Mayim Bialik’s Car Accident And The Illusion of a Stable World

When I logged onto Facebook yesterday at around 5pm, the first thing I saw was a status update, “Oh no, Mayim!” linked to an article entitled, “Mayim Bialik Hospitalized in Car Wreck, May Lose Finger.” I was in shock. I had just spoken to Mayim the night before. We were supposed to learn later that evening – what had happened to my dear friend?

She didn’t answer her cell phone, so I started calling and emailing everyone I know who she’s close with – hoping they’d have more information than the TMZ article divulged. It was surreal to find out news like this about a good friend on a gossip website! Mayim, thank God, will be keeping all her fingers, but her experience was just another reminder of why I cling to my emunah (faith).

A few days before Mayim’s accident, a young guy I’m friendly with posted on Facebook that he had just gotten up from sitting shiva for his brother. I had been in touch with him the previous week to discuss a video we’re collaborating on and was shocked to hear the news. I emailed him to offer my condolences and he said, as I suspected, that soon after we had spoken, his brother died suddenly.

I live my life waiting for tragedy to strike. Not in a dysfunctional way, but in a realistic way. In a non-distracted way. I still smile and laugh and enjoy life. Thank God, I have had so many blessings in my time here, but as a child, I learned a truth about the world that nobody ever wants to talk about or think about: we have no ultimate control. Health today does not mean health tomorrow. Safety today does not mean safety tomorrow. Financial security today does not mean financial security tomorrow. Every time a celebrity’s life is cut short from a disease or accident I am reminded that death does not discriminate.

When I was eight years old a friend and classmate of mine was murdered by her father. The death of this young girl burst the bubble of stability that I had been living in until then. It was a terrifying discovery to make at such a young age that my parents who loved me  and did everything in their power to provide for me had no way to completely protect me.

I spent years after this death searching for meaning and purpose in life and accidentally discovered Orthodox Judaism along the way. I gave things up to become an Orthodox Jew. I changed how I ate, dressed, spent my time. I read an article recently about a woman who was raised religious, but found the lifestyle too restrictive. There were things she wanted to do, but she couldn’t do them exactly as she wanted to within the framework of Jewish law, so she gave up Jewish observance instead.

Everyone must live her life as she sees fit, but for me, there is no value in getting to fulfill every one of my heart’s desires when at the end of the day I ask myself if the life I’m living is leading to something more than just the happiness of the here and now and the answer is “no.” Being observant doesn’t protect me from suffering. My loved ones and I are still just as vulnerable to life’s onslaughts as anyone else is. But living a life connected to the Almighty means trusting in a greater purpose when bad things happen. Believing that when suffering comes – and I know it will – that there’s more to the story than what I see from my vantage point.

And that’s why the restrictions are worth it to me. Truth be told, I don’t find my life terribly restrictive. I can’t wear every fashion within the laws of modesty, but I can still feel very fashionable and beautiful. I can’t eat every food within the laws of kosher, but I can still eat amazing, gourmet food. I don’t always get to go to every event I want to if it conflicts with Shabbos or a holiday, but these events pale in comparison to what the Jewish calendar does for my life.

Sometimes cynical people say that faith is a crutch – perhaps it is somewhat. A crutch is something you need when you can’t make it on your own, and I’ll say right now that even with all the privileges, talents, and blessings I’ve been given – I am nothing standing next to eternity. I feel minuscule when I consider the infinite sea of blackness our tiny planet is floating in. I feel helpless when I think of the terrible, horrible things that could afflict those I love at any moment, without warning.

But we don’t call God a “crutch” in Judaism. We call Him Tzur Yisrael (the Rock of Israel). Hashem is our “Rock of Gibraltar.” Why does Judaism consider God a rock instead of a crutch? Perhaps because the imagery of a crutch suggests a device which is meant for the bent, the crippled, whereas the imagery of a rock connotes footing and stability for one who is strong. We need Hashem for support, but the relationship doesn’t leave us lame. It allows us to grow and strive and become Godly individuals, unlocking an inner strength we might not have tapped into otherwise.

My existence is intense at times. Recently, before going to bed at night, I’ve been crossing off the day I just lived on a mental calendar that is floating around in my head. I hope my inability to distract myself keeps me growing, achieving, and making the most of the short time I have. I pray for a long life, but even the longest of lives is just the blink of an eye next to eternity.

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  • Avatar photo Shayna says on August 17, 2012

    I love this article because it so eloquently explains my sentiments. I, like you, became religious a few years ago(I am twenty), and also through hard experiences I have realized that life is not in my control. I cannot believe that everything that happens has no reason, so being an observant Jew gives me the strength to accept and understand that everything is for the best. And, it gives me a level of control in my life.

  • Avatar photo Talia Davis says on August 17, 2012

    I felt the same way, Allison. I was on an airplane and got the news when I turned on my phone after. It was totally terrifying when I couldn’t reach her or Mike. Thank G-d she is ok. It is hard to not feel in control but also to be a thousand miles away from a friend who is hurting. Sending hugs your way!

  • Avatar photo Miriam says on August 17, 2012

    Thank you for writing this! You didn’t “accidentally” discover Judiasm…

    • Avatar photo Allison says on August 17, 2012

      You’re welcome! It’s true – I don’t believe it was actually accidental, but I certainly wasn’t looking for it…

      • Avatar photo MJ says on March 7, 2018

        There is an old Yiddish axiom: Man tracht un G-d lacht

        Man plans and G-d laughs!

  • Avatar photo Sora says on August 18, 2012

    So excellent. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts in this eloquent piece. I second the motion!

  • Avatar photo Andrea Grinberg (Andrea Herzog) says on August 19, 2012

    This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with the world!

  • Avatar photo Barbara Price says on August 19, 2012

    I truly loved your article. I f i didn’t feel HaShems presence in my life, i just wouldn’t make it through each and every day. I have been blessed with a beautiful life and family and i too worry, G-d for bid if something were to happen to anyone of them.
    Thanks for writing this!

  • Avatar photo achinoam says on August 19, 2012

    hi allison thanks to write on word all our thoughts hope mayin doing well big refua shlemah!! so shel shamim erev rosh chodesh elul!!!

  • Avatar photo Lusi Austin says on August 19, 2012

    Blsssings! I feel the same way about observing Torah. Yah is faithful! His instructions are given for the benefit and blessing of His children. It is times of great trial in my own life that I know for certainty, I can cling to my steadfast Rock!
    Hope Mayim recovers quickly.
    Lusi x

  • Avatar photo Lis Telcs says on August 19, 2012

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. It echoes how I feel about my faith ; I am a Christian.

  • Avatar photo Beth says on August 19, 2012

    What a difference between our (Jewish) response to her accident as compared with People, TMZ, etc. Our response is one of emunah in Hashem & His Torah. That there is a reason for all that happens in olam hazeh. We look to bettering ourselves & helping each other. Thank you for this article.

  • Avatar photo Ada Diaz says on August 19, 2012

    Great piece to read on a Sunday morning. Thank you for your insight.

  • Avatar photo Trisha Kalstein says on August 19, 2012

    Thank you for beautifully expressing the value of faith. There is far more life and freedom living by the statutes our Lord asks us to live by than without them. I know that sounds opposite to many, but we were given commandments and righteous ways for living for a reason. It is for our own safety, health and good. HaShem knows far more about how He created us and how we should live the fullest than we do with our limited knowledge. He is the only One that is all-knowing.

    I love seeing women like Mayim and yourself live out your faith, finding peace is so doing. As a Christian and sister in our Creator, you are expressing exactly how I choose to live my life as well. Praise Him who gives us the strength and peace and joy so to do!

  • Avatar photo Auriel says on August 19, 2012

    Glad to hear Ms Bialik did not lose her finger.

    Not sure where I stand on faith yet. It has been less than 2 yrs since I discovered that I’m Jewish and I still have lots of questions. But I like how you put it. Faith is like a rock, not a crutch.

