Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Chanukah doesn't go by in my home without a discussion of the Bais Yosef's question.

The Bais Yosef asks, since the untainted flask contained enough oil to burn for one day, nothing miraculous happened on that first day. The miracle was only the following seven days. So why is Chanukah celebrated for eight days?

I sit near my friend at the Bar Mitzvah. Her baby is with her. He always is - it's hard to find someone to stay with him. As always, the conversation revolves around him. His doctors and therapies, his surgeries, his progress, his needs. And her guilt. What she could have done...what she should have done.

She is tired. And sad. And overwhelmed. And so alone. She waited so long for this baby, and she just wants him to be okay. Is that so much to ask?

But he's not okay. And he never will be. There will be progress, hopefully, but he will never be okay. And some days, that is too much for her to bear.

I play with him while we talk. He's so sweet. He looks at me with big, blue eyes, and smiles. He's almost two, but he looks about half that age. And as I listen to her, I hear strength beneath the pain. She tells me that she was told that before a person is born, he is shown his entire life, with all its challenges, and he agrees to it all. She agreed to this challenge. She knew, and she agreed. And, more importantly, he agreed. He agreed to be born with these special needs. And, somehow, that is a comfort to her.

I went to visit my sister and her new baby in the hospital. He is alert and beautiful and so cute. And he's healthy. And I am aware of how much there is to be grateful for. I know that there is so much that can go wrong, and I understand how miraculous it is when everything is right.

Every year, my children offer new answers to the Bais Yosef's question. But my favorite answer is so simple.

We celebrate for eight days to teach us that even natural events take place only because Hashem wants them to. The burning of oil is no less miraculous than would be the burning of water. The first day's lighting is to remind us that even the normal burning of oil is a miracle.
Even natural events are miraculous.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When Children Die

I was in eighth grade when I discovered that children die. I must have known before, but I didn't really know. It was something that happened somewhere. Not here. Not to anyone I knew.

The girl who sat behind me in class came home one day with a headache, and fell into a coma. She died a few days later. I couldn't accept it. Children don't die. Children shouldn't die.

But they do.

And as I grow older, I become more familiar with death. People die. Children die. They die suddenly. They die because of illnesses or accidents or murder. Sweet, innocent children. And I can't accept it. I can't understand it.

And I cry. I cry for them. I cry for their mothers and fathers. I can't even begin to imagine their agony, but I cry because I share their sadness.

But I can't accept it. And I don't understand it.

My sister's kitchen window overlooks a cemetery. A baby cemetery. So many little gravestones marking tiny graves. I don't look out the window when I'm there. In my mind, looking is some sort of acceptance. And I don't want to accept it.

Last week, I was asked to do a tahara. I rarely decline when I'm called for a tahara. But this time it was for an eight year old little girl. I didn't do it. I couldn't. I couldn't deal with it. Little girls shouldn't die.

I want to understand why this little girl died. Why all those little girls and boys died. I need to understand.

Someone once told me, in Heaven there are no questions. All our questions will be answered when we get there, and we will understand everything that we were not able to understand down here.

But I am not rushing to get there.

I don't understand, but I am not in a rush to understand. For now, I will try to accept that what Hashem does is good.

Even if I can't understand.