According to Arlene: Written and Sealed

According to Arlene: Written and Sealed

By Arlene Appelrouth |

According to Jewish tradition, by the time Yom Kippur ends, the Creator has decided “who shall live and who shall die.”

Reading about all the different types of deaths is daunting. Imagining that your judgment is sealed is mind-boggling. When hearing of tragic deaths, I have to ask myself: Was this really ordained?

The innocents who are knifed by terrorists and those peacefully driving who are victims of the careless driving of others — are those deaths decided, written, sealed and executed by a loving G-d?

What about those stricken by progressive, debilitating diseases? Do they suffer and ultimately die at the will of an all-powerful G-d?

Arlene Appelrouth
Arlene Appelrouth

I don’t intend to be sacrilegious. What I am is a woman who has known a lot of loss.

As a young adult, I lost my only sibling, a bright, handsome 17-year-old with a great future ahead of him. Coping with Barry’s death changed my perceptions about life and my decisions.

Did G-d intend for him to crash through the windshield of the car he was a passenger in?

As a middle-aged woman, I watched in horror as my father’s personality changed because of Alzheimer’s disease. By the time he died at age 90, I felt relieved because he had become a sliver of the man he was. He looked like my dad, but his actions were those of someone I didn’t recognize.

Am I to believe that Hashem decided that was what should become of him?

This year on April 7, my beloved husband, Dan, took his last breath. Although he was in an ICU under the care of great doctors, there was no way to revive him.

The craniotomies, major hip surgery, falls and chronic diseases had all coalesced. It was too much for his body. Before I could say goodbye, he slipped into that great unknown.

During Yom Kippur, we express the hope that by fasting, asking for forgiveness and giving charity, we will avert the severe decree of death.

I can’t help but wonder if Dan’s fate was written and sealed last year.

He was a man of great belief and faith. He was generous in his gifts to charity and encouraged others to do the same. Dan didn’t gossip. I can’t think of any sins he committed, although he was human.

Dan was a giver. He was blessed with many gifts, and he served G-d by serving others. As a physician. As a cantor. As a friend who went way beyond what was necessary.

So it’s curious why Dan’s prayers, charity and character had no effect on what was decided last Yom Kippur.

Perhaps what happens to us is random rather than ordained.

I remember the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. He believes in the randomness of fate.

I go to services regularly and study the Torah and the views of our sages with some prominent rabbis, but my knowledge is far from comprehensive.

I wish I knew what I believed.

I know Judaism values action over words.

I may not believe nonkosher food affects my soul, but because my kitchen is kosher enough to satisfy the needs and beliefs of my Orthodox children, I think I am credited for my actions.

Since moving to Toco Hills more than 12 years ago, I’ve been blessed to be part of Atlanta’s Orthodox community. The experience is like being in a large, supportive family. My husband was happy here. He loved going to the Toco Hill Shopping Center because there were always people he knew to schmooze with.

Being Jewish is serious business in this neighborhood. Most residents who participate in synagogue life are mindful of observing Shabbat and the holidays, keeping kosher, learning more, and being there for one another.

I’m glad to live where I do and grateful for the wonderful friends I’ve made. Living among Jews who place a high value on learning is contagious. The classes I take, both in my neighborhood and in Sandy Springs, increase my understanding of what it is to be a Jew.

There’s no question in my mind that the introspection and reflection at this time of year are important. But it’s a stretch to believe that my losses were all predetermined.

I have learned to accept what life brings. My prayer and wish for my friends, family and readers is that all are able to accept whatever divine providence sends their way.

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