A True Story told over by HaRav Fishel Schachter, Parshas Va’era, 2008
There was a chareidi family that took a vacation to Teveria. The wife and 2 daughters went down to the kineret to go swimming. The husband went to daven by Reb Meir Baal HaNeis. The girls start to wade in the water, and the older daughter steps too far in and is swept into a current, but she couldn’t swim, and begins to go under. The mother is watching as the daughter is pleading for her life, but the mother couldn’t swim. The mother runs onto the highway and is desperately trying to flag down cars for help. They are swerving around her, honking at her, screaming to get out of the road. Finally an elegant car stops and a well dressed man asks what’s happening. The mother screams my daughter is drowning. He throws off his coat and runs and dives into the water. The man’s wife is screaming to him saying, “Remember you just had a heart attack.” He dives into the water and comes up with the little girl. The mother breathes a sigh of relief for a moment, until she realizes that this was the younger daughter who must have jumped in to save the older daughter. She screams “I have another daughter there!” He jumps back in and screams “Where is she? Where is she?” The mother is pointing to him, “Over there, over there.” He dives to the bottom and begins to drag her limpless body to the shore, but now there are people on the shore, who are screaming “Her head is still in the water! Her head is still in the water. Lift it out!!!” He lifts her head and puts it on his shoulder and brings her ashore. There was an arab man was on the beach, who started doing CPR on the girl. They called the ambulance and the ambulance crew said they took a pulse, but her head was in the water too long, there’s nothing they can do. They go off to the hospital, and the doctors say there’s no hope. The family began davening for a miracle. They’re waiting and waiting, davening. The Doctor took an MRI, and when he saw the results, runs back in and said, “I can’t believe it, regular brain activity resumed”. The daughter finally wakes up and leaves the hospital two days later. The doctors said they never saw anything like it, she was deprived of oxygen for so long, it was impossible to have this outcome.
A few days later, the family makes a Seudas Hod’ah (meal of thanks) to thank H” for the miracle, and wanted to invite the man who jumped into the water to save their daughter. They couldn’t find him, so thought maybe he called into the hospital to see how she was, and they were right. They found him. He was an attorney from a non observant kibbutz, with no connection to yiddishkeit his whole life. They invited him to the seudah and he told them this story. He was recovering from a heart attack before this incident, and he and his wife were headed up North for a vacation, when he saw this chareidi woman in the street. His wife said keep driving, she’s a meshuganah, but he said she looks desperate, so decided to help. He told the family that he had been sick for awhile, and used to be an Olympic swimmer, but hadn’t swam in YEARS. But just last week, as part of his therapy for the heart attack, he was in a hotel that had a pool, and he started to swim laps during the week. His wife was yelling at him that it was dangerous, and he told her that for some reason, he felt that he had to do this for some reason. He felt that he just loved it. He told them that If he hadn’t done this he wouldn’t have been in shape enough to rescue their daughters. “So I jumped in and saved your first daughter, but then you told me there’s another daughter. I went back in, and as I was pulling your 2nd daughter to shore, and realized that I didn’t bring her head above the water, I was going out of my mind – during those crucial last few moments, I didn’t bring her head above the water, I was going out of my mind.” Afterwards, I came home and cried to my wife, “I killed that girl.” My wife said what are you talking about, you saved her, you risked your life. “But I’m so stupid, I didn’t take her head out of the water.” No, she said, you just didn’t realize. “NO, She died because of my stupidity” I said, “It was my fault, she would have lived!”. So I ran back to that place, and climbed to the top of a mountain, and I said, “Ribbono Shel Olam, never in my life did I pray to you. I was raised on a kibbutz, and laughed at prayer. I wouldn’t be caught dead praying, I would have been so embarrassed. G-d, this is the first time in my life I’m praying to you. I’ll never be able to live this down. I won’t be able to go on. PLEASE, H”, consider it as if I prayed to you my whole life, and combine all those prayers that I could have said, and use them to save this girl. Please G-d” He continued to tell the family, that “I went back home and called the hospital, and they told me that an hour ago (as I was saying this prayer) she woke up!”
Think about this story, was he a hero b/c he took off his jacket and jumped in? Was it that he jumped in twice? Where was the gift of life? It was at the moment that he said “I blew it, I tried and I tried and blew it.” Instead of falling to despair, he took that broken heart, and instead of letting it turn into depression and sadness, he converted it into Tefillah. A tefillah that he never had before in his life. And miracles came from it. There are moments in life that we think we blew it. We have to realize that those very moments, if used correctly, are the seeds for redemption, Moshiach, refuah and yeshuah for everyone.
-Transcribed from a shiur by Rav Fishel Schachter, shlita