22 Sivan 5779 / Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | Torah Reading: Korach
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Hashem sent thunder, flashed bolts of lightning and knocked down the NYC power grid to save one of His still-brainless daughters from getting involved with the wrong person…


I was having one of my pleasant conversations with G-d, bringing every proof we could think of that He really does love me to bits. I brought up the time I was 23; it was 8:37 p.m., July 13, 1977, during a brutal heat wave. In fact, it was during the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, though I didn’t know at the time. Anyway, I sat at a table on Amsterdam Avenue, drinking a beer and smoking a Salem menthol with an illiterate Baptist guy from South Carolina; I was still mad at G-d that I couldn’t be a rabbi.


I didn’t know at the time, but at exactly that moment G-d was kind of mad at me too and threw a lightning bolt onto a power substation by the Hudson River, tripping two circuit breakers. But as I said, I didn’t know; I listened to the Baptist guy’s story about his imaginary Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of West Indies in Trinidad. I knew it was bull but didn’t mind, since I was taking graduate courses in that field, and he was the only man I met who seemed impressed by it. Plus, he could dance. He also made the amazing straight-faced claim to have seen a ghost in Carolina push a man out the window.


Try to imagine how G-d felt. Here He had given me brains, an education, an apartment in the city, a job, and many other gifts, and here I was giving all my attention to this dumbbell. At 8:40 p.m., G-d threw a second lightning bolt, breaking two 345 kV transmission lines. At 8:45 p.m., Con Ed Electric tried to start up power by remote control, but no one was manning the station, so it failed.


At 8:55 p.m., the Southern Baptist guy paid for the beer and we set out for a walk. G-d threw another lightning bolt at a substation in Yonkers, making things worse without our paying a bit of attention.


In the whole city, nobody paid attention when at 9:19 p.m., G-d sunk some 345 kV conductors into a mysterious unknown object, causing an overload in the connections with Long Island, and the operators didn’t notice and kept on opening their tie to New York City. So, no way could Con Ed generate enough power in the city, and the three lines that fed the electric collapsed.


At 9:26 pm, I arrived with the guy at my apartment building on West 81st Street and the two of us squeezed into the tiny elevator.


Just after 9:27 p.m., almost exactly an hour after the first lightning strike, the biggest generator in New York City, strangely called “Big Allis”, or “Big Elise”, or “Big Alizah”, shut down and with it went all of New York City, including the elevator.  Here we were between the fourth and fifth floors, in pitch darkness, and the fan stopped working, and that fool lit a match.


One thing you should know about me is that I’m terrified to be closed inside without any air. Now this idiot lit a match, and his match was eating up all my air, so I thought that within moments I was going to die of suffocation in this box, paired up with a Baptist when I knew I should marry a Jewish guy and have children already.


So, I screamed, in hysterics, “put out that match!”


And he smacked me; that’s what they do in the movies when a woman gets hysterical.


Then I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to die within moments. My heart burst with regret for the way I had squandered my precious life and the pain I had caused my parents and G-d. How did this giant turnaround happen so quickly? Well, lightning goes with thunder, and the Talmud explains that thunder was created only to straighten the crookedness of the heart (Brachot 59a).


At that very moment, an angel appeared in a janitor’s get-up, forced the doors open with superhuman strength, and pulled us out.


How much damage I had done, though, and still don’t know how to fix it. In Crown Heights alone, 75 stores were looted in the space of five blocks, all because I had angered Hashem, and power was not fully restored until late the next day.


But as Rabbi Shalom Arush says (In Forest Fields, p. 96), “whenever a person cries out from the depths of his or her soul, then Hashem hears his voice. Such prayer is amazingly effective”. Try it and see!



* * *

Alizah Teitelbaum served as an actress, an editor’s assistant at Random House, and a columnist at the Jewish Times of Johannesburg. Her stories appeared in Hamodia, Ami, Mishpacha, The Voice of Lakewood, The Jewish Press, and other places. She edits fiction and poetry  for https://sassonmag.com/ and blogs at http://alizahteitelbaum.weebly.com/blog . Alizah lives in the Negev Desert. Write to her at eliseteitelbaum@gmail.com 

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