Counting the Omer with Michelle Princenthal
Day 5 — Fear
By Rabbi Micha Berger, Passaic, New Jersey
Thanks to G-d, numerous doctors, nurses, technicians, researchers, etc... I am now in my 14th year in remission from lymphoma. I still have to go to periodic follow-up hospital appointments, to keep an eye out for a possible relapse. On one of the first such visits, I needed to use the restroom afterwards. The facilities in the hematology unit were unavailable, so I went one flight down and found the restrooms in pediatrics. But in front of them, I found the following scene:
There stood two women, standing over a card with the words of Asher Yatzar — the blessing thanking G-d for our continued health, which is traditionally recited after using the restroom. One, clearly a Chasssidic woman, in her heavy wool suit, wig, and hat perched atop wig; even in 1955 they would have considered her dressed conservatively. The other appeared to be a Sephardic woman, dressed as may be in fashion in many circles in Israel, tight pants, low-cut blouse, large very Middle Eastern jewelry. Saying each word slowly, one by one, — “who Created the human with Wisdom, and made in a person openings and hollows. And if but one were to open, or but one were to be blocked, we would be unable to persist or stand before You...” Two women who would likely have never met, had each not had reason to be in a pediatric oncology unit. And there they stood, each in their very different accents, tears in their eyes. Thanking and yet also beseeching G-d together for the gift of health. Words from parent to Parent.
Unable to control my own tears (in fact, I am crying now just retelling the story), I rushed into the restroom. When I emerged, they were gone.
I thought on the way home: How wonderful it would be to be able to pray with such fervor without needing such a situation! But how much more difficult!
Properly harnessed, fear forces us to not waste time on the incidentals. To focus on what truly matters. Fear motivates.
This is why Eimah, Fear, is the 5th step in the rabbis’ path to acquiring wisdom. This is why, despite all its unpleasantness, G-d placed fear in our world.
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