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Booming Belief

I stared at baby Hendel in disbelief. How could this be accompanying her entry into the world?

I sat in the chair next to my hospital bed on Tuesday, cradling my newborn daughter Hendel in my arms, waiting for a nurse to bring us our discharge papers. My husband Chesky waited patiently next to me.

And then an air raid siren wailed through the corridors.

“Tzeva adom! Tzeva adom! Code red! Code red!” I heard people shouting.

It wasn’t a complete surprise; the night before, a security guard had come into my room to shutter the window “in case of rocket fire.” I’d heard some booms in the distance. But now we were in the line of fire.

We raced into the hallway, where the staff assured all those who had done the same that we could remain in our rooms — the entire maternity ward had been fortified against rockets.

I returned to my chair and held Hendel, staring into her eyes as explosions sounded overhead.

The quiet that followed only lasted for a few minutes. Then the intercom announced, “Azakah, Assuta Hospital, Ashdod! Azakah, Assuta Hospital, Ashdod,” telling us that the hospital itself was directly at the point of impact.

We didn’t move this time, and again we heard explosions.

I stared at baby Hendel in disbelief. How could this be accompanying her entry into the world?

And yet, at the same time, I was comforted by her presence. She’s named for my husband’s maternal grandmother, who’d passed away last year at 108 years of age. Her namesake was a true tzadeikes who went through the horrors of the Holocaust and remained a true ma’min baHashem, always immersed in tefillah until her dying day.

This little Hendel would keep my faith strong, would reinforce my conviction to turn to tefillah in any and all situations that come my way. And so I davened as I sat in that chair. Please, Hashem, stop the rockets. Let us get out of here and get home safely!

Back home that night, the house shook and the windows rattled with each explosion. Chesky and I somehow made it through that sleepless night of newborn crying, rocking, feeding… and booms.

With gan cancelled for the indefinite future, it was definitely not the first day at home with a new baby that I’d been anticipating. Adrenaline kept me going, as did the knowledge that my parents would be flying out of JFK soon to come visit us and share in the simchah.

I must have fallen asleep at around ten in the evening. When I woke up, it was 1:30 a.m. I was so relieved that I’d managed to get some solid shut-eye, I almost didn’t notice the chain of messages on the family WhatsApp chat — messages announcing that my parents’ flight had been cancelled because of the security situation.

I sat in the dark with Hendel in my arms, not really sure how to react. Should I sulk? Should I cry?

I looked at little Hendel again.

I’d heard a shiur last week from Rebbetzin Esther Baila Schwartz in which she’d stated that if you say “gam zu l’tovah” — even if you don’t feel it sincerely inside, even if it’s just pure lip service — then the difficult situation you’re encountering serves as a kapparah.

“Gam zu l’tovah, gam zu l’tovah, gam zu l’tovah,” I whispered into the dark.

And then another siren went off.

Chesky and I jumped out of bed, ran into the kids’ room, which is also the mamad, the safe room, and secured the door.

We waited for the booms, which didn’t take long to come. After a few minutes of quiet, we returned to our own beds.

I delicately placed a sleeping Hendel into her bassinet and lay back on my pillow.

Before I closed my eyes, I thought back to the exact date a year earlier — May 12, when we were “supposed to be” in Meron celebrating our son Dovy’s upsherin — a simchah we’d planned for months. Instead we found ourselves stuck in New York due to COVID, celebrating in a Cedarhurst apartment, with only my father in attendance, wearing a mask and gloves, and the rest of the family on Zoom.

Now a year later, chasdei Hashem, we had a new baby, a beautiful simchah, especially appreciated after a week of intense mourning over the Meron tragedy, and after a year of a pandemic. Yet once again, our family wasn’t able to share the occasion with us.

High points and low points all mixed into one. A mountain. A good place to be mekabel the ratzon Hashem.

“Gam zu l’tovah,” I whispered again. I’ll say it again and again, and hopefully my heart will hear the words and come to fully believe it.

The house shook, the windows rattled, but the booms seemed farther away.

I peeked into the crib to get a glimpse of a peacefully sleeping Hendel. And then I, too, fell peacefully asleep.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 744)

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