On Mortality and Being Here
5,730 years ago Cain killed Abel, and the world has never been the same. “The sound of your brother's bloods cry out to Me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10.) A week ago Levi Aron killed Leiby Kletsky of blessed memory, and the world has never been the same. There is nothing we can say to explain such evil, nor to assuage the suffering it brings in its wake - to even attempt to do so is hideous. But the very real questions banging on our door refuse to go away. We cannot answer them and yet the heart and mind clamor for meaning.
I have always been acutely aware of mortality – perhaps because of three miracles that allowed my existence. In the winter of 1921, five million people in Ukraine died of famine. My grandfather, age 10, was among those saved from starvation by his older brother, who ‘liberated’ some food from a boat bound for Moscow. Fast forward 25 years - after 10 years of marriage, my grandfather and grandmother are finally blessed with their only child – my mother. Twenty-two years later, as a 6-month-old infant, I survived a fire that landed me in the hospital for many months, requiring years of follow-up surgeries.
But the truth is, we are all living on miracles, as we say every day in the Amidah prayer, “and for our lives which are committed into Your hand, for our souls which are entrusted to You, for Your miracles which are with us daily…” If we’re alive, it’s a miracle. If we breathe, we must say, “Blessed is G‑d each and every day” (Psalms 68:20.)
If a little boy in Ukraine had died of starvation, fourteen other people never would have been. If Leiby had lived, how many worlds could have come to be? “Whoever destroys a single life destroys an entire world; whoever saves a single life saves an entire world” (Sanhedrin 73a.) Remembering the preciousness of every life, how will you treat the next soul you meet?