Recently I learned the real value of life--my own.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, I was in a major car accident. My Nissan Altima was severely damaged but I walked away unscathed. Not even a scratch in my body. I guess it was not my day to go. Or, as someone said to me, it was in fact my day to survive.
This is what happened: That afternoon, after teaching my regular class at Boston College, I heard that there was a lot of traffic on Mass Pike (Boston) going West. So I decided to take another route. At the intersections of Rt. 30 and 95, I waited for the green arrow, and carefully made a left turn onto a ramp leading to 95 South. Half way through, a car materialized from nowhere driving East at full speed, and struck my car with a loud noise. I spun around and began to go backwards until I ended up in an embankment (See picture of car above).
I did not know what had hit me, but quickly realized that I had been in a major accident. I expected the worst. When the car stopped, I immediately checked myself and found that I was not hurt. I slowly emerged from my car, surveyed the damaged and ran to see if the other driver was OK. He was. The front of his car was torn apart, but the rest of his car was intact.
Even though I was not physically hurt, I was an emotional wreck. After my car was towed to a body shop nearby, my wife came to pick me up at the Weston police station. The first few nights I could hardly sleep. I kept reviewing in my mind what had happened, and eventually came to the realization that I had survived an ordeal, the first of its kind for me.
The fleeting state of human life is hinted at in the Bible: “My days fly swifter than a runner” (Job 9: 25). Similarly, the Talmud (BT Ber. 28b) points to the sobering reality that often “human beings are here today, but gone tomorrow” (lit. in the grave). That is, one moment you are breathing and moving, and, in an instant, the flame of your life can be extinguished forever. I was fortunate that this did not happen to me on Sept. 11.
What is the lesson? As the psalmists teaches us, “Teach us to count our days” (Ps. 90:12). Life is a gift and we need to be grateful for every moment of our daily existence.
Rabbi Rifat Sonsino, Ph.D.
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