A True Story About Tisha b’Av 5778

This story isn’t really about Tisha b’Av (the day on which the temple was destroyed- it was just coincidence. Also, this story happened 3 years ago. Image by svetlanabar from Pixabay

Tisha b’Av 5778 started off like any other Tisha b’Av. After morning services, my parents had gone to clear out the remaining belongings from my grandparents’ apartment, as the apartment had recently sold. I was having a deliberately lazy Sunday to make the fast day easier. (Someday, I’ll write my rant post about fasting in Judaism, but this is not that post).

Late afternoon, I got a call from Mom. It was a weird call. Lots of background noise. She mentioned an intersection that was unfamiliar and something about maybe needing a ride. “Do you need a ride?” I asked, confused. “Where are you?” Mom sounded lost. “I’ll call you back,” she said.

Later, I got a clarifying call from Local Sibling.

Local Sibling: Mom and Dad are ok. Their minivan caught on fire. The car is destroyed. They almost died. But they got out of the car in time.

JYP: What?!? Where are they?

Local Sibling: We (Local Sibling + Local Sibling’s then-boyfriend, now husband) are picking them up and taking them to our apartment. Can you pick them up and take them back to their house?

JYP: (sounding somewhat emotional) Yes, of course. Send me your address (Local Sibling + then-BF had just moved).

Local Sibling: Are you ok?

JYP: Yes, I’m ok. I was just shocked. I’ll text you when I’m leaving.

Photo by David Henry from Pexels

We broke the fast before driving to pick up my parents. It seemed like a smart idea not to drive when excessively emotional and not having eaten or drank anything.

Ideally, Husband would have driven. The person closer to the traumatic event ought not be the driver. Like when my grandmother had a stroke on Shabbat, Husband drove to the hospital, even though he is the one generally more opposed to driving on Shabbat. The problem was that Husband was still too dehydrated and dizzy to drive. So I drove to Local Sibling’s & Local Sibling’s BF’s place. I called my parents and Local Sibling and let them know we had broken the fast; figuring they would appreciate the dedication to safety.

By the time we arrived (after leaving late, getting lost, and dinging another parked car because I’m bad at parallel parking), the fast was pretty much over. Local Sibling + Local Sibling BF had ordered a pizza because my parents hadn’t broken the fast yet. Driving long distances and moving furniture, all while fasting. Their goodness was maddening.

My parents, the only ones who actually fasted the whole day, still insisted that we take first. Image by petrovhey from Pixabay

Over pizza, they showed me pictures of the burned up minivan. Local Sibling and Local Sibling’s BF mentioned that there were bystanders taking pictures and posting them to social media. It’s so wild, the idea of posting someone else’s near tragedy on Instagram, and for what?

Seriously, who does this? Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

Local Sibling’s BF offered to get in a fight with these bystanders but declined out of respect for my parents.

There wasn’t enough pizza, but it was too late to go out and get more.

My parents got in my car. They had managed to save a painting they had taken from my grandparents’ apartment. I don’t remember what the painting looked like, but I remember the strong burnt, singed smell permeating my car the whole ride to my parents’ house.

It smelled of singed canvas and gasoline. Photo by Jeff Tumale on Unsplash

I was still driving. Husband was still too weak to drive and I didn’t feel like my parents should be driving either. Then I drove back to home with Husband.

JYP: I feel….I feel unbelievably grateful that they survived. You know the classmate I knew, she died when her car caught fire (same classmate mentioned in this post)….But I also feel like G-d is an irresponsible babysitter who put them in danger in the first place. Like you’re happy the baby is okay, but you would fire this babysitter and tell the whole neighborhood to never ever hire them.

Husband said something in response that I honestly don’t remember and I’m not going to put words in his mouth.

JYP: It makes me so mad. My parents are such absurdly good people. They do everything. Today alone, they helped make minyan, saved my grandparents’ belongings, moved furniture, and they still kept the fast. How could G-d do that to them?

Husband: Maybe G-d was rescuing them. Maybe G-d wasn’t the irresponsible babysitter who put them in that situation, but the one who rescued them from it. Maybe because your parents are such good people.

***

In the days that followed, all my parents’ friends and community came to check in on them. The following Shabbat, my parents benched gomel, as one does after surviving a dangerous situation. Judaism is known for having blessings for many circumstances.

