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7 on Seven: The Gift of Seven

As told to C.B. Gavant

The days of shivah marched relentlessly forward, and somewhere through that blur of grief and consolation we realized that the date of Yanky’s death was seven years and two days after his accident at age four. Our strange conversation with the mekubal all those years ago came into startling relief. Seven years of life…seven extra years of life. And that changed everything.

Monday, October 06, 2014

I never knew what Yanky would do next. When he was little, he’d run ahead of me as we walked, clambering onto walls and rocks and leaping off, arms outstretched as if he could fly. Maybe his gift for the unexpected, his ability to constantly surprise me should have been viewed as a warning. Maybe I should have realized that with this child, his life — life itself — could never be predicted or foretold. ••• Yanky was four, scampering off to cheder alongside his big brother. It wasn’t far, and I felt it was completely safe to allow them to walk the short distance alone. On the way home, however, they parted ways. A horse and wagon were trit-trotting down the street and Yanky ran after it, staring with those huge brown eyes of his. A string of youngsters followed the cart, forming an unusual procession — one that was below the dignity of Yanky’s big brother to watch. Yanky, though, was fascinated, and as the horse and cart came closer, he darted out into the street for a better look. He didn’t notice the oncoming traffic. The minivan driver slammed on his brakes, but it was too late. Yanky’s small body sailed through the air. He landed on the asphalt with a dull thud. The accident took place just a few yards from the cheder and the staff ran out. Yanky’s rebbi climbed into the ambulance beside him and stood over him, davening, while they sped to the hospital. A member of staff called me and told me to meet them there as fast as possible. Not wanting to delay until my husband arrived, I called a neighbor to drive me. We raced off. I clutched the seatbelt so hard that a red welt showed up on my palm; I didn’t even notice. Yanky was my tenth child. I’d taken children to the hospital for stitches, broken limbs, even appendicitis. But never for a car accident. I was in the midst of a difficult pregnancy and many unsettling things had happened that winter. My husband and I had consulted with a mekubal who lived not far from our Beit Shemesh home, and we were told to accept extra kabbalos upon ourselves as a shemirah. Oddly, the mekubal shared with us several stories of people who had accepted different hanhagos upon themselves and were granted an extra seven years of life. The scene at the mekubal’s home flashed into my mind. A kabbalah. That’s what I had to do. I began to bargain: I would light Shabbos candles ten minutes early each week. I would be extra careful with shemiras halashon. If only Yanky survived…

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