my loved ones. I want to giggle at bedtime stories and sing the Shema with my grandchildren cuddled on my lap.

I want to accomplish more and bring greater meaning to my days. I want to live.

The dark night is endless. We anticipate. We dread. We pray. It is one of the longest nights I can remember.

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