January 21, 2019

Pick your redemption

There’s something about being Jewish that makes you think big. Jews can easily schmooze about global stuff — the bigger the better. We’re here for all of humanity.

We want to save the planet, whether from global evil or global warming. When we talk about our own problems, we also lean to the dramatic; we’re constantly at a crossroads, fearing for our survival, talking about “the future of the Jewish people.”

Maybe it has to do with our big bang beginnings, when we all had front row seats to God’s revelations. We were born in drama, we grew up in drama and we shall forever live in drama.

So it was business as usual the other night when a historian from Aish Hatorah gave a lecture at my place called, “The Edge of History.” Talk about big. It seemed like every few minutes we heard the words prophecy, redemption or revelation. The speaker, Rabbi Ken Spiro, was using a slick PowerPoint presentation to impress on us that the era of global redemption was at hand, and there is no time to waste to return to God.

The rabbi was no fool. He was prepared for a skeptical audience, so he went through many of the biblical prophecies – the Jews will be small, they’ll be hated by the world, they’ll survive, an enemy will have a “weapon of mass destruction,” etc. — to make the point that if those prophecies came true, why can’t others?

He was especially interested in the prophecy that all Jews will return to God. According to the biblical and rabbinical sources Spiro quoted, this teshuva, or return, is critical if we want to survive as a people and fulfill our role as the redeemers of humanity.

In truth, it was a compelling presentation. When he was done, there was a sense that we had witnessed something incredibly important. It couldn’t get any bigger — the future of the world and the Jews’ vital role in shaping it. When your mind is consumed with whether you have a snack ready for the kids tomorrow, it feels oddly relaxing to talk about the end of the world.

But while we were highly impressed, even awed, I didn’t get a sense that anyone was personally moved. Some of us might have been swept away in the moment, but that seemed to blow over once the shmoozing started.

Of course, it didn’t help that something was still lingering in my mind — like a little barbecue party.

You see, by a strange quirk of timing, a few hours earlier, my teenage daughter and her friends from Yula High School hosted a little barbecue for a couple of Jewish girls visiting from Israel.

It was a casual affair. Everybody just hung out and had a good time. The visiting girls had just come back from a day of shopping. A day earlier, they were at Disneyland, and they were now looking forward to Universal Studios. One of the girls, Adi, asked for my mother’s hummus recipe. The other, Racheli, was saying how much she’d love to live in Los Angeles. They both asked about movie stars.

There was, however, one thing about the girls that was not typical. About six years ago, on a warm Saturday night in Jerusalem, Adi and Racheli went out for ice cream with friends and soon found themselves next to a terrorist blowing himself up.

Racheli had only minor injuries, because right before the bomb exploded, she’d left Adi to say goodbye to a friend several yards away. The bomber was a yard and a half from Adi. All 10 people around her were killed. About 100 nails coated with rat poison exploded into her legs, and a main artery was severed.

When Adi talks about it now, with her sweet voice matching her sweet, olive-skinned face, she is remarkably calm and factual. She talks about “maybe 30” operations on her legs and another one coming up. She tells me in detail about the night she was rushed to the hospital — how the enormous amount of blood pumped into her body was coming out of “the hundred holes in her leg”; how at one point they had to stop operating because her body couldn’t take the trauma, and how an experimental coagulant drug, Novo 7, saved her life.

She also remembers that in the beginning of her recovery, one of the few things she could eat was ice cream, her favorite.

She was especially happy when I met her, because she has finally begun to walk without the help of a walker or cane. Clearly, she was also happy to be in Los Angeles, a place she always dreamed of visiting. In fact, when I told her I might write about her story, she asked me to please mention the organization that helped arrange her L.A. visit — Kids for Kids, an organization that connects young terror victims with fellow Jews around the world.

In the spiritual realm, they tell you there are no coincidences — everything that happens to us holds a divine message. What could be the message in this unusual sequence of events: a little barbecue party for two young girls who were caught in a Jerusalem bombing, followed by a masterful presentation on the final days of global redemption?

If you ask me, maybe the message is that there’s more than one way to find God and bring about redemption. One way is to think big, go right to God and commit to obeying his commandments.

The other is to think small, and on your way to finding God to see if you can find any Jews who have trouble walking — and who might be in the mood for a little ice cream.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.