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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Appreciating ‘Non-Events’

           Maybe because Tisha B’av was on our minds, as were recent dismaying events both in Israel and closer to home, but what had started as a relaxed, light-hearted lunch with friends took a dark turn when someone mentioned a recent tragedy involving a young child. Another friend shared an equally horrible story. We acknowledged that lately we all had heard of so many “umglicks” – horrific events afflicting members of the community.

 

In the ensuing silence, I am sure some of us felt a flash of icy fear; a horrific thought that from time to time insidiously seeps through our shield of faith – that G-d had stopped watching over us.

 

No doubt that since the destruction of the first and then second Beit Hamikdash and our subsequent exile, Jews have at times succumbed to this chilling doubt.  I know those touched by the Holocaust have grappled with the question, “Where was G-d?”

 

The answer is obvious. He’s here – everywhere, 24/7.

 

 The fact that billions of men, women and children are alive, day after day, is undisputable proof that Hashem indeed watches over each and every one of us. Every human being’s life – since conception – is a miracle of survival. I often wonder why we aren’t required to bench Gomel on a daily basis.

 

So many things can go wrong that we are not aware of. A cell that does not divide properly, a germ that enters the bloodstream, a blood vessel that can burst. It is amazing to me that people are fine and are able to go about their daily business.

 

 We are truly oblivious to the miracles that are bestowed upon us. Only when we have had obvious close calls – surviving a near drowning, a car crash, or a severe illness – do we become aware of Hashem’s involvement, which we then address by benching Gomel.

 

We are not aware of what I call the “non-calls,” where we have no inkling that Hashem was watching over us precisely because nothing untoward happened.

 

Recently, I experienced a non-call, but was fortunate to see it. I had taken my grandson out for a ride on his tricycle. We went to the next street over, a small cul-de-sac, a half-circle shaped dead end street with perhaps 12 houses along the curve. The only people who turn onto the street are those who live there, and they drive very slowly knowing that children are likely outside playing.

 

   After about 15 minutes I decided to return to the main road and its sidewalk.   Being in no hurry, I stood at the corner looking at some pretty landscaping while my grandson gleefully watched several squirrels scampering about.

 

 Normally we would have been way down the main street, the cul-de-sac behind us, however my idling allowed me to see the speeding car that suddenly turned left onto the cul-de-sac. I thought it odd that someone living on the street would go so fast. However it became obvious that the driver did not belong there for he zoomed out seconds later. I am still puzzled as to why he turned onto an obvious dead-end street.

 

            A heart-stopping awareness exploded throughout me. Ten minutes earlier, my grandson had been happily riding his little bike up and down this quiet street with its non-existent, mid-day traffic. This speeding car had come from nowhere, entered the street for no apparent reason, did a screeching about-face and roared out of there. Had we still been there, it is very likely he would have hit us.

 

But it was a non-event – not even a close call. We had left many minutes earlier, and had I not lingered but continued on our walk, I wouldn’t have even been aware of it.

 

We exist because of Hashem’s Will. And when sadly someone no longer exists, it too is because of His Will. G-d has His plan either way, whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not.

 

            Our “job” is to accept that what is meant to be will be, instead of tormenting ourselves with endless thoughts of “if only.” To blame yourself for a mishap with tragic consequences is the epitome of arrogance. You are not the Supreme Controller of the universe. You were merely G-d’s tool.

 

 Ironically, “blaming” G-d is an act of supreme faith. You are acknowledging that He is the Master of all things. Every bracha you make is an act of hakarat hatov – you attribute everything good in your life to Hashem. Likewise everything that you, as a limited human being, consider bad alsocomes from Him.

 

             We are exhorted to believe “gam zoh le’tova” – that what we consider a disaster or tragedy is actually a good thing. And though it might be very, very difficult to absorb that notion, we must have the bitachon that one day it will be obvious to us too.

 

             There is the story of a rabbi who asked a beloved student who was dying to present some troubling questions to G-d. Three days after his passing, the student came to his rabbiin a dream. The rabbiasked the boy if he had gotten any answers to his questions. The student told him that the questions were too ridiculous to ask.

 

             No doubt Mosiach will bring a similar awareness. Until then, have faith.

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