April 2, 2020

My Hit-and-Run Could Save Your Life

Photo by Pexels

Last spring, as I was walking alone to a Shabbat dinner in Pico-Robertson, no car was in sight when I stepped off the curb at Livonia Avenue and Pickford Street.

Then suddenly, there was.

In an instant, a driver of an SUV ran the stop sign and made a hard left turn. I remember putting up my hand to signal the driver to stop and the blinding light of its headlights shining through my fingers. I remember thinking, “I’m going to get hit.” And I did.

The SUV sped off.

The police said I was thrown 30 feet and left, gushing blood, in the street. The paramedics weren’t sure I would live.

The way I landed was miraculous. While the impacts of the collision broke, fractured or bruised nearly every part of me, my head didn’t hit the ground.

Today, I look as if no such thing ever happened. I’ve had a near-full recovery, except for what the incident left behind: the trauma of post-traumatic stress disorder.

On Yom Kippur we beg for life, fasting and praying to be sealed for another year. But do we engage in simple safeguards to treasure and protect the life we’ve been blessed with? 

 In the busy Pico-Robertson neighborhood, we act as if we’re in Mea She’arim, Jerusalem, where cars are prohibited on Shabbat. We have an abundance of speeding cars, and yet, on any Shabbat or Yom Tov evening, you see people walking down the middle of the street — families are pushing baby carriages, men in dark suits are strolling, and teenagers are goofing around.

When I asked a man why he was so engaged, he said he liked unwinding from the week and feeling the kedushah (holiness) in this way. A lovely thought, but our neighborhood is not a pastoral place, where humans are supreme over cars for even one day a week.

As the survivor of a horrific act, I have four essential lessons I’ve learned and want to pass on:

1. Do not walk in the street. You think you can be seen. You can’t. You think a car can stop fast enough to avoid hitting you. It can’t. You think you can get out of the way of a car fast enough. You can’t. You think this can’t happen to you. It can.

2. Wear reflective gear. We need to literally light ourselves up when we walk from shul in the dark. Since my injury, I’ve passed out hundreds of reflective vests from the 99 Cent Only Store. The recipient puts it on, thanks me profusely, and then never wears it again. Even my close friends who saw me near death think they have no need for such inexpensive, life-saving protection. But we all do. Purchase something reflective and wear it.

3. Memorize a critical emergency number. We used to know important phone numbers by heart, but our cellphones have made that unnecessary. While I was flat on the asphalt, going in and out of consciousness, thinking I would die from a broken rib puncturing my lungs before the paramedics could arrive, I screamed out my son’s phone number.

4. Immediately raise the uninsured/underinsured-motorist rider on your car insurance to the maximum. Los Angeles has more than 500 hit-and-run crashes a week and countless collisions where the drivers don’t flee. Most drivers carry the minimum insurance, which covers virtually nothing. Protect yourself financially.

We say the Shema before we go to sleep, in times of danger and before we die. On that first night at the hospital, I said to God again and again, with every ounce of conviction I could muster, “I’m not saying the Shema. I’m not leaving my children today. I am not dying today. I am not saying the Shema!”

It was my way to fight for my life.

And so, I ask: If God continues to bless you with more delicious, sacred, holy life, will you fight for your life, the lives of your family, and community?

I would like to be the last person injured by a driver in Pico-Robertson. Let’s all do the simple things that prove we choose life.

$25,000 Reward for Hit And Run The LAPD posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the driver. We believe the car is a grey/silver Honda CRV SUV 20017/18. For more information and to be of assistance go to   www.hitandrun90035.com

Sherri Ziff is a life coach, writer and motivational speaker.

From Terrified to Blessed: Skydiving for my Birthday

As the Winter Olympics begin, I think about the athletes and their great feats of physical strength and commitment to daily preparation to achieve their goals.  For my 50th birthday, I overcame 50 challenges that were new or adventurous and I was scared the whole time. The most amazing thing to me is that I kept saying yes. I never gave up. If I could call myself one year ago and explain everything that was going to happen, I would never have believed it. I was much more courageous than I imagined was possible.

