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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2005 / 7 Tishrei, 5766

Driving it Home

By Anonymous, as told to Malky Feig

What my four year-old taught me about forgiveness and starting over


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Kindness is a very personalized issue; each and every person has his or her own way of expressing this Divine attribute. Some go all out for hospitality, while others volunteer to visit the infirm. Some are involved with the elderly, some with community service.

Chesed, kindness, is the inverse reciprocal of a person's deepest sense of self.

The day I got my license, I knew where my own calling lay. Although my car was a Delta '88 Oldsmobile, the kind that made loud rattling noises wherever I drove it, I felt like the king of the road. Driving gave me freedom and a feeling of independence; it invigorated me and infused me with a sense of mission. And I was going to use that gift to make a difference in people's days.

Although driving in solitude often creates the illusion of having a private window on the world, I hardly ever got to bask in that illusion. I was barely ever alone in the car. Without too much exertion, I knew, I could be the catalyst for helping overburdened mothers, (my own, first,) transporting teachers, delivering packages to the infirm and the needy. I would beep and offer a ride to anyone I saw walking, and I even taught a neighbor, who couldn't afford professional lessons, how to drive.

When I got married, we settled in a growing out of town community near two of my married siblings. My noisy Delta '88 became a familiar sight and sound around town. My husband spent his days studying in Kollel, advanced rabbinical school, while I enjoyed driving around in a new city and familiarizing myself with all the streets and highways in the area.

I continued using the car for kindness opportunities — lending it to friends who didn't own their own cars, driving people home from shiurim (religious classes) or the supermarket and taking neighbors to doctors' appointments.

"Where are you headed?" people would ask me as they gratefully eased themselves into the passenger seat.

"Wherever you are," I'd respond, and I meant it sincerely.

Some people collected FFB miles; I collected "kindness miles".


The summer my oldest son, Shaya, turned four, I registered him in my sister Yocheved's day camp.

One morning, as I waved goodbye to Shaya and turned to leave, Yocheved suddenly remembered something.

"Oh, Faigy, I forgot. I know it's a little last minute to ask you, but do you think you could help me out tomorrow? I'm planning to take the kids on an outing and I'll need another car."

"Gladly," I said without even thinking, "You can count on mine."

"Yeah, but," Yocheved looked uncomfortable. "What I meant was, I need someone else to drive."

"Of course, Yocheved," I laughed. "That's what I meant, too. I don't have any special plans for tomorrow.

The next day dawned dry and sunny, perfect park weather.

The park was beautiful; lush green grounds meeting an almost cloudless blue sky, pretty bike trails, state of the art playground equipment and even a pond with ducks. The kids had a ball, swinging, sliding, chasing and feeding the ducks. We enjoyed a little picnic and poured everyone a cold drink.

Once back at my sister's, I waved goodbye to my son, Shaya, and began to back up.

Suddenly Shaya's smiling face turned terror stricken. His green eyes opened wide in horror.

"Mommy!" he screamed, "STOP!!!! Sori is under the car; I see her shoes!"

My heart dropped.

Sori was my two and a half year old niece. I had been sure I had seen her filing into the house after her four-year-old sister Hadassah.

"Oh, no," I thought frantically, fighting to keep the wheel steady. "What should I do?" My heart was galloping inside me. Through a choking haze of panic, I heard muffled screams from under the car. My imagination went wild.

Visions of Sori's adorable freckled face floated in front of me. I felt as if I was going to faint. I'd better move the car, I compelled myself to think rationally; but which way? Backwards, my mind commanded. If she remained pinned under the tires any longer, she wouldn't stand much of a chance. I was hyperventilating. Every minute was of essence.

Hold it, a streak of logic countered, who said she was under the tires? Perhaps she was right behind them? Backing out, then, would be the very worst option.

Okay, so forward. My mind was dizzy with dread. I couldn't think straight. What If I had run her over once and she was in front of the tires?

Forward.

Backward.

Backward, forward.

My thoughts spun around crazily like tires in the snow. I was paralyzed, immobilized by fear. I knew that an inch either way could seal Sori's fate.

Time stood still.

Those few seconds were the most frightening experience I've ever undergone. Even as I re-tell this, I feel the draining terror, the beads of perspiration, the intense pressure throbbing at my temples. Sweating profusely, it suddenly dawned on me to get out of the car and appraise the situation.

Thankfully, I was still sane enough to remember how to put the car in park. Flinging the door open, I forced myself to kneel and look under the car. Every sinew in my body was strained. All I could envision was Sori's body, flattened under my front tire. I dropped down on all fours and tilted my head to peer under.

There, beneath the blackened underside of the vehicle, lay Sori, tiny and fragile. I couldn't see her face; it was touching the pavement. I put my hands under arms and ever so gently pulled her out.

She was breathing.

Thank G-d!

My body was flooded with relief. That heart-stopping minute was behind me.

Though her eyes were open, Sori looked dazed out. Her body seemed limp in my arms.

"Sori," I shook her, "Sori!"

