It gets harder and harder with each prayer project. As I get older, when disappointment and painful silence of unanswered prayers stares you in the face, you feel quieter and more humbled each time.
When I was younger I knew G-d well. I could speak for G-d with certitude. As the years pass, still believing in the power of prayer, the focus of it has shifted for me. Prayer becomes more about myself, about people, community, and about empathy. Not necessarily only about G-d.
Adam Krief — Adam Moshe Chaim ben Olga — whose journey many of us followed, has died. Granted, scientifically the likelihood of his healing was remote. I hate hearing of those stem cell transplants — on the one hand it offers a last hope, on the other, too many painful failed stories.
But then you think about Jay Feinberg of The Gift of Life, who brought awareness about being a donor into our Jewish community over 20 years ago, whose existence is miraculous and a testament to times when a transplant can be successful.
Adam’s campaign was dubbed “Hope4Adam.” And that’s what we were inspired to carry … hope for Adam. So we all prayed for a miracle for Adam. When the news spread that a match was found, it seemed he might have found his miracle.
But then, due to complications, he died.
Adam mobilized tens of thousands of strangers he’d never met into a congregation of worldwide communal prayer. Strangers were brought together, united by caring for the plight of Adam and his beautiful young family. So many were emotionally invested, making an effort to increase kindness in the world, hoping this could be a merit for his healing.
Other matches were found and lives saved because of Adam. In fact, the number of drives held in four months was unprecedented — an outpouring of love from the Jewish community, his Jewish family. Literally. Because the more people tested from similar genetic pool, the greater the chances of finding a compatible match.
Beyond genetics, though, it’s in times like these that you really feel how Jews are there for one another, like family.
These tragedies try the soul and test our faith, though. No one should ever have to go through this.
Our prayers didn’t save Adam’s life. But they certainly changed us as a community. They brought strangers together and generated so much goodness.
The truth is, in my heart, the sadness I feel leads me to say to myself, “Who cares … but he died.” It would be better that no one get ill than someone be a catalyst through pain to increase kindness in the world.
But that’s when the humility sets in. The incomprehensibility of G-d and of it all. These are the VaYidom Aharon (“And Aaron was silent”) moments of life. When we understand how little we understand. And there is acceptance of that.
Because, G-d, we’ll never understand. That is not our province.
What is our province is what we do with this world that G-d hands us.
With the incomprehensible pain of the Adam Krief story, of knowing three little children are left fatherless, the part that was in our hands, the part that was up to the people, couldn’t have been more caring, more loving, more unifying. That aspect of prayer is still powerful.
I realize more and more that prayer is about us and our response to the world around us — making an effort to bring grace and empathy, concentrating and converging so many different positive energies for the sake of someone’s well being — that’s prayer.
There are so many other ways to do that, you might say. So, why prayer?
Aside from the acts of kindness, prayer is our way of carrying a torch of hope for going beyond the current reality. It is our way of living with the person undergoing a painful time, in hope, in G-dliness, in empathy. In saying, maybe things can change.
Ultimately, though, I think prayer is a kind of unexplainable humility in surrendering to the mystery of this world.
All this doesn’t change the terrible loss and absence of Adam Krief. The silence of such unanswered prayers is deafening. Yet, that silent vacuum was filled with voices of love from total strangers; thousands of prayers and voices accompanied Adam from this world to what comes next. If Adam’s decree to die was in place regardless, those prayers at least accompanied him in his moments of transition, so he was not alone.
None of this changes the pain, the loss, or the questions. Yet, even when prayers do not effectuate the desired outcome, perhaps that is part of the power of prayer, even if not its essence.
May Adam’s memory be for a blessing. Yehi zichro baruch. May his family be comforted.