Watch Lisa Niver on KTLA TVFor my birthday, I did something I have always said I would never attempt. I went sky diving. While I was very nervous and excited, I was also prepared for the challenge by my choices all year.

The day before my jump, I read Rabbi Naomi Levy’s book, “Einstein and the Rabbi,” while sitting on the balcony of my perfect room at The Pantai Inn in La Jolla. I strolled on the beach, watched the seals and sea lions playing in the water and then would return and read more.

Video: Sky Diving with GoJump Oceanside

Once in Oceanside at GoJump, it was necessary to patiently wait for  two hours until the clouds cleared. I nearly had too much time to contemplate Levy’s book, my life and if I really wanted to take part in this birthday gift to myself.

When Levy wrote, “Your soul wants to teach you about your strength. It wants you to believe in your abilities and your gifts. It wants you to lift up your head with pride and claim your birthright: the life that is yours to experience. Your soul wants you to follow it through times of darkness, through the fog and confusion.

I was not sure she meant jumping out of a plane but that was where my path had brought me and it was what was going to happen next.

In the plane, I sang to myself: Kol Haolam Kulo

The song means: “All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the thing is not to be afraid.” I knew in my heart that this is the life I want to live. I do not want to be fearful of so many things. I want to risk and make my dreams come true.

Levy writes:

Your soul will lead you to heights and to loves and to kindness.”

and “Everything has led you to where you are right at this very moment.”

I chose to believe I would live through this scary experience and I imagined I might even love it. If I let fear win and I never try, my life will be smaller. I want to grow and learn to approach new experiences with excitement instead of terror.

Levy says that “The soul wants you to be uncomfortable enough to strive for more, to grow and to learn and to see what needs fixing in this beautiful and broken world. Living with soul can keep you up at night. You suddenly start seeing the humanity in the eyes of strangers you were ignoring.”

Happy Birthday Sky Diving! I DID IT

I wonder where my journey will lead. Sometimes I am not sure that it is the right path but I feel better after reading about following the path of my soul.

The soul’s journey is never linear. It requires patience and perseverance. Just when you’re ready to give up, a door opens and you are granted the opportunity to step inside if you wish. You are invited to explore new realms that were previously locked to you. Were those turns you took back there wrong turns? Were those dead ends you reached worthless? Or were they all part of the “whole”?

I said the Shehecheyanu in the plane. It is a Jewish blessing for the first time we encounter something new or arrive in a new place or for me a new state of being. I was strapped to another human being with five points of connection and I am trusting him to guide us with his parachute safely back to earth.

Levy says we must learn to take soulfie’s instead of selfies! 

If we can learn to take a soulfie, it may very well transform our lives. By making a decision to access and follow our souls, we begin a journey. It is a winding journey full of bumps and pits, stops and starts. Sometimes the road becomes flat and we can cover great distances. Sometimes we will get stuck in one place for what may seem like an eternity before we are ready to continue forward. Yes, there are times when we will get lost, when we won’t know what to do or which way to turn and it’s frightening and frustrating and we wish it could all just be easier. With soul it can get easier.

For a year, I have been following this path of fear and with each challenge I accomplish, my ability to handle fear is better. The hardest thing I did was take a mountain biking lesson at Northstar California Resort. I went down the mountain on a blue intermediate run on my first day and while at one point, I did cry, I never gave up and it was a great feeling of accomplishment. I thought about mountain biking a lot while waiting for my turn in the plane. I kept telling myself I can do it. I did that and I can do this. I want to do it.

Levy continues: “Life’s paths are anything but straight. And yet those winding paths, as frustrating as they may be, can lead us to a life of meaning and blessings. I pray you will choose to follow your soul on its journey.

I am following this path and I wonder what will happen next. I worry about parachutes not opening, bad landings and other horror stories but mainly I sing to myself and say the Sh’ma. “Hear O’Israel the Lord is our God, Our God is One.”

Sky Diving is amazing!I believe that I am being lead. I have made it here and my job for this day for sky diving is to remain as calm as possible and enjoy this incredible opportunity.

As Levy says: “It isn’t easy to make the journey from narrowness to a vast expanse. But we all want to wake up from our sleepwalking. We all want to topple the barriers that are standing in the way of a full life.” I do know I want a full life and by testing my limits and not letting fear win that is what I am getting. I am sure there will be more tests, challenges and scary ideas to conquer. I did jump out of a plane and fly like a bird and I will be able to overcome what comes next.

