Every morning, from the time I was a little child, I would parrot my mother and say Modeh Ani upon awakening. Now that I am older, I still thank Hashem for giving me life every day, but with a deeper understanding of the greatness of that daily gift. I realize that life cannot be taken for granted.
It was 3 a.m. this morning, Israel time, when I woke up from a deep sleep. I decided to go downstairs and get a drink of water. As I opened our bedroom door, my senses were suddenly sharpened. A very strong smell of smoke assailed me. The smell of something burning and toxic permeated the house. As I headed downstairs, the smell became stronger. I checked electric sockets, computers, and charging cellphones, but nothing was amiss. I went outside to see if the smell of fire emanated from somewhere else, but the air smelled clean.
Everything was dark downstairs and there was no electricity. Before me was the bathroom; its door was sealed because we had a little grandchild who loved to test limits. The smell was strongest at the closed door. I opened it, wanting to take a sniff. I reeled back. Noxious fumes poured out of the room. I quickly slammed the door shut and ran to call my husband and son.
After turning off the gas line, the two of them went around the house, opening windows and placing fans facing outwards, the better to draw the smoke out. It was discovered that the source of the fire was a short circuit in the bathroom vent. The fire had then heated up the various aerosol cans that were stored there, and they fell on the floor and burst open, spewing their potentially lethal mix into the air.
I realized how lucky we were that Hashem had woken me from my sleep in time to deal with the fumes which were slowly overtaking our house. I started to say Modeh Ani to thank Hashem for waking me up at just the right time. My husband and son joined in, too. There was nothing left to do but wait for the morning and the hope that the smoke would dissipate. After a few hours of restless sleep, we woke to the lingering smells assaulting us anew. Once again, we found ourselves saying Modeh Ani, thanking Hashem for returning our lives to us.
Now that we were awake, we went downstairs to check out the damage. Once or twice, for a second or two, one of us would try to peek into the bathroom. We could see a melted toilet seat, black toilet tank, black tiles and black walls. The door needs replacing, as does the vent and electrical system connected to it. The floor is littered with the spray cans that fell, destroyed and emptied.
That morning, we all heard the devastating news that Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, father to 12, had succumbed to his critical injuries while trying to save others during a terror attack in the Shomron. We realized how truly fortunate we were. Rabbi Ettinger can no longer say Modeh Ani, but his children will. Hashem Yikom Damo. May he be a meilitz yosher for his family and Klal Yisrael.