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Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Hit the Kid

Yesterday I experienced the worst moment of my life.

At about 7:55 AM I was driving at a normal speed peacefully down a street in Jerusalem, close to my home. I had driven this street a thousand times before. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twelve-ish year old boy ran into the street to catch a bus on the other side. He ran right in front of my car.

I hit the boy!

This is not a mashal or a fictitious dramatization to introduce a dvar Torah – I hit the kid! Everyone’s worse nightmare just happened to me. My brakes screeched, I felt the impact, I heard a scream, and the boy went out of my sight. I was afraid what I would find as I got out of the car.

The boy was lying on the ground crying and shivering. He looked at me and said: ‘slichah’ (I’m sorry).

I didn’t know exactly what to do. As I pulled out my cell phone to call an ambulance a crowd of neighbors (my neighbors) gathered, cars stopped, Hatzoloh arrived, his mother arrived in her bathrobe and I was sitting on the ground trying to comfort the child. Within minutes an ambulance came and took Gilad to Hadassah Hospital.  All the judges of the block, including the boy’s mother concurred that I did nothing wrong and that the kid ran straight into traffic. The boy’s mother told me to go home; I left her my phone number and I couldn’t stop shaking.

If you have ever had a doubt that every child has his own angel watching over him, your doubt should end here. My colleague, Rabbi David Sedley, helped me find the mothers cell phone number. I was afraid to call because I was afraid of what I would hear. I called anyway.

“Please don’t worry”, the mother explained to me in Hebrew, “When he fell backward he fell onto his back pack so his head was protected and his neck wasn’t whip lashed. He has no breaks or fractures, no sprains and no cuts. He’s a bit shaken up but he should be fine by the evening and be able to go to school tomorrow. Thank you for comforting the child and telling him he wasn’t bad. Please don’t worry – we’ll be in touch.”

Last night I sent the kid a tray of candy and apparently I had a much more difficult time sleeping than Gilad did. But for the chesed of Hashem … who knows? This situation could have turned out so much worse. Boruch Hashem!

I’m racking my brains. Why did this happen to me? What is the message? What is G-d trying to teach me?

Maybe it’s this: Hitting a child with a car is a very real thing. That moment of impact flashes back into my mind every few minutes. But what about when we insult children? What about when parents or teachers say hurtful things to children that may stay with them for years? What about when parents and teachers do things wrong and shift the blame onto children?

Gilad went to school today but I woke up with a new awareness of the value of a human being. I realized that the more subtle impact of abuse can sometimes do more damage than a Mac truck. It can take far longer to get over. I resolved to drive even more carefully and be more careful with what I say. I will try to do something, even something small, to make sure that we are all more aware of the impact we can have on the delicate physical and spiritual makeup of our children.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Posted on 02/28 at 07:14 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov HaberRabbi Haber has been a leading force in Jewish Outreach for the past 25 years. A founding trustee of AJOP, the Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals, he was the founder and director of the Torah Center of Buffalo from 1980-1990 while serving as a community rabbi in Buffalo. From Buffalo he and his family traveled to Melbourne, Australia where as a project of Kollel Bais HaTalmud he founded the Australian Institute of Torah, a national outreach and adult education program. He directed that program from 1990-1995, at which time he was sought out as National Director of Jewish Education for the Orthodox Union in the United States where he created the Internationally acclaimed and highly successful "Pardes Project."

In addition to his duties at the OU, in 1996 he replaced Rabbi Berel Wein as the spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Torah in Monsey, NY. In keeping with the position of Congregation Bais Torah in the Monsey community, Rabbi Haber was involved in issues involving the greater Monsey community, and counseled hundreds of individuals in the surrounding area.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber is the founder and driving force behind TorahLab. Through TorahLab, Rabbi Haber is bringing together educational and media specialists to create dynamic learning experiences which will be accessible to adults of all backgrounds and levels. Rabbi Haber has published numerous articles and books and is a sought after international lecturer.

Rabbi Haber and his family are presently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he is the Rabbi of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted at