At the time it was the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me; boiling grease spilled down my front, second degree burns on my left side, searing pain, and fear of terrible scars. At that time I also thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. And yet, we can usually find some good it the most horrible situations.
My cooking accident occurred when I was in my second year of university in Arizona. Chanukah was the following day and I was in charge of the first night dinner for the Jewish student union on campus. I had put roasts into the oven earlier and took them out on my way to an evening class. Unfortunately, the disposable aluminum pan I had used was not strong enough, the pan buckled, and the results were that I spent a week in the university clinic inert on my hospital bed.
With the exception of myself, the hospital’s overnight clinic was virtually empty. I had a room to myself but I was not lonely. My roommate and other friends from the dorm popped in and out on the way to classes. So did many of the students from the Jewish student union. It wasn’t that I was so popular. The clinic was less than a five minute walk from the student union and an interesting change of pace. Besides, the roasts had been delicious and those who had attended the Chanukah dinner felt the need to show some appreciation. They overdid it a bit, though, and the head nurse complained to the head of the student union that I was not getting enough rest.
My best friend at the university was Avraham, although he went by his secular name then. Beginning my freshman year the two of us would sit together over a cup of coffee and a glass of root beer and talk for hours. Sometimes we would go for long walks. Almost every Friday night would make a Shabbat meal of sorts together. Every once in a while we would go to the Orthodox community to spend a full Shabbat with a teacher from the day school and his family.
That teacher wanted to make a Shabbaton on campus and it had been decided that Shabbat Chanukah would be the perfect Shabbat. Now I would not be able to participate. Instead, all alone, I lit both my Chanukah and Shabbat candles in the menorah and candle holders next to my bed. Although it was somewhat lonely, I was certain that Avraham would pop in soon to cheer me up.
Truth be told, during the summer between my first and second years in college my attitude to Avraham had changed. I wanted more than friendship but was not willing to risk ruining a friendship by asking for more. And Avraham was totally oblivious to my change of feelings. He treated me as if I were a sister he never had.
As my candles burned lower and lower I began to feel sorrier and sorrier for myself. Not only did Avraham not come visit, neither did anyone else. Negative energy took over my thoughts and I was blinking back tears when finally there was a tap at the door. The teacher and the director of the student union had come to visit the sick.
I tried to smile and I tried to be polite but I was sorely disappointed. And then they told me about the head nurse’s complaint. It was clear to me why Avraham had not come to see me. I wanted to tell them that there should be an exception made for him but I was too embarrassed to do so. What reason could I give? He had a girlfriend; I was just a friend.
Unbeknown to me Avraham’s emotions were similar to mine. When the director had made his announcement of no visitors for me Avraham had wanted to object. However, just like I could not give a reason for him to be excluded from the ban, neither could he. That was his wake-up call.
He broke up with his girlfriend shortly thereafter. There were subtle changes in the way he spoke to me. He even asked me out on a “date”. I wondered what it all meant.
Meanwhile my burns were healing nicely. The itching had stopped and the red was fading. It looked like I would only have one small, hidden scar. I was very grateful to HaShem and, along with Avraham, began going more and more to the Orthodox community for Shabbat.
It was after lunch on Shabbat HaGadol that Avraham asked me to go for a walk. On that walk he asked me to marry him. Obviously I agreed. It was then that I began to understand that my traumatic experience had set the wheels in motion for one of the happiest moments of my life. Yes, there is usually something good in the most horrible situations.
Shabbat HaGadol: literally Big Shabbat, refers to the Shabbat proceeding Peasach