All my life I've been terrified of disaster. Earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, fires, storms and floods - if it made national news, I feared it would happen to me. It should be known that I also feared more rational things such as what was inside my closet or under my bed. There was a time as a child that I was even afraid of the shower. (My sorority sisters will tell you that this also occurred during sophomore year of college.) Watching psycho too many times will do that to you or the fact that in our sorority house showers - it was common to have cold water thrown into your shower. (OK, so it is possible I was the one who carried out such shenanigans...)
While being terrified of natural disasters may not be a healthiest way to live, it did cause me to lead a cautious life - a safe life. I refrained from using matches because I feared I'd get burned -so my parents bought me a torch to use for Shabbat candle lighting. Living in Indiana was helpful as it wasn't near a big body of water, did not rest on a fault line, and was such a benign place that if anyone wanted to wreak havoc on the United States - neither Fort Wayne nor Bloomington would be at the top of the list.
My first weeks of true adulthood and college independence were shaped by 9/11 which occurred in the first month of college, as well as the Iraq war and other troubling events throughout the world. I did have friends who lost loved ones in these events but my life was still generally untouched and safe.
Its not that I have led a provincial life - I've traveled many times to Israel and throughout East and West Europe, tanned in the Sinai Desert, skied for the first time in the Austrian Alps, witnessed gang violence at the Sacre Coeur in Paris, and grew up in a neighborhood were it wasn't a shock to have our car stolen. Life in DC had its bomb scares, too.
I took a big step in life this year. Because Jerusalem was built in the stone age, our stove does not have an automatic lighter so we have to light in manually. My roommate Marc humored me for the first few months and we owned a tiny torch light that we used for cooking. But unlike Hanukkah, this oil ran out. And instead of spending five dollars - I've been using matches ever since. The first time I did this - I immediately called my family. All were shocked. Wow - they thought - she's finally growing up. Even as the middle child, I've always been the baby in the family.
This morning however, I've decided to return to my torch days. No more matches for me.
Its awfully cold in Jerusalem and we use space heaters to keep ourselves warm. According to my landlord - they are all made in China (which is apparently a terrible thing) and should not be left on for too long. I was extra cold last night - but this morning truly made up for it. The sheets of my bed fell onto the space heater around 6:45 am and I awoke to flames on my down comforter. Somehow I got out of bed, grabbing my computer first, and ran to my roommate - who thought I was waking him for our Hebrew test.
Enter Super Hero Marc Katz - who singlehandedly and barefoot put out the fire which had spread to the entire mattress.
"Get out of here now!" No! We have to save the apartment!
Marc was quite concerned for Jerusalem of Mold. I was concerned for our computers, passports and health. He managed to get the flaming heater into the bathtub (I did help by turning on the water) and somehow threw the burning mattress onto the balcony, which luckily is made of stone and prevented the fire from spreading further or damaging the apartments of our neighbors.
Super Hero Katz put out the entire fire before the fire department even arrived.
I guess no matter how cautiously we live our lives, or how hard or how frequently we pray - sometimes things happen to us that we cannot prevent.
When we escape an event that could be life changing, we have the opportunity to say a really meaningful prayer - Birkat HaGomel
Blessed are You, King of the universe, Who bestows kindness upon the culpable for He has bestowed goodness to me.
My classmate Lyle opened a prayerbook to show me this prayer during class this morning. I read the prayer quietly and he responded with the conclusion to the prayer -
"Mi She-ga-mal-cha Tov, Hu Yig-mal-cha Kol Tuv Se-lah"
May the One who has bestowed beneficence upon you always bestow every beneficence upon you
Thank goodness the only casualties of today were my bed, the cable bill, and one of my new turquoise Saucony sneakers.
Thank goodness my teddy bear in an IU t-shirt survived.
Just remember folks - Stop, Drop, and Roll.