A close friend of my family asked about my background and how it influenced who I am today.
I suppose that I can’t be definitive about the influences of the past, but I can comment on what changed before the accident as opposed to now.
I spent many years immersed in mussar study (ethical teachings) while I was in yeshiva. As well, I worked hard on my rebbe’s shmuzin (ethical discourses).
All that I had thought I knew I quickly found out after the accident that I had no clue!
Now, I want to be absolutely clear that I really did know all about emunah and bitachon (faith and trust in Hashem). When it really counted however, I found myself at ground zero. I had to relearn that which I had taken for granted.
My fresh new book of choice became Chovos Halevovos (Duties of the Heart). Fortunately, I had placed sticky flags at places of interest in the book before the accident. The accident rendered my hands and fingers useless.
My life saving chapter became the chapter on bitachon (trusting in Hashem).
I suddenly came to the realization that I understood life on a whole deeper plane!
What I had thought was important, no longer mattered to me.
For example, while still in the ICU after the accident I came up with the motto, “walking is overrated”. In fact, a friend made me a T-shirt that said my motto.
I guess I’m saying that my past studies gave me a strong foundation with which to work, but I viewed life through a different lens.
Never before had I appreciated swallowing or taking a breath as I do now. When I regained the ability move my arms a bit, I discovered the tremendous blessing of movement. When I got sensation back, I realized the gift of feeling. This came in handy to know when an arm or a leg would get caught in a doorway. And this new sensitivity spilled over to things I had not lost.
Now I realized the blessing of sight and hearing as never before. I became super sensitized to the myriad of gifts that Hashem has gifted our bodies with. Now I can add eating and speaking. I suppose it’s time for a T-shirt that says, ” eating and speaking are overrated”.
In addition, my experience has reinforced the powerful truth that Hashem has endowed us with incredible inner strength to accomplish unbelievable feats when situation calls for it. We’re all familiar with stories where regular people went beyond their capabilities when in crisis mode. The explanation is that these super human abilities lay dormant within them until they detonated with terrific force when it was called for!
My Rebbe used to relate that when he was a young man he once told his father that he felt like a hypocrite when saying the Shema Prayer. The Shema says that we must be ready to give up our lives when the situation calls for it. My Rebbe sighed that he couldn’t honestly say those words. He was not ready to sacrifice his life for Hashem.
His father reassured him that true, he could not do so now, but when the time would come he would suddenly find the strength!
He explained to him that one is endowed with untapped strength. This unknown strength will rush to the surface when the motivation is great.
The trick is to live life with inspired motivation so that we can tap into our true strengths and abilities!