Thursday, December 08, 2005

Strange Days Indeed

I'm not sure what the point of this post is exactly—unless, of course, that is the point.

I went to a bat mitzvah the other night. In preparation for what promised to be a heckuva soiree, I didn't eat anything after breakfast that day and went to the gym for good measure. I arrived hungry, thirsty, and ready to socialize.

A glass of champagne, a shot of single malt, and a plate of sushi later, I was chatting and laughing at the shmorg with some close friends, generally enjoying life. I know that there are those out there who despise the conspicuous consumption—even for simchos—of the wealthier classes within the Jewish community. But I am not one of those people. And while I do have mixed feelings on the subject, the bottom line with me is: feel free to spend your money any way you want; just be careful how you spend your time.

We moved along to the dining room, where after an appetizer of duck crepe, I was served a bowl of asparagus soup. I had never had asparagus soup before, but I'm happy to report that it has vaulted past the newly-kosher Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable soup to the number one position on my list of favorite soups.

Then came the requisite dancing, followed by speeches. In keeping with the spirit of the bat mitzvah, no men spoke. Instead, the bat mitzvah girl spoke, the rebbetzin of the shul spoke, and finally the mother of the bat mitzvah spoke.

Our host talked about her own mother and how much she loves and admires her. In a world where you hear a lot about the strife between parents and children, it is heartwarming to hear a daughter describe her mother in such glowing terms—as a role model and a best friend. I was moved close to tears, and went over to her afterward to tell her how beautifully she spoke.

The main course was served, followed by desert and more dancing. I had another shot of scotch. My table-mates and I were in deep discussion, when I sensed something odd. The music had quieted suddenly and there was some shuffling going on. Then I heard crying.

The grandmother of the bat mitzvah girl was lying on the floor. She’d had a heart attack.

I asked someone if he had the number for Hatzolah, and he told me that they’d already been called. A few people were administering CPR. Someone said that a cardiologist was with her. A woman was asking, to nobody in particular, “Why doesn’t anyone have an aspirin?” One of the other granddaughters was sitting, weeping, saying Tehillim.

Slowly, people filed out.

Twelve hours later, the funeral began.

It was hard to ignore the circumstances under which this woman, whose tzidkus in the neighborhood was legendary, left this world, and indeed the eulogists all made reference to her dying among family and friends, surrounded by Yiddishe nachas.

Yet that didn't take away from the weirdness of it all, nor did it deflate the notion that there had to be a message in it for all of us. I was eerily reminded of the words of my Rosh Yeshiva after a bochur died on Purim—that his death was a signal for the whole yeshiva to do teshuvah.

Thus, I was left with two conflicting thoughts.

The first was severe: Was this a message from Above cautioning us to be more careful? A warning that too much whiskey, too much dancing, too much socializing was not the reason we were put on this planet? What ever became of the verse, “Az yimalei sechok pinu—Then [when the Temple is rebuilt and not before] our mouths will be filled with laughter”?

The other consideration was more serene: Perhaps she was given extra time on this world (yes, it turned out she had had a heart condition but kept it quiet) to attend her granddaughter's simchah. She died surrounded by family and friends, the culmination of a lifetime of achievement as a builder of a bayit ne’eman beYisrael. If one must go—as we all surely must someday—isn’t this a glorious way to do it? Weren’t the sweet words of her daughter still ringing in her ears as she moved on to the Next World?

Was what happened a manifestation of G-d’s displeasure? Or was it a manifestation of his kindness?

Or was it both?

35 Comments:

Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Wow...what a story. If there was an AED there is could have saved her life.

Every shul in the world and/or simcha hall should have one.

You don't even need to be a medic to use it, its foolproof.

In any event; thanks for sharing the story, and the duality of looking at it.

Fri Dec 09, 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

I guess if I was going to die of a heart attack, it would be nice to have it brought on by something as that. To be surrounded by only smiles...that's my wish.

Fri Dec 09, 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger Elster said...

I think the answer to your question depends on the point of view of the one answering it. We certainly have no real way of knowing the answer to that question. You see what you want to see in each and every situation.

I have been inspired by a sudden shaft of sunlight breaking through dark clouds. But does that mean that Hashem drove that sunlight through just for me?

Her family will say that it was a bracha that she was able to live for the bat mitzvah. A more dour sort might take the lesson to be that the sky is falling.

You know what? They are both right.

Fri Dec 09, 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

great post!
there is nothing more to say

Fri Dec 09, 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger nobody28 said...

Wow - your post gave me chills.

I think the best thing to do would be to try and look at it both ways.

Fri Dec 09, 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

I could have taken the more positive view if she would have had the heart attack later on. In the midst of the simcha, it had to have cast a pall on the whole event.

Fri Dec 09, 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tanisha said...

I always think of g-d as benevolent. It doesn't mean that he is not wrathful it just means that when we are doing what we are supposed to do, I believe his pleasure rests on us.

in the case of this grandmother-bubbe--i believe it was kindness. I would love to go surrounded but family, friends and well wishers. Seeing the cumulation of my deeds in my wonderful growing family.

Even though it is sad and wierd i believe it was special and beautiful. She left the world knowing that she had raise righteous seeds and they would follow hashems law. What a comfort..
T

Fri Dec 09, 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Karl said...

It is a combination of both. For her, probably the best - surrounded by family at a simcha. For everyone else, a time for self introspection and teshuva.

Sat Dec 10, 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jeru Guru said...

Its tough for the kid and I wouldn't be surprised if she needs counselling after this.

Also tough for the mum.

Also a very tricky and awkward situation when someone is planning a simcha and then becomes an אבל/Avel.

