Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Death and a Wedding

Yesterday, the corner of Kingston and Eastern Parkway was the scene of a life’s tragic end. A young Jewish man’s sudden death was witnessed by bystanders, who came out of the subway station screaming. The police and ambulance were called and sirens flooded the streets. Shomrim arrived, with their faces white, and soon after, Hatzalah and Zaka, to collect the body for burial.

Upstairs in my museum office, I head the sirens like I always do, not bothering to look outside. When a phone call alerted me to look outside, I saw the flashing lights and crowds surrounding the subway station stairs. I ran downstairs.

From all sides of the street, fellow Jews saw the crowds of skirts and black hats and drew near. First, there was shock, then confusion, followed by an intense sadness that lingered in the air for hours. Pacing back and forth and waiting for details - for a name - bystanders stood frozen in time.

People stepped aside when, finally, the body was lifted from underneath the ground. Everything around me rhymed with pain. I stood still while my insides shook. And just then, when the pain had reached its raw peak, a beautiful melody was heard.

The Alter Rebbe’s niggun.

Right there, a mere few steps away from death and unbearable pain, a wedding was underway in front of 770. Mocking our chaotic hearts and minds, the tune was a symbol of life, of joy, of a future. At first piercing the throbbing pain, the Chuppah song slowly became intermingled with the sorrow spreading all over the street corner.

Tears of sadness erupting aside tears of joy.

Mazel Tov!

Baruch Dayan HaEmes.

The crowd from the subway meshed with the crowd from the Chuppah. Suddenly, the line between life and death was very blurry. Suddenly, happiness knew no limit, and sadness was eternal – all at the same time.

I felt like I was going to explode.


At that very moment, G-d was both a dear friend, and a bitter enemy.

You want the whole world to stop and recognize the loss, but weddings will go on. Babies will be born. Cake will be served at the birthday party.

And when all you want is to experience unbridled joy, lives will be destroyed. Fires will consume. Lives will end.

What does G-d want from us?

There’s no way a human is designed to balance these opposite poles.

But G-d conducts a world where both pain and happiness are ever pressing realities, forcing us to respond to fortune and catastrophe all at once. And it’s striking, that, even when G-d stops the world from turning, it is speeding forward at the same time.


G-d, you stretch out your hand, yes you do.

You do it to strike and you do it to heal.

Yes, you are the ultimate giver.

But you give tears just like you give smiles.

You create fire, and you make it both to consume and to warm.

G-d, please reveal the fusion, the interconnectedness. Where is the beauty in the breakdown? I want to see it, but how can I? What do you expect, G-d? You weigh us down with bricks, and expect us to play hide and seek? You smash us with your hands, and demand us to rise. You burn our core, and request we feel light. You mark frowns and creased brows, but wait for our smiles.

And sometimes I feel like I just don’t know you.

But, one thing is certain. When you are my enemy, you allow it. You never cease to validate our pain. And more than that, you still let us use your shoulder to cry on. After being screamed at, you still hosts our tears. You are behind it all. When we want to escape you, you are there. When we want to embrace you, you are there. And there's no greater harmony than that.

While we may often struggle with the placement of our reactions and emotions, let us pray that our happiness is always more demanding than our pain. May feelings of true growth and gain be more potent than feelings of loss, and may G-d draw near a time when all sorrow will permanently vanish in the face of our joy.


Pimplesoflife said...

mimi ausome post i felt like crying!...
moshiach should come right now!
no other words for this crazy world!...
miss ya

Der Shygetz said...

"You create fire, and you make it both to consume and to warm."
This is great. And in the consumption, warmth is also generated, just as it is when a furnace consumes fuel to warm our homes. But sometimes, it is up to us to find that warmth and use it to warm our hearts and neshomos.

Ah, one of the pleasures of being in such an "advanced" time zone is that I am the first one to read and comment here :).

Philly Farmgirl said...

Oh Mimi, I think of this so often while I am at a delivery of a new baby. But I have never experienced as profoundly as this. May Hashem send comfort to all the mourners in Crown Heights and may Hashem have mercy on us and send Moshiach that we should hear only 'kol chatan v' kol kallah'.

Chana said...

Thank you for expressing in such true words those emotions and thoughts that are battling inside me too. It helps so much.

Anonymous said...

your post just made a very strong impression on me. Thank you for being the author of that which is waiting to be written. Thank you for expressing what I needed to hear. Thank you, thank you thandk you and more thank you.
You have an amazing gift and bH' you are using it with wisdom.
Keep spreading the light.

Anonymous said...

Of course we all wish that the event which led to today's post had never happened, but you do a great job in trying to make some sense out of it. Yasher koiach - another beautiful post!

Anonymous said...

Mimi this is a beautiful article, extremely powerful & loads of lessons... I know it's a way for you to put down your feelings, but @ the same tiem teaches ppl. loads!
May we only have happy reasons to have to try to figure out
MOshiach now!!!! Ad Mosai?

cookie said...

what to say to that...?
my thoughts not-exactly - better.

the joys of the world should outshine its sorrows 100 to 1.

nah, 100 to 0.

bless you sister

e. said...

ad mosai! Baruch Dayan Emes, Ad mosai!!!

shloime said...

we need to reach out to others .with a hug or smile .every person has value even if it is just that god made them .no one needs to feel that the fact he lives in meangless .that no one cares if they live or die .let us reach out in love jonthan sacks the chief rabbi of the Uk said that after the 6 millon hitler hunted down with hate the rebbe taught to hunt down each jew out of love .ler us bring happyness to pepole and make them feel alive

Anonymous said...

i dont get how you can get words to so accuartely express our feelings. wow.

Anonymous said...

mimi--u dont know me but i feel like i know a certain part of u--u express urself very well-im always impressesd--but i never cried from ur posts--not until today. very moving--dont ever stop writing--ur words a re heartful & oh so true.

mushka said...

i love it mimi.
exactly how i was feeling, didnt know how to say it though.
everything you said i agree with a hundred percent.
my favorite post yet.
thanx mimi.

bujare said...


oh my love...not another one....

the sabra said...

moshiach now

Der Shygetz said...

Hope you are having a great Tishrei - but when will you post again? I can't believe I became one of your biggest fans - after all most of the blogs I read that are not related to business are the loshon horo and machloikes types so I have material for Creedmoor (from which I have retired once and for all)!

A gut yohr to you!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

this was an awesome article, but i keep signing on to read ur thoughts on rosh hashonosh, yom kippur, sukkos, tashlich, simchas torah, kapporos........NU?


Anonymous said...

OMG... you are amazing

Anonymous said...

I only hope that whatever is keeping you from the Hilltop is something happy and positive. In the meantime, I can't believe I am saying this, but I really miss your blog. I guess I'll have to make do with the dirt, LH, MSR, rechilus and bad news blogs for now :).

cmbc said...

after reading this, i too felt like iwas going to explode. Amazing. Keep it up!

you wrote that "There;s no way that a human is designed to balance these opposite poles"

i must add that Hashem always gives us challenges with our capability to overcome them in mind, therefore, we ARE capable of balancing these opposite poles.

Moshiach NOW!