"Oh, G-d", I bit down hard, trying to quell a fresh stream of tears "please let her be okay. Pleeeease."

My body was trembling. My heart was pounding so hard, I felt as if I was going to pass out. Yocheved, who had watched the whole scene from the bottom of the driveway, hurried over to see what had happened.

Incredibly, she remained calm and lucid. She instructed her assistant to go into the house and call Hatzolah, the volunteer Orthodox ambulance corps, while she gently took Sori from me.

I felt so overcome with guilt, I couldn't even look Yocheved in the eye.

"I'm so sorry, Yocheved," I whispered over and over through my tears. It sounded so feeble. What kind of sorry? Sorry was for breaking a window, for denting a car, not for running over a child.

The ambulance arrived on the scene within a minute. Two Hatzolah members dashed out and I tried to keep my voice steady as I briefed them on the situation. They checked Sori and noticed that there were tire marks on her right sleeve. When they pulled up the sleeve, her arm had the same tire marks.

Otherwise, the only signs Sori sported from the whole ordeal, were a few bruises on her face. It seemed she had been standing with her back to the car as I had backed out. I must have knocked her down, scratching her face, and then rolled over her arm with the back tire.

Looking at the precarious angle at which I had stopped the car, I shuddered. Had I continued on my descent just another few inches, the slant of the driveway would have crushed little Sori between the front of the car and the pavement.

Although she appeared to be breathing okay, Sori's face looked ashen. My sister hurried to bring her a drink, hoping it would revive her from the heat and the shock. One of the Hatzolah members told us that they needed to take Sori immediately to the hospital to check for internal bleeding.

I blanched. I knew enough to realize that outward appearances could be deceiving. It was still too early to sigh with relief; Sori's life was still hanging in the balance.

In the meantime, The Hatzolah members alerted the police in order to file a report. I remained outside alone as I watched Yocheved get into an ambulance with Sori. The doors were slammed shut and they drove off.

I stood there alone, rooted to the driveway, in the dismal silence after the storm. My head felt hollow, unreal. The hectic activity of a few moments before seemed light years away. All I could see was Sori's face, pallid and frightened, in my arms.

Suddenly, I noticed one of her tiny shoes lying on the pavement. I bent down and picked it up, smoothing its rubber sole against my cheek. "Oh, Sori," I pleaded, "my little, adorable, Sori, please be okay."

"Aibeshter," I implored, my voice breaking, "please let her come out of this. Please."

I looked up, almost wishing to hear a Heavenly voice proclaim that she would be alright, but there was only the horrible, deadly silence all around.

Soon afterwards, the police car pulled up. The officer approached me, clipboard in hand, and began a technical interrogation concerning the accident.

Accident.

The word had such an ominous sound. I was Sori's aunt, the one who hugged her and kissed her and had bought her a doll for her birthday. Why was he asking me all these questions?

I wasn't able to answer much more than yes or no. I just kept rubbing the shoe against my cheek, praying that Sori would be spared. I couldn't keep the tears back as the officer scribbled quickly, turning to continue on the next page.

"Consider yourself lucky, ma'am," he suddenly said, looking up at me. "Not too many kids hit by a car have reason to go to the hospital for testing."

I nodded, thanking him weakly for his time. After he left, I stumbled inside and found a Tehillim (Psalms). What if, G-d forbid, they did discover internal bleeding and Sori ddd I didn't want to finish the word.

How would I ever be able to go on living with that knowledge? How would I ever be able to face my sister, or parents, or anybody, for that matter, ever again? How would I face myself?

Frantic, I dialed the emergency number at my husband Tzvi's school. I was desperate for his emotional support before I fell apart.

"Is everything okay?" my husband asked when he heard my half-strangled voice.

"No," I broke down, disregarding my plan to tell him only when he came home.

Disjointed details came out between my retching sobs. "Please come home right away," I begged. "Actually, I'm still at Yocheved's house."

By the time my husband came, I had worked myself into a state. I handed him my car keys. "I don't want these anymore." I declared. "I don't want to ever drive again. It's just too much responsibility for me to handle."

My husband listened gently as the details of the terrifying ordeal came tumbling out. Then he poured me a drink and suggested that we go home and talk things over.

I nodded. I was too drained to think.

I came home, spent. My husband fetched the little ones and served some quick lunch, trying to reassure Shaya that Sori would be okay. I spent the rest of the day in a fog, vacillating between my Psalms and the phone, anxiously waiting to hear from Yocheved.

Yocheved called during supper. The tests had come back fine, but they wanted to do some kind of scan and were keeping Sori for observation.

"I'm just worried about you, Faigy," Yocheved said. "You don't sound good at all. Please remember that G-d runs the world. And take care of yourself. We all need you."

I was touched by Yocheved's sensitivity. Still, I couldn't get rid of the miserable pit lodged in the middle of my throat. I couldn't eat. I couldn't talk. I felt drained of my ambition to do anything at all.

