Esther Feinstein
Esther Feinstein

Running Away Like a Family of Mice

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Hashem is always watching you even in the middle of the night.

A car came out of nowhere

Finally, we were finished with our yom tov meal. It was only 1:00 in the morning, but it felt like dawn. The kids were joking and laughing as quietly as I could keep them on our slow walk home. As soon as I came to cross the street, a car came out from nowhere. It was speeding and dancing and definitely caught our attention. 

I quickly pushed my kids to hurry and cross because out of the corner of my eye the car made a U-turn and stopped right in front of our Chabad house. My husband froze and watched wondering what was the car going to do at 1:00 in the morning?

I tried to get my kids to hurry, worried with everything going on in the world that perhaps it is an anti-Semitic attack. We were helpless like sitting ducks! 

Why are the kids just waiting on the corner? The car was moving again and kept making U-turns until it was closer and closer to us. It was alternating between us and the Chabad house. My kids–my life– refused to hear me and stayed glued to their rabbi and father.

Then this dance took place, a dance of loyalty, a dance of students protecting their teacher, a dance of mice. My husband’s arms were thrown behind him circling his sons, preventing what may come swinging and trying desperately to keep them safe. My husband took one step backward, and each one of my boys did the same, step after step after step, but he soon stopped as they did . However the trouble in front of us still bubbled over like a boiling pot of hot water never to be appeased.

The team slowly starting breaking into groups

“Mommy, are we going to die? Is the car mad at us? Why is he trying to hurt us?”my little eight-year-old said.

I couldn’t respond trying to hurry the kids, but my husband wouldn’t move from the curb, and my children wouldn’t leave him. My thoughts wandered to the story I read about the programs and how tragic it was when some of the family was separated or worse killed. I tried to push these very unhelpful thoughts away and went back and approached my husband. 

“We need to move all together because the driver keeps circling recklessly around the block and coming closer. If you stay here as a distraction the boys won’t come. I wish you would walk with us but understand that the family has a chance to be safe if you remain on the curb.” I started feeling very worried and sorry that we were stuck in a terrible situation with what might be a bad outcome, but still of all times I needed to keep my respect and peace in the home.

He immediately motioned for his boys to follow me, and like little mice petrified they followed me slowly–afraid of the mean angry cat.  After a few steps, I called my pre-bar mitzvah boy to me, and as I did I felt that I betrayed him but knew it was the only way. 

Such a good son, he always comes immediately, and I told him what I hoped it would not come to. “Please stay with your father: I don’t know if the driver has a gun or if he’s drunk, but I would feel better and all your brothers will too if you stayed behind with him.”

I winced as I threw these words out, but as soon as he stood next to my husband, the boys quickly and more hurriedly started to follow me.

The excitement was too much for my ten-year old, and he thought it was like cops and robbers and wanted to know if he could buy a gun. He made his hands into fake guns and pretended to shoot in the air. Staring at him and realizing that I must not get distracted or try to waste time, his moment of attention had to be ignored. 

Instead, I refocused my attention on my oldest son, and I quickly told my bar mitzvah boy to walk up ahead with as many boys as possible. So at least the long two blocks to our house will bring them home, and we can try to get the rest of the group home safe as well.

The driver was out of control

My eight-year-old and seven- year -old started crossing the street; then in the middle of the road the driver swerved and barely missed them. It was then that I really began to wonder If this was our last night on earth together. 

My two boys, almost twins, were ten feet from our front door but were confused when the car sped up to the crossing, mere feet away from us. I heard them screaming in unison, “Mommy, are you going to be okay? I’m so scared!” 

I looked at them not wanting to frighten them, whispering quietly but enough for them to hear, “Go home now!”

I felt relieved seeing that they seemed to be listening , but they changed their minds and refused to go inside unless they knew Mommy and everyone was safe. They skipped up and down the block on the other side, and it was then I heard more screaming and crying. 

I turned my eyes to see that the car was inching closer and having abrupt stops as he was coming closer towards me.

My oldest son grabbed my five year old before he became roadkill. It seemed they were trying to cross, but the car beat them to it. I quickly caught up to them, and my five-year-old was sobbing and told me his yarmulke fell, a symbol of the Jewish person he was trained from the age of three to wear constantly. 

I felt horrible, but it was like a frog was in my throat, the wild car inches from us. My bar mitzvah boy quickly lunged to the ground to grab the yarmulka and pulled himself back, but what his hand revealed was merely a lonely stone. Yarmulke or not, we started to walk a little further down the block. We purposely missed our crossover and continued slowly walking with my little son still sobbing about his special yarmulka. 

My husband, trying to be the bate of a hungry cat, ran to put himself between me and the children. My head was racing, stuck in a nightmare, and nowhere to go. It was that moment that I thought, “What if this was our last moments here together? What if there were no survivors? Was this Shavuot night going to be the story of Chanah and her seven sons?”

My heart felt like crying. What would my mother-in-law think? Her only child and his family –gone forever. What would our community say? Years and years of our dedication and community building, all of it to be gone by one drunk driver, or worse an anti-Semitic person?”

My husband bravely motioned for him to lower the window, and  he asked the reckless driver, “Is everything OK? Do you need something from us?”

The driver, apparently caught off guard, was a complete mess, a bit rambling incoherently and said “ no” and then waited for us to cross the street. I was worried he might ram his car into us, but still crossed anyway with all my little ones on my skirt and my older ones huddled with their father. 

The driver, still watching us, finally decided to crazily speed away. We all quickly went home and locked our door, knowing that tonight we were saved, and G-d’s kindness smiled down upon us. 

About thirty minutes later the family finally calmed down and fell asleep. I slid down the stairs, and as I entered the dining room, I noticed my husband peeking his head outside the door. 

“What are you looking for?” I said curiously and noticeably feeling still shaken.

“I wanted to make sure he wasn’t still around the Chabad house or near our house,” my husband said, visibly worried.

Suddenly there were so many things that I wanted to celebrate with life. The silly little worries just didn’t nag at me right now, and it felt clearer the importance of making each day count.

About the Author
Born in New York state into a family on Shlichus, Esther was formally trained in Chabad institutions in America and Canada as an educator and community leader with the lifelong goal of helping an under-served Jewish populace. She and her husband, along with their children, have been serving the local community, as well as the Northeast Wisconsin region, for over a decade, providing for any and all needs of everyone's personal journey with G-d.
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