We know this truth to be self-evident: life is not fair.
Some of us waltz through, relatively or exceedingly blessed.
Others get zapped by illness, by violence, by misfortune. Sometimes once, sometimes repeatedly.
Moreover, we know that lightening does strike twice.
The Holocaust survivor who gets murdered in a bloodbath in Virginia several decades later...on Yom Hashoah.
The college dean who loses her son and husband to unrelated causes within a six-month period.
The couple who endure the ordeal of a severely premature birth only to have a second child die in infancy.
The events of the past week have left me saddened, perched on my observation post, watching a maelstrom of misfortune rage past me.
The nightmares are local, national, international and personal.
A student at the school where HOBB teaches is raped, brutalized and left to die in a fire, tied to her bed. The attacker then goes on to use her bank card to empty her account at a nearby bodega.
A disturbed loner with animosity towards his peers goes on a massacre at Virginia Tech, scaring and scarring the nation, leaving hundreds grieving, striking fear in the heart of every parent in America.
A courageous 21-year-old in our community, born with a multitude of disabilities, succumbs to his illness, leaving behind a shattered family.
Innocents in Iraq are murdered every day by suicide bombers, going to the market, to school, to vote, to work.
I don't know which nightmares are easier to bear: the ones caused by mankind or the ones brought about by "acts of God," -- illness, natural disaster, freak accidents.
Not that I believe that God has anything to do with orchestrating human suffering.
Yet I have caught myself wondering about relative suffering, asking myself if it is "better" or "worse" to be the parents of the young woman attacked in her Hamilton Heights apartment or the parents of the sickly young man, whether it is "better" for the friends and relatives of those who died at Virginia Tech because of the magnitude of the tragedy, the possibility of drawing comfort from others who are enduring the same nightmare.
Of course these are ridiculous wonderings.
Suffering is suffering is suffering.
Pain is pain is pain.
Hearts have been shattered and some may never heal.
Leaving the rest of us to look on with compassion, as God does on high, God full of mercy, el maleh rachamim.