My husband was understanding. He begged me to get to bed, so I would be able to function the next day. "Thank G-d, Sori seems to be holding her own," he encouraged me. "You have to recuperate from the ordeal. You'll see, you'll feel better in the morning."


Morning dawned, as crisp and as cloudless as the day before, but something inside me had remained stuck in the inky blackness of night. Before my eyes even fluttered open, my chest felt heavy with doom. The truth was, I had hardly slept. Every time I had closed my eyes, I had felt myself reversing in the driveway, assaulted by Shaya's terror filled face. "STOP Mommy! I see Sori under the car!"

When I had finally fallen asleep, I had been pursued by all kinds of nightmares, a ludicrous collage of my fears and worries crazily pasted over fragments of reality. I felt more exhausted than before I had gotten into bed.

I got up and somehow dressed the kids. When my husband returned from prayers, I was waiting for him with toast and an egg, and a forced smile.

"Good morning, Faigy," my husband greeted me. "Weren't you going to take Mrs. Werner shopping today?"

"Mrs. Werner?" I echoed. Mrs. Werner's shopping plans seemed to have receded to some far away planet.

"Forget it," I sighed. "I'm done with driving. Look where it landed me."

Tzvi was silent.

"I guess all my grand kindness activities were just one big illusion. Plain old ego food. In any case, my career's over. Who needs this kind of heartache?"

Tzvi listened to me with understanding in his eyes. He poured some milk into his coffee and mixed it reflectively.

"Faigy, I understand what you're feeling, but it's not what G-d wants. He controls everything in this world."

I was barely consoled.

"I could have been more careful, though," I chided myself. "I should have gone out to check behind the car."

"When G-d wants something to happen, no wisdom in the world can preclude it from happening. Blaming ourselves is almost a way of saying that we don't believe G-d is fully in control."

"What do you mean?" I fumbled. His logic was tempting, but something inside me resisted. "What about the concept of charata (acceptance of fault and acknowledgement of wrong)?"

"Of course there's such a thing as charata," Tzvi validated my question, "but first of all, charata is only called for when a person has made a mistaken moral choice. Remember? Those are the only choices we are really in control of."

I nodded cautiously. "And?"

"And," my husband concluded, "Even when charata is in place, charata does not mean stewing in guilt. Charata is the passion that drives a person to act differently the next time he faces a similar situation. Which, I am one hundred percent sure, Faigy, you have already achieved."

"I guess so," I said lamely.

We finished breakfast, me still brooding, my husband valiantly trying to lift the leaden apron weighing on my chest. I knew everything he was saying made sense. Still, I felt traumatized by the thought of ever getting into the driver's seat again. Wasn't it safer to just stay out of trouble?


I spent the next few days wading through a marsh of emotions. Although Sori was responding beautifully, I was consumed with worry about her plight. I made private pledges, trying to accrue some personal merits for her recovery. I still hadn't touched the car.

Though I tried to internalize what my husband had told me, I couldn't leave go of the notion that rehashing the ordeal would somehow atone for what I had done. I was obsessed with reliving the accident, beating my conscience each time anew. I felt careless and inadequate, undeserving of the privilege to do kindness, unworthy of any responsibility at all.

On the fourth morning following the accident, I stumbled out of bed after another sleepless night. I splashed the kids' hands unceremoniously and mumbled Modeh Ani, the prayer recited immediately upon awaking, with them.

"You're not saying it right, Mommy," Shaya corrected me. "You have to sing it.

I was suddenly jolted by the simplicity of his words.

I wasn't saying it right. I had to sing it.

Shehechezarta bi nishmasi b'chemla, raba emunasecha! (That You returned my soul to me with mercy; how great is Your trust!)

G-d, I was suddenly overcome, You've created me with a pure soul. I've surely abused it, stained it, eroded it, many times over since that very first, brand new day. But You've continued giving it to me again. Over and over again, every single day.

Raba emunasecha, You have faith in me.

I suddenly felt lighthearted for the first time since the accident. The shackles of guilt had been sawn through by my innocent child's song.

G-d believed in me. He had given me the gift of sight and speech, of mobility and hearing, of doing and daring and driving. He had given me the gift of life. I would take that gift and use it.


It's been ten years since that fateful day that almost took Sori's life, the day that took my own life and gave it back to me in a brand new wrapper.

Sori is, thank G-d, a vibrant, healthy twelve and a half year old, whose only evidence of the trauma she underwent is the pink shirt she wore that day, preserved for posterity with the ugly, black, tire marks.

And I am a different person than the one who set out on that beautiful summer day, infused with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I've learned, really learned, to see myself as a tool, an instrument in the Hands of He who orchestrates the final outcome of all events.

Credit and blame, those aren't things that belong to mortal beings.

Only trust. An overabundant amount of trust in the Master of the Universe, and trust in ourselves.

Because if He puts us in the driver's seat, who are we to say any different?

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes uplifting stories. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Malky Feig is a columnist for the Monsey, New York-based weekly, Yated Neeman. Comment by clicking here.

© 2005 Yated Neeman