R eb Shalom was one of many folks I’d given my special prescription to over the past few years. It’s actually an exercise I learned from my rebbi, Rabbi Naftoly Bier of the Boston Kollel, and it had done a world of good for many of my patients. It’s called a “Gratefulness Diary,” and it was a major part of Reb Shalom’s treatment plan. It’s just a small notepad, but it can change a person’s entire worldview. The idea is every day to write down three good things you’re grateful for, as a means of staying positive and keeping things in perspective.

Having presented for a consultation a few months back with symptoms of “feeling down,” Reb Shalom wasn’t clinically depressed or suffering from any major mental illness. Sure, he’d had his hands full — things weren’t going his way work-wise after he’d been passed over for the position of mashgiach at his yeshivah, and his eldest daughter was having some complex marital distress. Still, there wasn’t any serious neurochemical imbalance at play that would qualify Reb Shalom as a psychiatric patient.

At first hesitant, Reb Shalom eventually heeded my recommendations to utilize daily cardiovascular exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as the cornerstones of his treatment plan.

“Are you sure I don’t need any medications, Dr. Freedman?” he asked, assuming the worst based on the black mood he couldn’t seem to shake.

“One can never be sure in this field, Reb Shalom,” I told him. “Medications can help some people with some of their problems some of the time, but even if you did need an antidepressant, you’d still need to do these other things to achieve a true recovery.”

And so we headed down the road of a non-pharmacologic treatment plan while also using Rabbi Bier’s special recipe for maintaining a positive outlook on life. With each successive week, Reb Shalom’s condition improved and his Gratefulness Diary grew to fill the small notebook.

“I’ll tell you, Dr. Freedman, I’m feeling better and I’m already starting the next notebook of my Gratefulness Diary,” he told me in the Monday morning meeting we’d arranged the week before Pesach.

“That’s fantastic, Reb Shalom!” I said. “What’s going to be the first thing in your new book?”

Reb Shalom suddenly turned serious. “Honestly, Dr. Freedman, it’s pretty simple: ‘I’m alive.’ You heard about the terrorist attack last night in the Old City?”

Actually, I hadn’t seen the day’s news yet. Reb Shalom filled me in on the details: There had been a stabbing in the Old City, and a 32-year-old father of four named Adiel Coleman Hy”d had been killed.

“Besoros tovos,” said Reb Shalom as he got up to leave. “I guess all we can do is to be grateful.”

Before my next appointment, I sat down to check the news, engulfed in a web of emotion as I read about the pure neshamah who had been brutally taken from This World. I read that he had a degree in special education and that he lived in a community north of Jerusalem called Kochav Hashachar.

Then I received a message from a neighbor in my own community: Did you hear that some terrorist-animal murdered the happy guy who delivered juice every Thursday?!

As it turned out, Adiel Coleman — who worked at an archaeological site in Ir David outside the Old City — had a side business delivering freshly squeezed juices to the community where we lived. He was known as a super-friendly fellow who was also the nephew of one of our town’s rabbanim.

The more I read, the more I was shaken. Here was a man not much younger than me, a father with children just like my own, who lived north of Jerusalem just like me, who davened at the Kosel and learned Torah in the Old City just like me. Here was a man who was killed al kiddush Hashem walking the same streets in Hashem’s Chosen City that I walk so many days each week on my way to learn morning seder.

All I could do was to cry. I cried for this poor Yid, for his wife and children, for his parents and for his friends. I cried for the state of the Jewish People that this kind of tragedy happens far too often, whether in Jewish settlements, major Israeli cities, or even in chutz l’Aretz. And then I cried out of gratefulness that I was still alive.

When I got home, I told my family about the murder, and my plans to visit the shivah tent in Kochav Hashachar. I brought letters for Adiel’s children that my own kids had written and an envelope stuffed with cash for his family.

As I drove down the long and winding road toward his yishuv in the Binyamin region of Samaria, I started to formulate some words to share with the family — thoughts about our mutual love of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, maybe some tie-ins to the parshah. After a 30-minute drive, I found myself at the gates of Kochav Hashachar — a well-tended settlement surrounded by Jewish agricultural projects including a number of stunning vineyards that glistened with morning dew as the sun rose and began to peek from behind a nearby mountainside.

I followed the handwritten signs to find a number of men and women in the shivah tent pitched outside of the Colemans’ house. Someone pointed me in the direction of Adiel’s father, a rav who was sitting on a small mourner’s chair surrounded by family and friends. I walked over silently and stood to the side. After a few moments, he looked in my direction and asked me who I was and how I knew his son.

The eloquent words I’d prepared on the drive over were no longer relevant. Instead, I just cried along with the family, handing Adiel’s father the letters my children had written for his grandkids, plus an envelope that contained the maaser from my work with Reb Shalom and some coins my children had collected.

“You were a good friend of my son?” he asked me.

I shook my head and finally mustered up the ability to speak. “I’m just a fellow Jew,” I said. “But I’m also a father like your son. I also live north of Jerusalem like your son. I also learn in the Old City like your son and walk daily right where he was walking when he was killed. I’m so sorry. I can only imagine he was a great man.”

“He was. Thank you for your chesed.”

“HaMakom yenachem etchem…” I said, and wished the family my best.

I walked to my car and drove back home. I was horrified about what had happened to Adiel Coleman and to his family. My sadness was overwhelming, until I was comforted by tuning into the knowledge that Hashem has a Great Plan and that Adiel Coleman was surely in Gan Eden with other tzaddikim who also were taken al kiddush Hashem. And when I returned home and parked my car in my driveway, I took out my own Gratefulness Diary and wrote something down. Like my patient Reb Shalom, I was grateful to be alive.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 706. Jacob L. Freedman is a psychiatrist and business consultant based in Israel. When he’s not busy with his patients, Dr. Freedman can be found learning Torah in The Old City or hiking the hills outside of Jerusalem. Dr. Freedman can be reached most easily through his website www.drjacoblfreedman.com.