Not What I Expected from a Shiva

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I had expected that attending the shiva this week for Shula Swerdlov, the 3-year-old girl who was run over and killed last week, would break me. That it would be so upsetting and devastating to enter the epicenter of this horrific tragedy that it would take me weeks to recover.

But, strangely enough, attending the shiva this past Sunday had the opposite effect. I left this shiva feeling strengthened, even hopeful.

I saw Hindel, Shula’s mother, terribly shaken. But I also saw her surrounded by her relatives and extended family from around the globe who jumped on a plane the moment they heard that tragedy had struck. I saw her comforted by her neighbors and members of the extended Chabad community who poured in by the hundreds every day of the shiva to be there for her. I saw her with her dearest friend beside her, who, despite all of her own responsibilities as the mother of several small children, didn’t leave Hindel’s side from morning until night this whole week.

And most meaningful for me was to see that Hindel was shaken, and clearly going through the darkest hour of her life, but that she was still Hindel. I saw the same determination, the same life-giving smile, the same faith that has pulled her through tough times in the past, and will, with G-d’s help, pull her and her family through this nightmare as well.

When I think of why I am so proud to have chosen to live a Jewish life, I think of the good stuff. The Shabbat meals with steaming golden chicken soup, words of Torah, and G-d’s breath filling my living room, or the excited, ancient buzz of the packed yeshiva study hall where my husband studies, or the religious children in my community growing up so pure and good and happy, free of the destructive TV/ Internet culture which is destroying so many of today’s children and families.

But seeing this shiva, seeing this young family struggling yet coping with the support of their extended family and community, as well as with the wise guidance of their tradition and their personal bedrock of faith, made me proud to be living this life that provides so much light, even (or maybe especially?) at these darkest moments of existence.

One comment

  1. I did come away shaken and more than a little down, but I totally get your point. Kol hakavod for seeing it with an ayin tov. It was wonderful to know that she (as Baruch Hashem, all of us) has a loving and supportive family and community who are so there for her… couldn’t help but notice and be warmed by her occasional beautiful smiles and laughter, between the tears and sobs. Thanks for pointing out the positive.

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