I woke up this morning to a sun that was shining brightly and a sky that was a deep shade of blue.

I looked out my window to see trees standing proudly, their leaves swaying ever so softly on this gorgeous spring day. The grass was a lush green, and the birds were chirping faintly in the distance.

The bills on my desk were waiting to be paid. My work was waiting to be addressed. My voice messages were waiting to be returned.

It was another regular day to tackle. Or was it?

Just yesterday, my cousin’s daughter, Chaya Mushka Spalter, passed away. She was 11 years old—the same age as my own youngest daughter (may she live long). Living miles away on the West Coast, far from us, I didn’t know her or see her often. And now she was gone, taken to her final resting place in the Holy Land, next to her beloved grandmother, who tragically passed away a few years ago.

For almost three years, Chaya Mushka had been bravely fighting a pediatric cancer. She succumbed as a prayer rally for children was being held in her merit, begging G‑d to have mercy and grant her life.

So is it normal that the sun should still be shining, that the trees should still be bristling in the wind? Does it make sense that after such a tragic death—and lately, we seem to be no stranger to these crazy happenings—that life goes on? More than that, does it make sense that a beautiful 11-year-old who has her whole life ahead of her should be fighting such a terrible illness? And ultimately succumbing to death?!

The Talmud says: Bishvili nivrah ha’olam—“The world was created for me.”

For me. For you. For her. For each of us.

And so, when little Chaya Mushka is gone, a little part of the world is gone. Forever.

How in the world can the trees still be standing and the sun still shining just as brightly as yesterday? How can the birds continue to chirp happily in the sky?

These are questions for which there aren’t any answers; the human mind simply cannot comprehend. As Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and even more telling, a Holocaust survivor, famously said: “Belief in G‑d is unconditional or it is not belief at all. ... There is no point in bargaining with G‑d, say by arguing: ‘Up to six thousand or even one million victims in the Holocaust I maintain my belief in Thee; but from one million upward nothing can be done any longer, and I am sorry but I must renounce my belief in Thee ... .’ ”

And yet, we need to go on living. We need to go on searching for cures to deadly childhood illnesses. We need to go on searching for answers to questions of faith that we may never grasp. And most importantly, we need to go on searching to make our world better. To organize rallies of prayers for those in need and to take on good deeds in their merit—like the many, many that were done in Chaya Mushka’s.

Photo credit: Mushka Lightstone
Photo credit: Mushka Lightstone

And yet, I also believe that if the world, in Hebrew olam, was created for her, as the Talmud tells us, then with her death, some of that olam has died.

The Hebrew for olam is etymologically related to the word he’elem, which means “concealment.” Our world, as we presently know it, is a world of he’elem, concealment where its G‑dly nature is hidden. It is this concealment that allows for evil, and also for tragedy and death.

And that’s why the world was created for each and every one of us—for each of us to do our part to reveal its true purpose and G‑dly essence.

So, although I do not comprehend, I do believe.

I do believe that with this tragic death of my sweet young cousin, there has been the shattering death of a world. I do believe that the he’elem—the thick, horrible, tragic layer of concealment of our world—has been ripped apart to allow for an opening of the radiance of goodness and G‑dliness.

As my uncle and Chaya Mushka’s grandfather, Rabbi Ezra Schochet, said at her funeral, the first pronounced letters of my dear cousin’s name, Chaya Mushkah, spells Moshiach—that time period when G‑d’s presence will be openly felt.

May the entire he’elem of our world come crumbling down so we finally experience that long-awaited era, when we are able to wipe away tears from every face. For all eternity.