2 Shvat 5781 / Friday, January 15, 2021 | Torah Reading: Va'era
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A Life Wasted    

A Life Wasted

Our friend had taken a hostage in his house, and he was being held at gunpoint. The police were trying to get him to surrender. How could this be happening??


Back in Miami, my husband and I had a nice group of friends. We saw each other on Shabbat. We got together for playdates and barbeques. We had a nice life together. My husband and I happened to live in the same complex as one of our couple-friends. Of course, you know what that meant- practically every other night we were having dinner at each other’s homes, and nearly every afternoon the kids would play together, running from one house to the other- usually through the neighbors’ backyards. I was very close with the wife, and my husband was best friends with the husband. We were so close, she was my lifesaver during my first birth. We enjoyed each other’s life progress of having children, advancing at work, and so on. I was pregnant with my second child at the same time she was pregnant with her third. Our lives were very much intertwined.
However, there was much darkness brewing underneath the smiles. Ever the oblivious one, I didn’t catch on until my husband told me straight out that they were having problems. I was totally blindsided. Who could tell, by the way they were constantly joking around, going out, and having silly fights over nothing, like every couple does? She never told me anything. By the time I found out, it was a very rocky situation. Right after she gave birth to the third child, she began telling me that they were on the verge of divorce. My fairytale vision of our lives together was shattered. I looked over at the beautiful, innocent newborn, barely a week old, and my heart broke for him. I couldn’t understand why, with all of the blessings they were enjoying in their lives, they couldn’t try harder to make it work.
Pretty soon after, he moved out, and the battle quickly turned ugly. All of a sudden my husband and I, as well as our other friends, were caught in the middle of a never-ending round of nasty and horrific accusations. After a while, I realized that I didn’t have the slightest clue as to who my friends really were. Was there such a dark side to the husband as the wife accused him of? Eventually, he went off the deep end. I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden, he just wasn’t “there” anymore. His behavior changed, his face changed, his friends changed, everything about him changed. He became a dangerous person to be around. From then on, we kept our distance from him. Some other friends tried to maintain some type of relationship with him, but we could all eventually see that our friend was gone. He had checked out, but we didn’t know why.
The wife moved to a different part of town with the three kids, and the husband was out of the picture for a while. He eventually moved back to the neighborhood, and the energy surrounding that house was anything but positive. We couldn’t even say hello to him anymore. But the kids- those poor, innocent, beautiful children were stuck in the middle of this hell. With the wife accusing him of the worst deeds imaginable, and the husband accusing the wife of lying, we watched helplessly as the kids were ping-ponged back and forth between the two, sometimes with a court-appointed supervisor, and eventually without one. Who knows what really went on?
Last summer, things reached their breaking point. It was a few weeks before we were to make aliyah. I had just put the kids to bed and was about to go to sleep myself, exhausted from the packing and sick from the new pregnancy. At about 9 pm, we heard a frantic banging on the front door. My heart dropped into my stomach. My husband went downstairs, and I overheard the police through the pounding in my ears: “You have to get out of the house right now!” What? WHAT?!! We thought it was some kind of sick joke as we picked up the kids and carried them outside without shoes, and in their pajamas.
When we stepped outside, we saw our next door neighbors huddled together at the corner of the sidewalk, their two young girls crying. “What happened?!” I yelled, shaking as I held onto my little one. “Look!” they pointed to the street, and I nearly fainted from the sight. Ambulances, police cars, SWAT trucks, and other police-type vehicles I had never seen before, were parked haphazardly along the parking lot. Half the neighborhood was standing on the other side of the road. I saw police crouching near the front door of.....our friend’s house?! Was this really happening?? In a state of shock, we were walked over to the sidewalk across the street, while our children began asking questions, none of which we had the answer to.
It was a standoff- our friend had taken a hostage in his house, and he was being held at gunpoint. The police were trying to get him to surrender. How could this be happening?? This kind of stuff only happens on the news! After we could see that we weren’t going to be let back in for at least another few hours, we took refuge with a family member who lived nearby. Another friend of ours stuck around to see what would happen. My mind was racing with questions: How could he have gone off the deep end like that? Didn’t he care about his kids? Why did he have a gun? Were all those accusations about him true after all? But the most important question which still haunts me today was, “Could I have done more to help him?”
If we had known he was having problems before he jumped into the abyss, we could have given him a copy of The Garden of Emuna. We could have given him a CD, and maybe, just maybe, this would have pierced a small hole of light into his surrounding negativity. Maybe he wouldn’t have had such serious marital problems if he had read The Garden of Peace, and she had read Women’s Wisdom. He might have seen that all of the challenges Hashem was giving him were really there to help him grow. He might have used his emuna to strengthen himself against his evil inclination, and would not have ended up letting it destroy him and his family. He might not have rebelled and started doing drugs.
He might have ended up alive.
His hostage might have ended up alive.
A year later, I still painfully reflect on the wonderful, generous, sweet person that he was. But now I see that he was tormented, in pain, and helpless underneath his jokes and smiles. If only I had seen it then.... I can only hope and pray for his soul to find peace and will eventually be able to overcome his demons. Please, after reading this, light a candle on behalf of the soul of Yosef ben Sarah, and pray that he and others like him will be able to merit an eternity of peace.
If you know someone that could use a helping hand, please, don’t wait until the situation is irreparable. Give them a Garden of Emuna. Give them the CD, “Stop Crying”, or “Why Are You Sad?”. You could literally save their lives.

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