As told to Rabbi Lazer Brody
Last year in Uman, our good friend Jonathan Aminoff from Great Neck, New York told us the miraculous story of his daughter's drowning and subsequent revival. Let's pass the microphone to Jonathan:
Image right: Jonathan Aminoff and his daughter Gali, during her recovery at the hospital
A woman's head covering is the source of great holiness for the woman and all her family. As the Sages tell us (Shabbat 61a), "The head is king over all the limbs." Thus, metaphorically speaking, a "kosher" head covering causes holiness to permeate her entire being.
My daughter's amazing true story illustrates the power of tzniut, dressing modestly, specifically the mitzvah for a married woman to cover her hair.
I am Jonathan Aminoff, a Yid who lives in Great Neck, New York. I has volunteered with Hatzalah (Unit # Q100), the Jewish volunteer paramedic/first-responder service, in the New York area for more than 20 years now.
About two years ago on the 15th of Av (July 26, 2010), my family and I were vacationing in Miami, Florida. One afternoon, my wife Charlene and I were enjoying some of the tourist attractions which the area has to offer. We left our 2-year old daughter Avigail ("Gali") by the condominium pool with our family maid, who had joined us on the vacation to help take care of the children.
At about three in the afternoon, I told my wife that I wanted to go back to the condo to attend to some business matters. On our way back to their room, we walked past the pool. When we came to the pool, we saw an older man standing in the pool holding a small child. When the older man turned around, I was shocked to see that he was holding the limp body of our two-year-old Gali!
With Hashem's help and with my 20 years of Hatzalah veteran, I managed to keep my head on, so I sprang into action and began working on resuscitating my own daughter. My wife looked on with sheer terror as I worked desperately, trying to save the life our precious two-year-old. My heart pounded, "Gali, come back!"
In a moment of desperation, my wife Charlene called out to Hashem, making a neder (vow), that if our daughter would survive, then she would cover her hair as required by Jewish law.
After the agonizing few minutes - each one an eternity - during which I worked on my daughter, thank G-d she spit up water and began breathing on her own. Gali was quickly rushed to the hospital and later transferred to Miami Children's Hospital, where the doctors advised that she stay for 24 hours to make sure that everything was in working order. Understandably, many of the girl's "numbers" (such as oxygen and blood count) were "off," and the doctors wanted to be certain that Gali did not need further medical attention.
After the initial 24 hours, the Chief Doctor Dr. Keith Meyer advised us that amazingly, that Gali had not suffered any damage whatsoever. However, the doctor advised to keep her hospitalized for an additional 24 hours, just to make sure. Charlene asked the doctor why he recommended another 24 hours if their daughter was okay. The doctor then said that in all his years of practice, he had never seen such an amazing recovery in a drowning case, and it was hard for him to believe that the young girl was truly okay.
Dr. Meyer had requested to see the security-camera videotape from the pool area which showed Gali drowning; he couldn’t believe how she was under the water for so long and still survived with no injuries. The video time clock shows that she was under the water for exactly 3 minutes and 10 seconds!!!!
My wife Charlene asked Dr. Meyer if he was Jewish and if so, did he believe in miracles: the doctor answered both questions in the affirmative. Although he was totally “secular,” and he was a skeptical “scientific-minded” doctor by nature, he said that after seeing this case with Gali, he began to believe in miracles!
Later, the initial rescuer of the girl, a man by the name of Richard Marianski, related to me how it was a “coincidence” that he was in the pool at all at that time. Mr. Marianski said that he only comes to the condo 2 months out of the year. Furthermore, he had pulled a tendon and had therefore needed to exit the pool by the shallow end where Gali had fallen in; that was how he came to see Gali on the bottom of the pool.
The security camera later revealed how Gali had fallen into the pool. The maid and Gali had laid down to take a nap by the pool and Gali woke up, unbeknownst to the maid. Gali saw her bucket floating in the water and when reaching for it, she fell into the pool and sank right to the bottom. Miraculously, Mr. Marianski exited the pool in the shallow end soon after Gali fell in and he took the child out of the pool the moment that I happened to be walking by the pool. Thank G-d for my 20 years of Hatzlah experience!
I "spoke" to Hashem the whole time I was doing CPR on my daughter. I told Hashem that I had given 20 years to Hatzalah and now I was ready to "cash in" His "IOU" and that if Hashem allowed me to save my daughter, I'd give 20 more years to Hatzalah. Interestingly enough, this was the first time I had ever performed CPR on a child.
The story's not over yet: Six months after the drowning, we took Gali to an ENT doctor to remove her tonsils because of bad sleep apnea. I asked the ENT doctor if he was aware of the girl's past medical history, and then filled him in of all the details of Gali's fall into the pool, and her miraculous survival. The doctor took a look at the girl's tonsils and said that the tonsils were in such bad shape, that her breathing was very shallow, which helped her stay underwater for such a long time without breathing!
What Divine protection! Had we done the tonsil surgery on Gali earlier, as other doctors had urged us, Gali may not have survived the drowning.
Charlene kept her word and immediately began to cover her hair after Gali recovered. She went one step further and began marketing wigs and encouraged other women to cover their hair properly too. She even donates wigs to ladies who cannot afford them.
What do I learn from all this? Let's not wait for such wakeup calls before we do Hashem's mitzvoth. I look at my little daughter, and I pray for the health of all the little children wherever they are. Thank You, Hashem!
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