On the farm, you could see storms coming from far off, the wide, flat horizon offering a good view of storm clouds gathering miles away. More than that, though, you could just tell when a storm was coming. Birds would quiet and the air would still, feeling heavy. Before a big summer storm, it would feel like the world was holding its breath, the muggy air just laying heavily over the grass. In the winter, winds would begin to blow and you’d feel the coming snow in the bitter bite of the wind.
In that time, we’d look up at the sky and one of my parents would say something like, “Well, it’s time to ‘batten down the hatches.'”
A great flurry of work would ensue. We’d move things that could be blown away inside a shed, tie up other things, close windows in summer. In winter, we’d fill up gas tanks and generators, park cars and trucks inside, make sure there was food stocked up, and that the hurricane lanterns had oil. My parents had a mental list of what was needed. Then, we’d wait in the eerie calm that came before the storm would hit, excited as kids and bored as teenagers.
Life in the city brings different storms for me now. Mr. Safek’s chemotherapy begins tomorrow and the past couple of weeks have felt like that preparation time before a big storm hits. The appointments loom on the calendar like storm clouds on a horizon and I tick off tasks so that our home will be as ready and comfortable as possible for him and our children. We laid in food, painted rooms, knocked out house projects and cleaned and decluttered and the past weekend was a flurry of activity as we finished what preparations we could. Now, we wait.
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah portion for the week, there is a different calm before a coming storm. Jacob blesses his sons and dies and then Joseph also dies, warning the Jews that hard times are coming. For now, they’re free and living in a good part of Egypt with their flocks, but there is a storm on the horizon, drawing nearer and nearer that will lead to great hardship for them. Did they also try to prepare for it? Did they look to the horizon and worry?
What we learn, though, is that the storm eventually did pass and we celebrate Passover each year in memory of the great miracles G-d performed to make it so. The Jews endured slavery and all kinds of painful hardship during the dark storm of Egypt, but they survived to see the storm clouds break up and the sun come out again on their freedom.
As we prepare for my husband’s chemotherapy and cancer treatment, I draw strength from this example. His doctors believe his side effects will be minimal and his cancer highly curable and that we will see this storm pass.