If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Ecclesiastes 11:3
Whenever tragedy hits the state of Israel, there is immense sadness and an unfathomable sense of loss. Yet, inevitably there also emerges incredible bits of inspiration and glimpses of quiet heroism. One such look came from Odell, the wife of Aaron Benita. The Benitas were one of the first victims in the latest wave of terror. As they headed back from praying at the Western Wall, a terrorist attacked them with a knife and shot their two-year-old in the leg. Aaron succumbed to his wounds while Odell ran for help with the knife still stuck in her back. She and her son both survived.
A colleague of mine went to visit Odell to offer comfort and support. He asked Odell if she was angry at God or if she was struggling with why God let this happen. At the sound of his question, Odell quickly hid her face as though she was afraid of even hearing the question. She replied that she had faith that everything is as meant to be.
As sad as she was, Odell accepted God's decree. She went on to explain God's miracle in saving her life. As the soldiers who saved her later explained, the fact that the knife was stuck in her back for so long stopped Odell from bleeding to death. Had the assailant removed the knife, she also would have died from the attack.
In Ecclesiastes we read, "Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie." The Ba'al Shem Tov, a renowned rabbi in 18th-century Ukraine connected the verse to another from 1 Chronicles 28:9: " . . . acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him." What does one verse have to do with the other?
The great rabbi explained that knowing God means knowing that everything comes from God. It means having complete awareness throughout our lives that God is running the show and is the cause behind every occurrence in our lives. Along these lines, the rabbi interpreted the verse from Ecclesiastes as follows, "Wherever a tree falls, that is where it is meant to be." In other words, everything in life, from great wars to the slightest breeze is ordained by God, Master of the Universe.
When I think of the strength of heroes like Odell Benita, I remember that if someone can have unwavering faith in God after experiencing such a horrible tragedy, how much more so should we have the same attitude when minor things in life don't go our way? Let us all accept our circumstances with love and grace as a tribute to those who have weathered far worse storms than our own and have emerged full of faith and devotion.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President