24 Av 5781 / Monday, August 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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A Happy Fender-Bender    

A Happy Fender-Bender

I was happy to be alive given the riots, lynchings, and rockets. My car was hurting but it will survive. So will the Jewish People. In our own land. Forever.


Happy after a fender-bender? That doesn’t sound like me at all! But I promise you that I didn’t hit my head too hard. And it goes a little something like this... 


I was commuting to work. I had decided to drive that particular morning as my stomach wasn’t feeling particularly happy after indulging in one too many cheesecakes on Shavuot. In the middle of a main road, there I was, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and minding my own business when... 




I looked around and didn’t know what hit me. Given the riots in Jerusalem over the past month and the rockets that Hamas terrorists had been launching into civilian centers, I had no idea what the jolt I’d just experienced was. But a moment later a young Arab male was yelling at me from outside of my window that he’d rear-ended me, here was his license, just take a picture of it already, and didn’t I know that he was in a rush. 


I checked my head, neck, and chest to find that everything was ok. Thank G-d I always wear my seatbelt and it seemed that I was intact. Shaken, I got out of my car and took a picture of the young man’s license and car before he speedily drove away without showing me his proof of insurance or providing me with any contact information. I stood, bewildered by it all, in the middle of the road as the cars around me honked madly and fellow commuters yelled at me to get back into my car. But it was hard to stop staring at my bumper as it sagged sadly on the ground. I was busy wondering what kind of terrible thing I’d done to deserve having my car nearly-totaled and then watching as my story’s antagonist drove off before any police could show up to hear the story. It was absolutely infuriating. 


Luckily the car drove well enough to get me to my office in time for my first patient in spite of the fact that my bumper was dragging behind me the whole way there. 


And as I sat down in my seat, G-d hit me with the perfect amount of perspective to keep the morning commute’s frustrations from driving me bananas. You see, my first patient came in to tell me that he’d spent the last week at his brother’s house. He’d been forced to evacuate his home in Lod along with his young family after an Arab mob tried to burn their building down. We spent our hour working on mindfulness exercises to keep calm during these troubled times. 


My second patient had already sent a message to cancel as he was in a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv due to the endless rocket barrages of our ruthless enemies from Gaza. This was definitely a trauma that would require processing when we would next sit together, but a phone session would have to do in the meantime. 


My third patient’s wife called from the hospital as he was there getting stitched in the emergency room. He had been returning home from morning prayers at the Kotel and was hit by a rock thrown by a gang of Arab youths. 


“Only a miracle saved him from being killed Dr. Freedman,” she told me. “You know there was a guy who was nearly lynched in The Old City the other week by these same people. It’s awful.” 


Throughout the day I would spend much time talking with individuals who had been traumatized in one way or another.  


A junior colleague of mine who comes for weekly clinical supervision asked me during our session, “How can we stay strong for our patients when we often experience the same crises that they do?” 


It was a great question. And I believe the answer is to accept our own humanity and not to pretend that we are above it, even as therapists. 


I still had to deal with the accident as I left the office that day. But as I called and spoke with Avner—my friend and insurance agent—I told him honestly, “You know, honestly, I can’t even complain. A fender-bender is the least of my worries and is small fries compared to the kinds of things that our people are up against right now.” 


“We will prevail, Yaakov,” he told me. “And you’re right. It’s not such an easy thing to hear from someone else, but you’re lucky youre alive with all the other things that could have happened when a guy like that rams your car. You can always fix a car, it’s the more important stuff that’s harder to deal with.” 


I wished Avner a good evening and thanked him for his help. And as I took a bunch of copper wire and tried to tie the trunk of my banged-up car closed, I thought about that which our Sages teach, “Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with what he has” (The Ethics of Our Fathers 4:2). 


My car was hurting but it will most certainly survive and I was happy to be alive given all of the rioting, lynchings, and rockets. 


And despite all of the negativity in the media, so will the Jewish People. In our own land. And forever. 




Jacob L. Freedman, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and Professor, and a business consultant based in Jerusalem, Israel. His new book, Off the Couch, is available from Menucha Publishers. Dr. Freedman can be most easily reached via his website:  drjacoblfreedman.com or his email: JacobLFreedman@gmail.com. 

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