Thursday, August 18, 2011

HASHGACHA PRATIS - Divine Providence; a personal story.

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


My grandmother, my mother's mother, Anna Deutsch, nee Sucher, lived with us all through my early childhood and later my teens. She was now 94 and very frail. She was a model of forebearing and patience. No matter what the seeming urgency or problem, others might have been wracked with anxiety, but invariably her response was, "what difference does it make?" In other words, she had perfect Emunah. She accepted everything in life with sweetness and blessing.

She would regale me with tales of growing up in Horodenka, of how she lived on a wealthy manse containing factories, granaries and a mill and would even milk the cows for fun every morning before walking miles to school to attend gymnasium where she learned to recite reams of poetry by Goethe and spoke six languages fluently. She had a wonderful youth as a girl growing up in Galicia, on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains, watching the troops of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef training in full plumage in the valley below. People from all the neighboring villages, of all religions and ethnicities, would bring their grain to the mill. Her father, a Baal Shem Tov chasid, would ride his horse, his peyos flowing in the breeze.

She first came to America to explore the world and visit her older sister, but the poverty and hardship she saw as experienced by the huddled masses was not quite the golden land she had envisioned, and so she returned to Horodenka and the good life and beautiful green fields and verdant valleys she had enjoyed there with her family.

By the age of 18 she got married, but life in Europe was now starting to unravel and so they came to America three years later with the first two of their eventual seven children in tow. She lived with us when I was a child. She basically raised me, taking long walks with me, teaching me Yiddish and old world herbal medicinal cures. She would knit sweaters and blankets on what seemed a daily basis. "Never date a shiksa," she would say to me. "A shiksa will latch on to you and never let you go." In this age of rampant marital separation and divorce, maybe that's a good thing. But I don't think she meant it that way.

When she was but three years old the fully lit chanukah menorah fell off the window sill onto her straw bed while she was asleep. But the bed was not consumed. It did not catch on fire. Her angels were watching over her. That was her hashgacha pratit story. Now this is mine:

Taking time off from school to study Torah in Yerushalayim, I was walking the streets of the Holy City, as was my wont. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head saying "go home." I instinctively knew it was about my grandmother, aged 94. I made my goodbyes to her some months earlier, not knowing if I would ever see her again.

Now this was a voice from Hashem that seemed to commandeer me. It was firm. I was not permitted to even go back to my apartment. Already carrying my passport on me and wearing a warm coat as it was just before Chanukah, I went directly to Ben Gurion and flew home to Logan, taking the Boston subways and buses until I arrived back in the outer burbs. I arrived back home suddenly, without notice, totally unanticipated. "Please take me to see grandma," I said to my folks. "But she just had another stroke the other day. She can't speak anymore. What's the rush? You just had a long trip. You can see her tomorrow." "I don't care. I need to see her now."

In her room at the home I visited with her. It was true. She could no longer speak. At least not with words. Just with the heart. We did not need words. We spoke the language of the heart. We were together again at last. I sat with her by her bed, her head propped up by pillows. Our eyes spoke to each other, sharing the love we felt for each other. But soon I had to leave, as she grew tired and the nurses ushered me out. I kissed her gently on her forehead. Maybe for the very last time.

And it was the last time. She passed away the next morning in her sleep, a smile on her lips. At the funeral there were many tears. But mine were tears of joy mixed with sadness, for I knew without a doubt that her neshama was soaring high and strong, her mission in this world completed. Her yahrzeit was 21 Kislev, just before Chanukah.

Postscript: Years later my daughter, Tifarah Chana Yasmeen Metukah, was born on 21 Kislev. Holding her newborn body in my arms, our eyes locked together as I kissed her on the head for the very first time. She could not speak yet with words, but our eyes spoke of the deep love we felt for each other, an infinite, eternal love, spanning worlds and continents and centuries.

When she was three, she asked plaintively, "Why doesn't Uncle Moishy ever come to our town." Because we live in a tiny village out in the country far from where all the other Jewish children all live. He only does concerts in towns where there are lots and lots of Jewish families with children.

But next Shabbos Uncle Moishe was our Shabbos guest, eating at our Shabbos table! His car was stranded in the snow storm, he would never make it to where he had planned to be for Shabbat on time, and so he called me, being that I was the local rabbi. Hashgacha Pratis. Divine Providence. Hashem listens to the prayers and yearnings of small children, his angelic cherubs here on Earth.


Post Postscript: Recently I looked up the name Sucher, my grandmother's family's name, from Horodenka, in the Yad Vashem memorial book, and it listed some eight Suchers all shot dead in the forests. The village was wiped out in its entirety by the Nazis, yemach shemam.

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

1 comment:

Leeba said...

Beautiful. Thank you for these words. I could 'see' the feelings you wrote on the page.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!