Before we returned from Boston, I heard from my mother-in-law, who was awaiting our return, that the refrigerator was freezing everything in the fridge. We wouldn’t be able to buy any groceries until we get it fixed unless we want to defrost the milk and eggs each morning. A few calls and a few days later we had a technician come out to the house and repair it. It seems that the problem was a flap that regulates the flow of cold air into the refrigerator that was stuck open, constantly flooding our fridge with cold air. In fact, the technician said that the only reason we hadn’t noticed this sooner was because of how much we were opening and closing the fridge throughout our day. So, the flap was fixed and the refrigerator lives to chill another day.
Afterward, I couldn’t help but see a connection between the fridge and Zohara’s heart surgery. Over the past few months, I’ve taken a deep dive into the world of medicine and science as my way to be more engaged with Zohara’s care. Zohara’s life so far has opened me up to the absolute brilliance of nature and the miraculous design of the human body. The journey has been a good review of what I learned (or forgot) from high school biology (sorry Dr. Kini!). I’ve learned about the intricacies of the cardio-pulmonary system: the way blood typically travels, the ways our bodies typically work, and all of the ways these delicate systems can go array; the fact that shocked me most was what a workhorse of a machine
our heart is. From before we are born our heart starts pumping and, as long as it doesn’t run into any complications along the way, never stops for DECADES, maybe even for a century or longer. Flaps predictably open and close, blood travels just like it’s supposed to, and the beat keeps going.
Before Zohara, I read the morning blessings of our t’fillot with reverence, but not much awe. Thank God, my life has been relatively healthy, that I didn’t feel the deep personal connection with my own life’s experience. Now, I read these words, the way Judaism appreciates the intricacies of nature, with a new perspective. Just as a tiny part, a flap on a refrigerator can mess up the whole system, so too are our bodies, our lives, dependent on thousands of processes happening in harmony all at once.
I’m especially taking the words of Asher Yatzar, a morning prayer from our t’fillot with me into this Shabbat. Here is its translation:
Blessed is the Holy Energy of the Universe who formed the human body with skill, creating the body’s many pathways and openings. It is well known to You, that if one of them were to fail, to wrongly opened or closed, it would be impossible to endure. Blessed is the Holy Energy of the Universe, whose presence is upon everybody, working wondrously.
When our bodies work to the best of their potential, it’s easy to be grateful. On the other end of the spectrum, when our bodies aren’t working as they should, gratitude becomes difficult. Maybe the best we can hope to express is the strength to live each day as best as we are able. Then, when we persevere through adversity and our strength returns, we can say these morning blessings with more intensity and intentionality.