Weekly Chasidic Story #678 (s5771-12 / 17 Kislev 5771)
When Yehuda & Shayna Tilles and family exited Jerusalem driving to his brother’s wedding in Tiberias, they didn’t imagine the drama and miracle it would involve.
Connection: Seasonal – 20 Kislev (2/12/09)
Yehuda and Shayna Tilles live in the Old City of Jerusalem. He works much of each day for “Chabad of the Western Wall” in promoting the mitzvah of tefillin on the men’s side of the Kotel. She is the busy mother of two active baby daughters and a certified interior decorator.
Last year, on Monday, 20 Kislev 5770 (Dec. 7, 2010) they, along with their daughters Malka Ella and Chaya Mushka, aged 2 1/2 and 1, drove out of Jerusalem at 2:15 pm in their Toyota Yarris, headed to the wedding of Yehuda’s brother Yosef to Naomi Weinstein of London in Tiberias. They were traveling on Route 90, which stretches from the northern Lebanon border to Eilat and the southern border with Egypt (and which is the world’s lowest road when it winds along the Dead Sea). A strong rain was falling after weeks of a long dry spell and their daughters were sleeping.
Around 3:30 pm, Yehuda was speaking on his cell phone to his friend and co-worker at the Kotel (Western Wall), Shmueli Weiss, about the arrangements for a last-minute delivery of a garment of the Lubavitcher Rebbe for his brother to wear under the chupah (a Chabad custom). When it seemed that it couldn’t be worked out, Yehuda declared, “Nevertheless the Rebbe is definitely with us and is invited to the wedding.”
Just a few minutes later, in the middle of the Jordan Valley, on a sharp curve, the brakes suddenly stopped working on the slippery road and the driver lost control. The car spun around and around, crashed into a metal railing on the other side of the road, fell into a two-meter ditch and slammed into a large hill.
There was a terrifying silence. Then the kids woke up and started crying. Their parents each exhaled a breath of gratitude. “The whole thing took but a few seconds,” Yehuda recalled. “The car was totally wrecked. I feel like G-d gave us our lives back.”
“Thank G-d the entire family was buckled safely in the car and the children were securely fastened in car seats,” said Mrs. Shulamit Tilles, Yehuda’s mother. “That is the only aspect of this miracle that is according to the laws of nature. The importance of seatbelts can’t be stressed enough.”
Naftali Asulin, who just happened to be not far behind them and witnessed the event from a distance, and who just happens to be a security officer who deals with car crash victims (!), arrived at the scene. Witnessing the destruction of the car, (see top part of photo below), he doubted whether there were any survivors.
Asulin and his wife ran over to Tilles’ car. When he heard the children crying he was both relieved and amazed. “It is unbelievable you all came out alive,” he exclaimed. “Based on my experience, I was sure everyone must have been killed.”
Later on he confided that when he saw Shayna and her daughters emerge in fancy wedding clothes, he for a moment suspected that the accident had been staged and he had burst into a film production.
Not only were there no fatalities, but no serious or even minor injuries. Aside from being slightly shaken up by the accident, the whole family was fine. Yehuda and Shayna proclaimed themselves ready to continue on to the wedding.
They removed all their possessions from the frightening wreck. Mr. Asulin, who just happened to live quite close to the wedding site in Tiberias, which was more than fifty miles from the site of the accident, drove the Tilles family directly to the door of the hall in his jeep. They actually arrived before Yehuda’s parents. Asulin dropped them off, drove to a nearby shopping center, purchased two pacifiers, and drove back to the wedding to deliver them. He refused to accept any payment for all of his help or even any food from the wedding. All he requested was a blessing from the chatan.
“Naftali was sent to us from Above,” Yehuda exclaimed.
Marveled Yehuda’s father: “It was only the next day, when I saw online the photo of the demolished car, that I fully grasped how close to tragedy they had actually been.”
At first, most of the wedding guests had no idea what the couple had been through. Yehuda and Shayna told only a few relatives and close friends. But then the officiating rabbi, R. Mordechai Bistritsky of Tsfat, told Yehuda that he was obligated by Torah law to publicize the details of G-d’s loving kindness to him and his family. At the first lull in the dancing, Yehuda went to take over the microphone from the band. The news of the miracle was received with joy and gratitude, and as a result the already high-energy wedding celebration reached an even greater level of rejoicing.
The word spread fast. Within twelve hours articles on the internet had received thousands of hits and dozens of responses.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe often emphasized the importance of publicizing miracles to hasten the Redemption. While everyday examples may be subtle and private, an open miracle that occurs between Yud Tes Kislev (celebrating the miraculous release of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, from prison in Russia in 1798) and Chanukah reminds us that we are living in a month, a season and a generation of wondrous events.
“From now on,” announced Shayna, “the 20th of Kislev will be our personal miracle and salvation holiday.” Added Yehuda, “That means my brother and I will have anniversaries on the same day! – one day before my parent’s anniversary!”
Source: Compiled by Yerachmiel Tilles from interviews and personal observations, and from articles by Miriam Metzinger in “Living Jewish” and by Menachem Cohen on COLlive.com, from where the stirring composite photo above was produced and posted.
Connection: Seasonal – see all the dates in the story!
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.