How I Saved a Young Girl’s Life in Israel
On a hot summer day in Israel, I witnessed a horrible accident. A 14-year-old Israeli girl was hit by a car, thrown in the air, and came crashing down on her head.
There is an expression, “heroes are made, not born.” In my case, years of training as a police chaplain prepared me for this moment. I ran to this girl’s side, and after determining that she was not breathing and had no pulse, I started CPR and saved her life.
I am not a hero. However, it was not a coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time. King David’s statement, “The footsteps of man are established by God” (Psalm 37:23), teaches that it is God’s divine providence that guides us to events such as this accident. Once we encounter a specific situation, it is our responsibility to react and do the right thing.
In my mind, real heroes are willing to put their own lives at risk to save others. One such person was Yehudah.
In this week’s Torah portion Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), Binyomin is held captive by the second in command to Pharaoh. At risk to his own life, Yehudah forcefully demands the release of his brother Binyomim from captivity.
Yehudah understood the importance of saving a life. This mitzvah is so important our sages say, “whoever saves a life is as if they saved an entire world” (Talmud Sanhedrin 37a).
Yehudah’s actions not only secured Binyomin’s release; they also reunited the family of Yaacov and saved the entire Jewish people.
Heroes do not expect rewards. However, individuals who take selfless risks are often rewarded in ways they never expect. I believe Yehudah’s unexpected reward was a spiritual insight he received from Yosef.
Once Yosef, the viceroy to Pharaoh, identifies himself to his brothers, they are terrified that he will seek retribution for selling him into slavery. However, Joseph reassures them by proclaiming, “do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).
Yosef was teaching the Jewish belief in divine providence and that ultimately it was God who orchestrated his descent to Egypt.
Coincidence is not a Jewish word because God is intimately involved in everything we experience. We only need to see through the materialism of the world and recognize it.
My experiences with divine providence taught me how to respond to missionaries who challengingly ask if I have a “personal relationship with God.” To their surprise, I immediately tell them I do.
What could be more personal than to experience how God is interacting with us. God leads us to situations where we are given the opportunity to make good choices and make the world better.
May this Shabbos provide many opportunities to experience a more personal relationship with God and the wisdom of the Torah.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
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