At least once a day, I damn my phone for all the ways it pretends to redeem me, all the ways in brings me into a different world bereft of the quality of in-person warmth, responsiveness, and intuitive dancing I need.
But not today.
Today, at this moment, the phone is a miracle straight from Gd’s hands as I scream,“Quick, call Hatzalah!”
My hands push aside the kitchen counter junk, and somehow find it, wrapping around my savior-phone. I punch in the name. It rings in tune with my anxious heart.
All day long, I’ve been cursing myself, willing myself to be in the moment, but now, I’m so fully present, if I wasn’t so frightened I would celebrate from finally riding the wave of life, so conscious and here.
A voice answers in the next beat; “Hello, Hatzalah.”
“My daughter,” my lips spill out. “She fell. A concussion.”
“Where are you?” he asks. “We’re coming.”
No more questions. I hang up, and a rush of sweet relief combines with my sea of terror. Help is on the way. Everything will be ok. My body relaxes for a moment before another surge of fear wells up. Everything will be ok.
Time moves quickly. The hard knock on the door, the fast turn of the doorknob. My door becomes our door; saving lives turns the personal communal. This is Gd’s door now.
I first learned about Hatzalah when my oldest had a febrile seizure at a year and a half. With the advice of an eavesdropping neighbor in the hallway, we phoned Hatzalah. I saw the beards through my fog of terror. Beard, help me, save my child.
I remember their voices as I looked around my living room; Jewish accents, scrambled words, caring tones.
After that, Hatzalah became a familiar rhythm in my unexpected turns of motherhood.
No matter the disaster, it’s the same every time. Their words, their bodies, and a spoonful of Moshiach on my lips.
There was the time my three year old put her hands straight into hot rice and screamed bloody murder and I just didn’t know what to do. How do you treat burns?
There was the time my five year old swallowed part of a lollipop whole and whimpered in a tiny voice that she felt it near her heart. Is that possible? Could it be serious?
The time my two year old bit off and (I’m pretty sure) swallowed a part of a plastic spoon. They came running each time, on Shabbos or weeknights, consoled without judging, listened to little hearts, applied treatments, and gave instructions if my child’s behavior got more severe.
There was also the many serious times in which ambulance rides were needed. The second febrile seizure. The half a dozen times my child suffered an asthma attack. The time she cut her hand from the ice machine so deeply they weren’t sure if she would have nerve damage. The car accident. The hospital ride in which I almost gave birth in the ambulance.
Every time, it happens, the same rhythm. The rush of terror. The search for the phone. The answer, the voice, “Where are you? We’re coming.” The knock, the doorknob, the face, the rush of sweet relief.
The sense of rising, for a moment, out of Golus, into a blissful place, where nothing bad can happen, where we are here for each other.
A day or so later, as the shock subsides, so does the gratitude, and I return to praying for a better world than the disgraced one that I see.
The world that I see has forgotten that it is through our collective minds, hearts, and bodies that we find redemption. The world I walk across no longer recalls what it means for us to be human, much less good humans.
It is what the angel of the womb taught us, yet I am stuck daily in the straits of spiritual Alzheimers, as I fumble in meditation to reach that seminal point of understanding. “That which is hateful to me, don’t do to others,” I muse as I meditate. “What is hateful to me? What am I here to do?” Seldom do I return to a place of conviction.
But there are small moments when I witness humanity in the act of remembrance.
When an accident occurs, halting my descent of daily amnesia, a man in a volunteer Hatzalah vest appears, the angel of my womb beside him, and for a second, I taste it: Moshiach on my lips.
True redemption, I am sure, will taste the same, but will also occur even in the day-to-day, non-urgent rhythm of our lives. When it comes, our bodies will feel cared for and sacred beyond moments of crisis and bittersweet unity.
Until that day, if you see them, on a blustery winter day, stalling their cars in an alleyway in order to run into a stranger’s home to help, take a good, long, deep breath. Its the scent of the urgent sanctification of our bodies to each other. It’s the lingering melody of the amniotic fluid from which we came. Breathe it all the way and tell your brain to store its scent.
It’s the smell of Moshiach.