There isn’t a blessing or ritual that you do when someone close to you survives a dangerous situation. There was no appropriate blessing for me to say in synagogue that week. I was reminded of other times when I was several steps away from the trauma – like the time my friend was raped or a relative got a cancer diagnosis – several steps away from the trauma, and yet I still had feelings I didn’t quite know what to do with.

***

I still wonder about that question. Is G-d the rescuer or the irresponsible babysitter?

63 comments

  1. Thanks for checking me out recently! Wanting to return the favor, I came across this post and really enjoyed the writing style. Is your question at the end a serious one (do you really want to know if G-d is the rescuer or the irresponsible babysitter)? On the chance that it is, I wanted to share with you some food for thought (and throw some virtual pizza slices in with it 😊).

    Psalms 121 tells us that He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Psalms 91 tells us that He protects those who take refuge in Him. Psalms 139 tells us that there is no place we can go where He is not there, His thoughts towards us outnumber the grains of sand, and all our days are ordained by Him. Isaiah 49:15 tells us that even though a mother may forget her child, He will never forget us.

    With the understanding that because G-d wants us to choose out of our own free will to love Him that we also have the choice not to, we also understand that those who choose not to love and obey have impact on the every day lives of those who do (even when it comes down to how well a car is made). Could G-d have prevented the van from catching on fire? Of course! Does He have the ability to watch over your parents even if and when bad things happen to good people? Yes, yes I believe He does, and I also believe He has the ability to work all things for good in the lives of those who love Him.

    Take care my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit and the virtual pizza slices! Drop by for virtual pizza/beer/cookies whenever – door’s always open!
      It is a serious question, though in retrospect, I think I phrased it wrong. The real question being how can I reconcile the times when G-d appears as the rescuer with the times that G-d appears as the irresponsible babysitter? Ultimately, I choose to believe in G-d, and that G-d is overall good, but I can’t deny that that G-d allows for unjustifiably bad things to happen – and there isn’t a satisfactory reason why.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the virtual invite 😃 Raising my glass to you now (even tho it is morning 🤪)!

        The hard truth is that bad things happen to everyone and it is a result of the fallen world we live in. It is my personal believe that it was far better to be offered free will by G-d, and risk the fallenness as a result, than to have been created without the free will to love and be loved.

        When my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, she didn’t become angry with God for cutting her days short and causing her to suffer. She knew her physical body was destined to die sometime, and so took the cancer as an assignment. She prepared to meet people she would never have met otherwise, and purposed to impact them with G-d’s immense love for them. I was the one who got angry and became jealous of my older brothers, because they all got to spend more time on this earth with her than I did. But her unwavering faith in G-d had an impact on me too, and I didn’t stay angry for long.

        In Isaiah 55:8 the Lord tells us “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”. Seeing history through the lens of knowledge and science shows us how easy it is for man to be persuaded by perspective, and call good or evil according to how things impact us personally.

        When Adam and Eve were being tempted, the seed of doubt about the tree of knowledge planted by Satan was simple: “You can be like God, knowing good AND evil”, placing a purposeful distinction in our mind between the two.

        But here is something critical that we don’t often think about: The root for both good and evil are part of the same tree! It’s the trap of Satan to believe we can ever be good enough to eliminate evil.

        Remember there are two trees named in the garden. The other one is the tree of life. The question we want to ask is, how do we eat from this tree instead, or more importantly, who does this tree represent?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Virtual coffee then 😉
          Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry about your mother. She seems like a very impressive person who had a positive impact on your life.
          I do think we are guilty of defining good and evil based on how they impact us personally. But I also think that there are some things that happen that are just truly evil, eg. abuse, murder, genocide, etc. and that attempting to find good, or redefine these as good is cruel to the victims.
          In any case, for me, I’ve been fortunate. I’d like to believe that my faith would continue after facing a true adversity. I suspect it will be more of a struggle for me.
          Perspective is everything.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, there is pure evil. Job is a good example of pure evil coming against a person. I have enjoyed our chats! Should you ever like to continue outside of this thread, you’re welcome to at alabastersky@gmx.com. Or if you and hubby are ever in Colorado, let us know. Me and hubby will be happy to raise a glass (or have some coffee) in person 😃

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you already know in your heart–in part because of your parents’ faithful witness–that the Lord is our rescuer. There is much suffering in this world, but the Eden account explains the reason for that…

    “Local Sibling’s BF offered to get in a fight with these bystanders…”
    Funny… but from my younger days I can certainly identify with that response.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do continue to believe in G-d as overall good, but I cannot deny that G-d allows for things to happen that are not good. I don’t know that I find the story of Eden to be an entirely satisfactory explanation of evil. I’m not sure there really is one. But ultimately, I chose to continue believing in G-d.

