Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
In 1914 Thomas Edison’s factory in West Orange, New Jersey, was virtually destroyed by fire. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were insured for only $238,000 because they were made of concrete and were thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life work went up in smoke and flames that December night.
At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, searched frantically for his father. He finally found him, calmly watching the fire, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind.
“My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “He was 67 — no longer a young man — and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, ‘Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.’”
The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph.
(source: J. Clemmer, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success)
Hagar’s despair at the potential death of her son due to his thirst and her lost path in the desert is heart-rendering. Only at the final moment, when a Malach opens her eyes do her tears of worry turn to tears of joy. The Chasam Sofer notes that in a given moment, we cannot understand why God does that which he does. We need to know that he is there and running the show. This is God’s attribute of Hester Panim. This is why he told Moshe “V”Roeisa Es Achorai U’Panai Lo Yeirau”
As Hagar sat at the nadir of her existence, she wondered MeiAyin Yavo Ezree? The answer was simple, VaYiftach es Eineiha – open your eyes. As the Midrash explains, Rav Binyamin tells us that we are all blinded until God opens our eyes. The Sfas Emes quotes his grandfather the Chiddushei HaRim as noting that God didn’t have to create a new well to save Yishmael, the Be’er had been there forever. The saving of Hagar did not come about because of a new creation – it came as a result of a new reality – that Hagar realized that Hashem was already working with her to create positive outcomes from the situation.
Tough times at work, tough health predicaments, family challenges and chinuch dilemmas in a classroom or at home can all make us weary of finding any Minuchas HaNefesh. But, some of the greatest moments of triumph in life come as a result of the moments of greatest challenge. This is why the Chinese word for trauma is also the same word for opportunity. By opening our eyes and seeing the situations of life as those of opportunity and building instead of loss and despair, we can achieve tremendous success.
It all depends on how you choose to open your eyes and take a look.
What are some of the challenges that YOU face in life?
How might you open your eyes and see those challenges of in a new way?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.