Within you are powers that you haven’t even begun to tap into. There’s a purpose to your life. A high purpose…You can lift yourself up. And as you lift yourself up, you will lift others up too. May you live to turn your curses into blessings, your fear into strength, your greatest block into your greatest opening. Amen

VideoDo you Love Strolling by the Sea With Seals?

Lisa Niver thanks GoJump Oceanside and the Pantai Inn for hosting her for her 50th birthday.

What will you do to celebrate for your next birthday?

Behind the Kvetch

A guy gets a Labrador and he can’t wait to show him off to his neighbor. So when the neighbor comes over, the guy calls the dog into the house, bragging about how smart the little guy is. The dog quickly comes running and stands looking up at his master, tail wagging furiously, mouth open in classic Lab-smile position, eyes bright with anticipation. The guy points to the newspaper on the couch and commands: “fetch!”

Immediately, the dog sits down, the tail wagging stops, the doggie-smile disappears; he hangs his head, looks balefully up at his master and says in a whiny voice, “Oh! My tail hurts from wagging so much. And that dog food you’re feeding me tastes absolutely terrible. And it’s so hot in here. And you’re not giving me any treats. And I can’t remember the last time you took me out for a walk….”

The neighbor’s jaw drops.

“Ah,” the dog owner explains, “he’s a little hard of hearing. He thought I said ‘kvetch!'”

Jews have a reputation for kvetching. It’s a type of catharsis for many of us — a release valve built into a gene pool that has weathered the worst of the human condition. Many people think that this only indicates that many Jews are pessimistic doomsayers, and that we’re just waiting for the next pogrom to surface. This, they say, proves that Jews tend to see the cup not half-full, but half-empty. I say otherwise.

Our Torah portion this week spends just 11 verses on all the blessings that will befall our people if we follow God’s mitzvot. The bulk of the portion, however, graphically details all of the terrible retribution that will befall us if we fail to hearken unto the Lord. Why is this? Shouldn’t God be keeping up with modern psychology that tells us to accentuate the positive? Why isn’t God offering us more positive incentive, instead of terrifying us with all the calamities that will befall us if we don’t listen?

The simple explanation is that, despite conventional wisdom, negative incentive is far more effective than positive incentive. If I want to make sure my little 4-year-old won’t run into the street, I stand a better chance of success by threatening her with a serious penalty than if I promise to buy her a toy for staying on the sidewalk. When it comes to the really important, life-and-death issues — gloom and doom works.

Because God realizes how vital the Torah is to our lives, he uses scare tactics more than rosy guarantees. God, more than anyone, knows that our flawed, human nature is most influenced by negative incentives.

But I think there’s another reason why there are so many more curses than blessings in the Torah. Consider all the blessings that we already have: our health, our families, food on the table, a roof over our heads, all the things we tend to take for granted. God comes into the picture and says: If you listen to me, not only will I let you keep everything you already have, I will increase the blessings in your life from an 80 to 100. But, if you don’t listen to me, here’s a list of all the things that you already enjoy that I will now take away from you, and you’ll go from an 80 to a zero.

It’s thus no surprise that the list of things we stand to lose is much longer that the list of things we stand to gain, for the simple reason that our list is already so long. We’ve just forgotten how rich our lives already are. The list of curses in the Torah is only there to remind us how blessed we are, and how much we stand to lose if we don’t appreciate the Giver of those gifts.

Maybe the Jewish stereotype of kvetching stems from the Torah’s emphasis on the negatives in life. But that emphasis is only there to remind us how rich our lives already are. Kvetching is good if, after a good whining session, we then finish off by saying, “But, kenahora, I still have my health,” or, “I still have my spouse,” or, “I still have my family,” or, “I still have my _____.” Putting life into this perspective allows us to sit back and enjoy the overlooked blessings of life.

May we be blessed to recognize what we’ve already been blessed with, and enjoy those blessings everyday.

Rabbi Daniel N. Korobkin is spiritual leader of Kehillat Yavneh.