Sun Dec 11, 02:07:00 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

We can never know His plan. We can only do our best to follow His requests. The only shame from your story would be if anyone walked away thinking of what happened to this Tzadekes (as you've called her) and was led further away from their Divine calling.

Sun Dec 11, 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Cloo, I think it was both.
She got to be at her granddaugher's simcha. And yet what happened might be a message for the family.

Btw, good post.

Sun Dec 11, 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

My mother passed away the night of my brother's wedding. the wedding was over at 1:00 am, we kissed her goodnight and she said shema and went to sleep.

The Rabbi (my brother’s rosh yeshiva) who spoke at her funeral the following day (who did not know her) said she made the time to laugh and the time to cry the same time. He said this woman was on her way to Israel and stopped in at her son’s wedding.

The Shloshim was this past parsha, Vayetzeh, the Rabbi of the school she worked (she created programs that taught teachers to how to teach children with learning disabilities, taught several grades herself and ran the remedial program as well) at spoke and called her the Sulam that was bringing tora from the heavens to children.

Who knows? I certainly don't.

Sun Dec 11, 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger FrumGirl said...

No matter how much money you have, how much you planan event, how much you want perfection, Hashem has His plan. I feel bad for the Bat Mitzvah girl because I wonder if anyone realized the trauma this has caused for her as well.

Sun Dec 11, 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Whatever lesson enters your mind...is built into the master plan. Every person that witnessed and was touched by this story (including us readers) was meant to be touched by the profound lessons of what happened.
Thanks for sharing.
D

Sun Dec 11, 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Frum Singles said...

I have a great Shidduch for you!


This happens to me all the time. Someone will come over to me and "red" me "great" "attractive" girl etc. I think you get the drift. When I ask if (s)he has seen the girl (or a picture of her) the inevitible response is no.

Now frankly, this is arguably chutzpa and at a minimum a total lack of consideration. Basically, what I am being asked is to gamble my emotions, energy, time (and some money) so that this person may be a "winner" and be able to say that (s)he made a shiduch (and then get a brokerage fee a/k/a "shadchanuus") to boot.

If you you don't know how to cook, you don't belong in the kitchen. If you're not a doctor, you shouldn't have a medical office. If you're not a lawyer, you shouldn't hang out a shingle. AND IF YOU ARE NOT A SHADCHAN, DON"T ACT AS ONE !!!!

Sun Dec 11, 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Lab Rab said...

Oh my goodness ... what a story.

אין לנו לא ביסורי הצדיקים ולא בשלות הרשעים. We're not equipped to answer "why."

Did you ever read the story "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe? Here's a link to the entire text. Your post reads like the 21st century Jewish retelling.

Mon Dec 12, 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

My great great grandmother died the day of my grandparent's wedding 70 years ago. This July, G-d willing they will celebrate 71 years.

Mon Dec 12, 01:39:00 AM  
Blogger my bald sheitel said...

wow. incredible post. made me think. i don't know the answer but i do know that this is going to cast a spell over this bat mitzvah's girl's big day for the rest of her life. i would NOT want to go out like this. i think it might really mess up the kid, G-d forbid.

Tue Dec 13, 12:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had a very similar experience not too long ago at a family simcha. You are 100% correct.

Tue Dec 13, 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Mia said...

often old people or sick people wait for a last simcha or to be surrounded by friends for a last time before they let go. I believe in G-d´s kindness. My grandfather passed away 3 weeks before my brothers bar-mitzvah, everybody was crying on the bar-mitzvah day, as my grandfather was very special and learnt the Parasha with my brother, it was awful and we all wished he could just stay with us until after the bar-mitzvah. It must be horrible for the little girl and I hope the family is taking good care of her, but her grandma was there and could share the moment. Maybe the grandma needed to hear what her daugher and grand-daugher said about her, to feel that she had done things right in her life and passed it on to the next generations. Who knows? but believing in kindness is a much better option than believing in displeasure in my eyes.

Wed Dec 14, 01:38:00 AM  
Blogger Sasha said...

>> mybaldsheitel said...
>> i think it might really mess up the >> kid, G-d forbid.

I highly doubt that. People are made more durable than we give G-d credit for. Not everything is a cause for counseling.

Wed Dec 14, 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

what a sad story :(

Wed Dec 14, 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger my bald sheitel said...

sasha - to have your main memory of one of the most important days of your childhood/adolesence be marred by the death of someone you love? i think it just might affect her. i hope she is tough though.

Mon Dec 26, 03:52:00 AM  
Blogger callieischatty said...

I was at a wedding for a very close friend and her father died of a heart attack at the reception.

It is not uncommon for someone who is ill to 'wait' for death.

I be lieve he died a happy man.

Tue Dec 27, 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger the source of all knowledge said...

Seeing how none of us has spoken to G-d in more than 6 months, me thinks we best derive whatever message rings out for us. But what grabs me is how you say "I know that there are those out there who despise the conspicuous consumption—even for simchos—of the wealthier classes within the Jewish community. But I am not one of those people."- Do you THINK this or just feel this?? 'cause there's not much wiggle room in the understanding of that the advocated way -by G-d, for jews,- is : "znay haleches eem alokim" It would sincerly interest me to hear somebody present a legitimate argument that gives any support whatsoever to saying " yes, this in fact is in keeping with modesty, higher purpose, holiness etc." That would be an ever so creative creation seeing how to date it has never yet once been made by any Torah authority of note. -- Please... prove me wrong.

Thu Jan 19, 12:07:00 PM  
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Anonymous mmmmmm said...

Oh please...... why would you try to tie 2 random events together.... not everything has to have a caustive reason, not everything has to be a lesson from God...... why have we come to the point where everything has to be

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