      Local Sibling’s then-BF now-Husband is a character! He is a good guy – fiercely loyal and devoted to the people he cares about

      Like

  3. I’m glad your parents are okay.

    I hope you’re okay ❤

    This story and your subsequent questions are interesting. In the past, I've wondered why people don't see God (Allah, etcl) as both. Even if there's some "evil" force who does all of the things we don't want to assign to God, then why don't we still see it as something God created. I hope I'm not off topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank goodness your parents were okay. What a wild, scary thing that must have been. I often look around and wonder why the hell we’re being put through this, but I just figure that we’re only passing through, the goal is to get to heaven safely in a spiritual sense, because none of us will make it through alive anyway. I guess we can only anchor ourselves to Him and hope we can bear things until it’s all over.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think there’s a plan and direction for everyone. It’s a matter of perspective. A higher power leading each one. That’s also fate or destiny. Let’s believe in the goodness even when there’s something negative. I’m glad your parents were saved that day. Thank God! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Let’s believe in the goodness even when there’s something negative.”

      – Well said. I see my own belief in G-d as a choice rather than an inevitable conclusion based on evidence (which to be honest, could easily suggest lack of G-d’s existence). I choose to believe the the good. And I am definitely thankful my parents were saved!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh wow, how terrifying. I’m so glad everything turned out ok. I have a lot of thoughts re: God as an irresponsible babysitter.

    On another note, I’d be interested to read your thoughts about fasting in Judaism – I am a very, very bad faster, and refuse to do any fasts other than Yom Kippur, and I find it kind of crazy that (at least in some circles) there’s so much pressure to fast, even if it will likely lead to vomiting and possibly a trip to the ER.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am am adequate faster, and yet I hate it in part for the way it (or perhaps more accurately, the leaders who focus on fasting above all else) causes so much irresponsibility. I need to organize my ranty thoughts into something resembling coherent English, but yes, stay tuned!

      Liked by 2 people

      • SO MUCH IRRESPONSIBILITY. I’ve heard of people going on IV fluids on fast days so they can still claim they’re not breaking the fast rather than taking the simpler and safer option of just, you know, drinking some water, and it’s just like WHY? It also makes me really sad hearing about people who seem to suffer pretty bad consequences from fasting yet won’t consider giving it up.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s interesting how the same event can be seen as evidence of any belief, whether that’s rescuer, irresponsible babysitter, or nonexistent.

    On a side note, I enjoy how non-English verbs are given English suffixes, like benched and davening.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, absolutely! I see my own belief in G-d as a choice, not an inevitable conclusion based on the evidence. One could very easily look at the evidence (or lack of evidence) and reach a different conclusion about the existence of G-d.

      It is funny about the grammar of non-English words!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As one who doesn’t believe, this whole post is about good fortune… except the fasting. Moving furniture and fasting does seem like a tough ask. I am so glad your parents survived relatively unscathed. You know, I was talking just today to a counselor about one particular emotion – self pity. But she said that every emotion is valid and should be acknowledged. It’s only how you respond to the emotion that is “good” or “bad”. I don’t have a religion that tells me what to do. In my case she suggested on days when I felt self pity to have self compassion, be kind to myself. My other response is crying in the shower. So, you’re not talking about self pity but i think my suggestions to you would be similar in the case of your emotions. Probably not helpful but worth a shot.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Gee, that’s horrifying!! I’m so glad your parents survived!!

    My answer would be that God is the rescuer!! Was this a fluke occurrence, or did your parents know that car repairs were needed? That would also help me answer the question!! I’m a fanatical safety girl!! And this is why! Burning cars are some scary [bleep]!! God bless that your parents were okay!! Whew!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • There was some kind of mechanical issue with the car. I don’t recall if my parents knew about it before this trip. I also should have explained that this happened three years ago (I’ve since updated the post to better explain this). It was horrifying! It would have been so easy for them to have not made it in time.

      Liked by 2 people

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