Every year, one of my closest friends would mark her family’s miraculous escape from a horrific car accident with an intimate family seudah. Over homemade delicacies, the children would take turns recalling their own private story of how they had walked off, unscathed, from an accident that left the car totaled, and had the police officer ask, “How many bodies?”
I had the zechus of participating in one of these seudos, and hoped that one day, I too, would have the opportunity to thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for a personal miracle by making my own seudas hoda’ah.
I did. But it was very different from the one I had imagined.
It happened some 33 years ago. I was lying inert on a hospital bed, attached to multiple monitors and intravenous tubes. The doctors were pessimistic about my future. At the time, I was a single mother with three small children. Although I had no relatives in Israel, my neighbors had become my family and took turns sitting at my bedside. I was never alone.
One afternoon, a frum man carrying a violin walked into my room and started playing Chanukah songs. I was confused and surprised. Chanukah? It seemed like I had just finished putting away the sukkah boards. I asked the friend sitting at my bedside about it.
“Debbie,” she responded. “You’ve been sick a long time. It’s already Kislev. The eighth of Kislev. Chanukah is just around the corner!”
“And by then I’ll be completely better,” I said with a smile. “Next year, mark my words, I’m going to invite all my friends to a seudas hoda’ah to celebrate my complete recovery.” With a twinkle in my eye I added, “Better write it on your calendar – ches Kislev. One year from today I’ll thank Hashem for my miraculous recovery with a seudas hoda’ah.”
Fast forward ten months. By then, I was back at work, running my home, and very happy with my life. I was grateful for the miracle that I had been granted, and often spoke to my friends of the beautiful seudas hoda’ah that I would make on the anniversary of my recovery, where I would publicly thank Hashem for restoring my health, as well as show my appreciation to all my dear friends for their constant support during those difficult times.
The phone call came at around nine thirty. The children were all sound asleep, and I was relaxing with a steaming cup of hot tea and enjoying a few rare moments of total serenity. It was an old friend, someone who I had once been close with but had lost touch with over the years. After a few minutes of catching up on our lives, she began telling me about her husband’s close friend, a young widower, and asked if I’d be interested in meeting him.
To make a long story short, I was, and I did.
Two months later, late one night, sitting in my neighbor’s living room (like I said before, my neighbors had become my family) we decided that the puzzle pieces seemed to fit and came to the conclusion that we should get married. But since it was close to one in the morning, we decided to wait until the following day to drink a l’chaim and make it official.
The following evening, my wonderful friends prepared a stunning seudah in honor of our engagement. Amidst laughter and tears we reminisced about that difficult year, and thanked Hashem for all of his chessed.
And then I remembered. “What’s the date?” I asked one of the women.
She ran to the kitchen to check the calendar. I could hear a gasp, and when she returned to the room, there were tears in her eyes.
It was the eighth of Kislev.