The world has become a pretty scary place. Clearly, Hashem runs the world and orchestrates things precisely as they are meant to be. Yet, for some reason, we are under the impression that if we just do the right things in the right way at the right time, all will be well. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, so that we won’t walk around all day trembling in fear. But whatever the case may be, we think that certain things are within our control. When the corona virus rages uncontrolled in the outside world, we can cozy up and spend quality time with our family inside our homes and feel somewhat safe. We can ward off the virus. Similarly, when rockets are fired in our direction from evil enemies bent on our destruction, we can opt to keep within close range of our protected rooms, and rush for cover when necessary. We’ve got this.
But this is all one enormous illusion. We are in control of absolutely nothing. Nothing! This past May, during the most recent round of rocket fire from Gaza, the Avigal family took shelter in their meticulously-sealed fortified room in Sderot. A rocket hit an apartment nearby, but the force of the explosion caused a piece of shrapnel to ricochet towards their apartment and penetrate the secure window. Several members of the family were injured and five-year-old Ido was critically wounded. He tragically succumbed to his wounds a short time later. The family took shelter as they were supposed to. They did all they could to remain safe, yet Hashem decreed otherwise. Heartbreaking!
Last week, the residents of the Champlain Towers of Surfside, Florida, were at home, “secure” in their apartments. At the hour of night that the tragedy occurred, it is safe to assume that most of them were peacefully asleep in their beds. They had no reason to fear that the world around them was about to literally collapse and come crashing down on their heads. How could such a thing happen to people safely tucked away in their protective homes? In Israel there are, unfortunately, too many examples of people who died suddenly in their homes, often due to terror attacks. There are also too many accidents due to faulty construction and recklessness. But this sort of shocking trauma is not something one would expect to hear about in the United States. In Florida, no less! As my husband is a born and bred Floridian, in the early years of our marriage we spent a lot of time down there. We drove countless times up and down Collins Avenue, past miles of beautiful ocean-front homes, and through the Surfside community. I know Florida is a place where many people live and actually lead regular lives. They go to shul, school, work, and the supermarket just like anywhere else. It’s not all vacation and fun like our visits were. But in my head, Florida is pure fantasyland, the home of the Magic Kingdom, where with the wave of a magic wand, all of one’s dreams and wishes can come true. Any unpleasant event that occurs there can only be a bad dream or part of a make-believe plot that will certainly have a positive outcome and a happily ever after ending. The horrific recent events cannot really be happening!
But sadly, they are happening!! Of course, we need to be responsible and do our hishtadlus to protect ourselves and our families from the dangers of our global environment. However, it is Hashem Who runs the world. When He decides in His Omniscience that the time has come for the neshamah of a five-year-old boy to leave this earth, He will choose from a myriad of methods at His disposal in order to take that neshamah. In this case, He cause a tiny piece of shrapnel to fly in an irregular angle and speed to accomplish this task. No matter what we do, Hashem will ensure that what is supposed to happen actually happens. That’s not to say that we can’t learn from these terrible tragedies and do our best to prevent them in the future. But we need to remember that we can only do our hishtadlus. The rest is up to Hashem.
This idea is frightening and comforting at the same time. On one hand, when our time comes, that’s it; there is nothing we can do to change the course of events as Hashem orchestrates them. On the other hand, we can rest assured that Hashem is truly all-knowing. He sees the broad picture and knows what is best for us personally, and what is best for the world at large. He will do whatever needs to be done to make sure things happen as they should. We are in good Hands.
The families of those assumed to be buried in the rubble now have nothing to do but wait and, of course, daven. The lack of certainty regarding the fate of their loved ones is tortuous. They must walk a fine line of bracing for the worst while holding on to whatever glimmer of hope they can get their hands on. Not easy.
Let us continue our tefilos on behalf of the missing, with the hope that Florida will work its magic and our dreams really will come true.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.