    My little brother was murdered as a child, it’s still a cold case. My teen nephew was murdered late last yr, just when he was getting excited about enrolling in school and getting his business degree. I myself had life saving surgery this yr, from which I was told I might not wake up from. I came close to death twice. With each thing that has happened in my life, I ask the question “why”, but still I am reminded that life is short and to be thankful for the time that I do have here on this planet.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on August 20, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Auriel. I’m sorry that you’ve suffered through so many hard times, but I’m happy that you’ve discovered your Jewish lineage.

      Having lots of questions makes a lot of sense with such a new discovery. A great way to deal with questions is to delve into Jewish learning. If you’re interested in finding out how you could start learning in your area or over the phone or online, email me a jewinthecity@gmaildotcom and I’d be happy to help!

  • Avatar photo Dee Maree says on August 19, 2012

    What a beautiful post. It spoke to my heart so deeply, and helped me remember why I love God and living a life of faith. Bless you for writing this.

  • Avatar photo Kristen Howard says on August 19, 2012

    This is beautiful.
    I’m so encouraged reading your words here.
    I’m not Jewish, I’m a Christian.
    I have a very dear friend who is Jewish and she and I talk almost every day regarding faith, God, and how we may worship differently – but we love and worship our Lord.
    Thank you for this.

  • Avatar photo Shaleen says on August 21, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m a Christian, but it is so true that there is so much peace in knowing that God (Yahweh-shalom) is in control of our lives and the world we live in. We can truly rest in his power and love for us.

  • Avatar photo Lea says on August 22, 2012

    I have no faith, I have learned simply to be here in the now and to truly understand how fleeting it all is. I no longer believe that there is a design or reason, but we must acknowledge in gratitude that which we have. There’s no place for taking anyone we love for granted as we don’t know how long we’ll be in their company for. Without faith I operate in the belief that this is all there is. That the time with my loved ones is finite and I do not get to see them again after death. I lost my little boy last year and each day I reflect on the time that we had together and how I will carry him with me as a part of my soul until I am no longer. That is all there is and all there can be, and we are so very lucky to have it.
    I was relieved that Mayim was okay. I’m certain that as much pain as she has and as much difficulty as she may face, her conscious awareness of the fleeting nature of all we have has just become profound. I know she’ll be holding her little ones even tighter than before (if that’s possible) 🙂

  • Avatar photo Nissa says on August 22, 2012

    I don’t understand how you can be certain that our suffering makes sense and that God is looking out for us.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on August 22, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Nissa. I am not *certain* – emunah – the Jewish word loosely translated as “faith” is something that we never know 100%. There are many reasons why I believe that there is a God and that God has a special relationship with the Jewish people (see this article for more on that https://jewinthecity.com/2013/04/you-gotta-have-faith-faith-faith/ but it is not a certainty – it’s called living with hope and choosing to believe that there’s more to this world than what we see from our perspective. Otherwise, IMHO, this is just a very awful world.

  • Avatar photo Jacquie says on August 23, 2012

    As a Christin, I really enjoy reading your blog. It helps me to better understand the relationships my Jewish friends have with their religion and prevents me from asking them some of the ‘dumb’ questions!
    But more importantly, you really bridge a gap & show us that at the core there aren’t that many differences between us at all. I think that although we may observe dissimilar customs and practices, although we may have slightly different messages, ultimately we’re working towards the same goal in humanity and believing in the same highest power.

  • Avatar photo Wen says on August 27, 2012

    Fantastic article! You wrote about a weighty, complex topic so clearly and truthfully and beautifully! Thank you for writing this.

  • Avatar photo Ruchy says on September 2, 2012

    I just discovered your blog and I’m amazed by it. I am FFB, chassidish, and very proud of it. I have been through so much in my life and would never have been able to overcome everything without H-shem. I LOVE how you embrace the “restrictions” of Orthodoxy. I have never found them restrictive at all! Keep up the great work.

  • Avatar photo Malka Kideckel says on December 25, 2014

    Judaism cannot be a crutch. It is an instruction manual on how to live our lives and we have been here for thousands of years and will be here until the Jewish Messiah. Look at the movie stars, look at society, violence, aids, it is we who are rich. We are one big family and G-d protects us and keeps us. All we have to do it keep his commandments and he will never give up on us.


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