Yesterday... My youngest child began first grade.
Like mothers the world over, I counted down the days till the onset of the new school year. I longed for the return of regular routine to my days, and the normalcy of a schedule in my life.
Any yet, dropping off my daughter on her first day, I had mixed feelings.
In that one moment of initiation that transformed her from a playing preschooler into a studious full day first grader, my days became more productive, but my afternoons became lonelier.
Yesterday... My oldest daughter began her school year, not as a student but as a teacher. That moment was transformative as she left her young toddler for the first time in the care of another. It reminded me of the heart-wrenching moments I had leaving her on my first days back at work after she was born many years ago.
It reminded me, too, of the moment when I held her arm and guided her to her own chupah. That moment too was tinged with such happiness and yet such longing.
Our lives are full of fresh new moments. Moments that necessarily propel us forward even while our hearts tug us to hold on to them just a little longer. All we can hope for is that the change that these moments bring – though they might pull at our heartstrings – are ones that we realize are necessary and positive for our own growth and betterment.
Then there are those transformative moments that bring only inexplicable pain and leave a trail of unfathomable, unanswerable questions.
Yesterday... I learned of a one such moment. A moment that leaves my heart frozen in a coldness that does not thaw.
Yesterday... in one unspeakable moment of change, six young children became orphans, bereft of the love and comfort of both a father and mother, who can no longer be at their side celebrating the momentous moments of their lives.
Yesterday... in one unspeakable moment of change, a nineteen-year-old, a carefree teenager, was forced to undertake a burden usually reserved for those decades older than her. Eulogizing her parents at their funeral in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack near Hebron, Rut Ames said her parting words to her parents:
"For 19 years you raised me... G‑d, thank You for giving me wonderful parents. Mother, I promise to look over our family, to keep doing the things that were important to you, and to keep the family together... I'll be there for the little ones, who will grow up with no mother or father."
Yesterday... In that same moment that destroyed the lives of these young children, a Zaka volunteer came to do the gruesome duty that he'd been called upon to do so many times before—a duty reserved for the greatest and most courageous who so avidly perform the mitzvah of giving proper honor to the departed.
But this time as this volunteer prepared himself for the horrific scene that awaited him, his life was shattered as he discovered that one of the victims was none other than his wife.
And ironically, yesterday too, in these moments of terrible transformation, while the tears of the orphaned and widowed still flowed, in another transformative moment, an award was presented by the Palestinian Authority to Umm Yusef, "mother of Yusef," for raising four sons who all murdered Israelis in terrorist attacks.
That's all it takes to change lives. To bring on natural growth and positive maturation. Or to bring on unspeakable horror and devastation. Or to change an ordinary teen into a huge hero.
My heart breaks for the victims of the Hebron terror attack. I don't begin to understand how tragedies like this can happen.
But at the same time, my mind tells me that the power of good is at least as powerful as the power of bad. If one moment can wreak such havoc, one moment must also somehow have the power to bring upon us at least as much transformative goodness.
The world must be viewed as if sitting on a scale, teaches Maimonides, a scale equally balanced by good and bad. In every moment, with our every act, we need to tip the scales.
As our year draws to a close and a fresh new year dawns, our world is desperate for more light and goodness.
The moments of our lives are quickly ticking. We can't control the outcome of many of these moments, nor can we hold them back.
But what we can do is ask ourselves, are we utilizing the huge power of our every moment to its utmost?