February 4, 2014

Spiritual Eyes

Tragedy has struck Jerusalem. What should have been a routine service visit became a disaster. Where once two little girls sang and danced lies silence and grief. Life turns its back in a chilling moment.

A young family of six had been plagued by moths in one particular room. They called their local fumigator, a veteran of thirty years. He decided to use a slow releasing poison to kill the moths. He set up the poison to do its work, sealed the room and left the house.

Unknown to all, there was a small leak in the seal. The poison, deadly and unscented, escaped without detection. It attacked everyone’s nervous system, creating symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Thinking they had food poisoning, they rushed to the hospital and were simply told to take a pain reliever. 

They then returned to a home where poison seeped; a brew as toxic as that used in the Syrian chemical weapons attack. By morning, a few children were unconscious and one little girl had stopped breathing.

Their two little daughters, Avigael, almost four, and Yael, 18 months, died. At the funeral, the stricken young father called out to G-d. 

“Hashem, you gave us Avigail, who was so good and so pure. She was always asking, ‘Is this a mitzvah?’ She was such a pure spirit, she loved to help. Yaeli just started talking, always saying, ‘Daddy, Mommy.’ She was so pure, so sweet. They were such good friends… Yesterday morning they were talking and happy, at night they were still dancing. Hashem came and took them in an instant, from one second to the next. We didn’t even have time to pray.”

“We have no questions. We don’t know the ways of Heaven, we don’t know why this happened to us. But if the Holy One, blessed is He, brought us this crisis, He will give us the strength to withstand it.”

“Avigail and Yael,” he told his deceased girls, “go before the throne of glory, you’re babies who never sinned, and ask for Divine mercy for your brothers.”

The girls’ older brothers, aged 7 and 5, remain in critical condition in the Schneider Children’s Hospital. As there is no antidote for this poison, the boys have been put under general anesthesia to give their organs a rest. The grieving parents sit at the boys’ bedside day and night, hoping and praying.

Israelis pray for the recovery of Chaim Michael and Rafael Itzhak, whose condition is dire. There was a special prayer at the Kotel and women were asked to light candles five minutes early last Shabbat.

How can one imagine the intensity of the parents’ and grandparents’ despair, having buried two tiny precious girls, hoping, praying, waiting for the recovery of these two young boys.

Yet here is a letter written by a friend and neighbor of the Gross family. I read this letter and felt so humbled by these incredible people. Because, in times of despair, we are inclined to point fingers and lay blame. After the incident, the fumigator was placed under house arrest. Yet the mother of these children pleads that we not speak badly about him.

The letter below and the words from the distraught father’s eulogy over his tiny baby girls show that this young couple lives and judges and speaks on a very high level; it is almost as if they operate in another, very holy sphere. 

If we could all view life, with its darkness, grief and injustice through their spiritual eyes, our world would be a different place.

My Neighbor, Michal Gross
by Rachel Batya Aviner, Jan 27, 2014

My husband and I moved to Jerusalem’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood while my husband was in his year of mourning following his mother’s death. And in accordance with Jewish law, my husband would recited kaddish and lead the community in prayer.

One day a really kind elderly man sought my husband out after davening shortly before Passover and inquired where he would be for the holiday. My husband, assuming the man was asking because my husband was a new immigrant to Israel, explained that he would be with his wife and children for the Chag. This kind man insisted that my husband and I and our children should join his family for a holiday meal–an act of such kindness that we couldn’t refuse it.

During the meal we discovered that the reason the elderly man had invited my husband was not because he was an immigrant but rather because his mother had passed away, and concerned that my husband no longer had a mother to invite him home for Passover, he invited my husband to join his own family so he wouldn’t feel sad on the Chag.

This elderly man and his wife continued to call us periodically to invite us to their home. Over the years, we have met a good number of their children and grandchildren, and truly feel so welcome and taken care of by this wonderful family. It is only very special people who have such einei chesed, eyes of kindness, that seek out others in order to make them feel welcomed and loved.

One of the daughters of this kind family is Michal Gross, the mother of the two beautiful girls who died this past week due to inhalation of a poisonous substance after an exterminator sprayed their apartment for bugs. Michal’s two older sons, ages 5 and 7, are in very critical condition in Petach Tikva right now.

As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

This past Saturday night, the women of our community organized an evening to pray for the immediate and complete recovery of the two Gross boys. The lady running the event had two messages and requests from Michal for us all:

1. We should all try to do a Kiddush Hashem in our own homes, through self-sacrifice for Torah, mitzvot, and good deeds,* for the merit of the refuah of her two boys.

2. We should not speak any lashon hara about the exterminator who had inadvertently poisoned her children; he is well known in our community and a man of learning and Torah. What happened, she explained, was Hashem’s decree and we should not speak lashon hara about this poor man who was just Hashem’s messenger.

Even in a time of such incredible pain and suffering, this family is still able to make a true kiddush Hashem and think of others in need.

Please pray for the sons of Michal and Shimon Gross: Chaim Michael Shlomo ben Michal and Rafael Yitzhak Isaac ben Michal who remain in critical condition as well as for their parents Shimon Ozer ben Tzipporah and Michal bat Rachel who are suffering through so much.
IY”H this incredible, righteous family should know no more suffering.
*How do we make a kiddush Hashem in our homes? Rabbi Dessler teaches that when we make what Hashem wants from us our top priority, even when it conflicts with what we want to do, and even when nobody will ever know about what we have done, that is the greatest possible form of Kiddush Hashem.

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