Friday, June 15, 2007

Dear Readers,

This piece is newly revised from In Memory of Ben

“Ha gomel l’chayavim tovos …”

" Who has bestowed every goodness ..." taken from the blessing referred to as "Gomel" which one recites upon surviving a perilous situation)

My mood swings pendulously as we approach the season of

the Yomim Noraim.[1] Starting with the renewal of hope that

Rosh Ha Shanah[2] connotes and ending with the trepidation of

Yom Kippur,[3] I cannot but probe this time of year, the special

nature of which we devote to personal reflection, fasting and


While true we do not know the names of those who will be

inscribed and sealed in the Sefer Chaim[4] when Yom

Kippur is over, the judgement of these existential matters belongs

exclusively to the Dayan Emes,[5] whose province lies beyond

that which Rabbi Louis calls “the inquisitive grasp of man.”

However, we pray our tefilos, tzedaka and tshuva[6] are of

sufficient merit to avert the evil decree and spare us the pain

of personal tragedy.

How should we explain what are “near misses” with death?

Can we explain them rationally or should we define them

as miracles and be done with it? If as miracles, they are

different than the miraculous inversions of nature found in the

Torah or the innumerable miracles we encounter daily:

sunrise, the birth of a child, night from day-all of which we

like to call the wonders of “nature”. What about blind luck, the

roll of the dice or random chaos?

Should everyone believe that The One Above governs the

world? Perhaps but with this essential caveat: faith does

not guarantee against tragedy, but what it does do well is to

strengthen us when we are most in need of assistance,

comfort, and protection from apostasy. As frustrating as it

is, bad things befall all kinds of people. The nature of

human powerlessness only begins to make sense when we

acknowledge that He alone governs the world in ways we

neither understand nor like at times.

I picked up the phone.

“Mr. Busch?” a woman’s voice asked.

I began to tremble. A stranger spoke. I listened.

“My name is Anne and I just left your daughter Kimberly,” she

said calmly.

“Is she alright, is she hurt, tell me where you are,” I


“Mr. Busch, she is fine. Really! We’re about eighty miles south

of Chicago by Pontiac . Kimberly was involved in an accident, but

she is unhurt, not a scratch.”

“Kimmy, in an accident. Oy Got! Unhurt! Thank God!”

“No, really. She’s fine. I’ve left the scene, but I promised her I’d

call you as soon as the police arrived and felt confident she

was okay.”

“Well, wha … what happened?”

Anne witnessed a collision on the interstate. Pulling over to

assist its victims, she came across my daughter Kimberly who

had lost control of her steering wheel when an eighteen-

wheeler she was attempting to pass forced her onto the

shoulder from the passing lane. Crossing the grassy median,

Kimberly struck a van headed in the opposite direction.

By this point in the story, my heart was racing so much I

could barely contain myself. Flashbacks of Ben’s last day

rushed into my head.

“Listen Anne, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You don’t

know how much this means to me. Really and truly.”

“Oh, you’re welcome Mr. Busch. I’m just glad she’s okay.”

I hung up the telephone so hurriedly that I forgot to write

down her name and number.

I called Kimberly’s mother. With as much calm as I was

able to feign, I cut to the end of the story. “Kimberly is safe

and unhurt,” I assured her. “I’m leaving to get her right now.” I

said, racing away to bring my daughter home. Along the way, I

called the number Kimberly’s angel had given me of the

state trooper who was at the scene. Exceedingly kind, she

reassured me that Kimberly was safe and had emerged

without a scratch. Within an hour, having exceeded the speed

limit for which, if stopped, I had prepared an explanation, I

found Kimberly waiting for me in front of the service station

that had towed her car. Before heading home, I gaped

incredulously at her car for a few minutes. My first and only

response was to thank Him for bestowing this great kindness

upon me. We drove home.

Why was Kimberly saved? It remains the unanswerable

question. The following Friday, I invited her and her boyfriend

over for dinner Erev Shabbat. Zac was there too as was my

fiancé. The table, beautifully set, awaited us: its candles

aglow. It is my custom to light a ner nechuma for my son Ben

every Friday night before Shabbes begins … sort of bridging

the distance between us. We sat.

“Kimuschkele,” my voice crackling as I try to get the words of a

short speech out.

“Yes BBDO,” she responded half grinningly, half tearfully.
(BBDO=Big Bad Daddyo)

“This Shabbat is extra special,” I said, addressing everyone but

looking at my daughter.

“We say ‘Hodu la Adoshem ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo’[7] because

tonight of all nights, I am especially thankful to have you by

my side.” A slight tremble animated my right hand. I let a

moment pass, not a peep was uttered. Ben’s lamp seemed to

flicker more brightly, illuminating the serpentine path of a

single drop of wine running down my hand.

“Vayahe erev, vayahe voker ..."* I sanctified the wine.

(*the beginning of the Friday night erev Shabbat Kiddush; literally
'And there was evening and there was morning')

[1] the Days of Awe
[2] the New Year; literally the Head of the Year
[3] the Day of Atonement
[4] the Book of Life
[5] the True Judge
[6] prayers, righteousness and repentance
[7] Give thanks to God because His kindness is eternal.

Alan D. Busch
copyright @2007

1 comment:

Ashleen said...

Alan, You know I like all of these, I especially like #100.