Monday, January 24, 2011

Begin Again

It was the last day of the year as I drove along Boyes Drive towards the cottage at Boulders Beach.

All about was the vast blue sea beneath a bright holiday sky, and I was filled with a sense of anticipation at the evening that was to unfold. For the New Year to fall on the Sabbath allows for a level of meaning which is otherwise absent.

Up ahead I saw a figure in the road flagging me down.

As I drew closer, I saw that a car had reversed, out of one of the cut outs in the mountain side of the narrow road, and there had been an accident.

When my car came to a halt, all I could see were the sprawled legs of a young boy in camouflage shorts and sneakers, and a part of his bicycle visible from under the car.

They appeared to be trying to lift the vehicle off the boy.

It seemed like a very long time before they motioned to me to go, and foolishly I let down the window and asked if he was going to be alright.

'Shame' they said, 'he is already gone...'

I cannot begin to describe the absolute anguish of that moment, and the horrible wound that tore open at those words. I thought of his mother whose life was about to be irrevocably changed, of a world in celebration as her own world was about to unravel. And I thought of my own journey after my daughter Tiffany died in much the same way, on the side of the road under a January summer sky.

Perhaps it was good to be able to weep, and wail in the privacy of my car as I made my way home, but family and friends would be arriving in a few hours to celebrate both the Sabbath and the new year, and all I wanted to do was put myself to bed like a distraught child.

Instead, I ran a bath. The sages teach that water is a space of dissolution, that is the purpose of the 'mikvah' or ritual bath, and it is the emerging from that water which is the act of purification and renewal.

And as I lay there searching for emotional buoyancy, I thought of the teachings I had received that morning by e mail from Rabbi Lewis Furman about the weekly parsha, the Torah portion.

In it, the Rabbi spoke of the 'paradox of faith'; that faith is not a paradise but a paradox.

He referred to 'David Hamelech when he called out, ' My Gd, My Gd, why have you forsaken me...' and of that dialectic between the rapture of the intimacy of that relationship, and the ensuing despair of seeming abandonment.

He quoted the Alei Shur, which describes the quality of ' Nosia b'ol Chaveiro', to help carry another person's burden as they waiver. It is all too easy to tell someone who is struggling to 'have faith', when what we need to say is, 'I am here.' When we enter a person's 'cave of solitude', we bring comfort and illumination.

And so as family and friends gathered at the Shabbas table I spoke of the boy, and of his mother and of what Chazal calls 'The burden of responsibility.' Through the words of the good Rabbi we were able to find comfort and direction for the year ahead; enough to celebrate with real joy as the beautiful night unfolded.

And in the morning, as a gentle rain lay like a shroud over the bay, I thought of mothers everywhere and of the journeys they must make, and the people like you and I who will bring them solace.

xxx elle


  1. You write beautifully. Moving and compassionate. Thank you!

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  3. Beautifully and sensitively written. Thank You.