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Living Beyond the Moment

Faigy Peritzman

Someone steeped in Torah always lives beyond the moment

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

I

 

“A

nd Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, so he continued to sin, and he strengthened his heart, he and his servants.” (Shemos 9:34)

 


About 200 years ago, in Vienna, crowds gathered to see a most amazing revelation — a train that traveled without horses!

A skeptic standing nearby scoffed, “There’s no way a heavy metal train can move without horses!”

As the engine warmed up and began to belch smoke, the man reiterated his point: “Hey! My stove also smokes! I’ve never seen it move!”

The engine whistled and the skeptic snorted derisively, “Pretty tune!”

But the wheels began to move and pick up speed and suddenly the train was chugging swiftly down the track to the amazement of all.

“Gevalt!” cried the skeptic. “Now it’s never going to stop!” (Rav Shalom Meir Wallach, Maayan Hashavua)

Visiting the emergency room is never a pleasant experience, but my doctor was adamant: “High fever, undiagnosed strep, and an extremely high blood count. We don’t play games,” he said somberly.

I raced with my son to the hospital, davening this wouldn’t be too complicated.

Stepping into the ER is like entering a time warp. Hospitals have their own concepts of time, and you’re caught in their web. Routine as you know it has disappeared and you’re at the mercy of the staff, your status determined by the danger of your diagnosis. With serious emergencies flying around us, we knew it was going to be a long wait.

We all have this skeptic within us. When it rains, we’re convinced it’ll flood. When it’s dry, we worry about drought. We live in the moment, worrying about our present situations.

I have to give credit to the hospital staff. Despite the tense atmosphere, everyone was kind, supportive, and apologetic.

“He’s on IV now for the pain and fever. Soon we’ll send you to an ENT and get him on antibiotics,” the nurse said, helpful but hurried. “In the meantime—”

“We wait,” I finished for her.

Eventually my son drifted off into a fever-hazed sleep and I sat with him, frazzled as I watched the frantic activity around me.

To our left was an elderly Russian woman who clearly didn’t understand the language. The more the nurses and doctors tried to explain things, the more agitated she became, raising her voice and shouting in Russian. Her shrill discomfort and confusion was disconcerting to everyone.

Across the room, with a curtain drawn around his cubicle, was a man who’d been wounded in a terrorist attack the day before. I was shocked he was still in the emergency room. Shouldn’t he be ensconced in a VIP room surrounded by politicians and activists after being wounded for our country?

And on our right, separated by just a curtain, was an old man who kept moaning, “How long does it take to die? How long?”

The nurses reassured him, “Adon Daniel, you’re not dying. We’re going to help you.”

But he seemed not to hear them, and for hours his plaintive groans penetrated my inner core. How long does it take to die?

There’s nothing like a hospital to help one focus on the brevity of life. I didn’t want to end up like him, lying in a corridor, pondering the answer to this constant refrain.

This is what happened to Pharaoh. As each makkah descended on Mitzrayim, he became very agitated and almost caved in. But the moment the makkah disappeared, he hardened his heart saying, “Who is Hashem?”

Yet someone steeped in Torah doesn’t live in the moment. As Chazal say (Tamid 32a): “Who’s wise? One who sees the future.” Lucky are those who learn from their situations for the future.

The hours passed. We visited an ENT in another building, got more medications, and sat some more. Finally, after another hour of paperwork, we were released.

Stepping outside into the cool Yerushalayim air was like breathing in freedom. It felt like we’d been swallowed in the bowels of the hospital for eternity. But now we were out. Out in a world where the sun rose and set and the temperature fluctuated naturally and time moved at a steady pace.

Out in a world where we could appreciate these wonders and be grateful we’re recipients of such daily delights.

I wish I could answer Adon Daniel: It only takes a moment to die. But lived correctly, life is eternal.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 625)

 

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