Over the past week, the world watched as hundreds of rescue workers labored around the clock to rescue any survivors of the horrific Surfside collapse and bring those who lost their lives to rest with dignity. Thousands more mobilized in a tremendous effort to provide food, comfort, and shelter for those impacted, while rescue volunteers flew in to assist from around the country and the world.

The mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, is among many individuals who have been a constant presence at the site of the tragedy. Several days ago, the mayor related an incident which occurred on the sidelines of Champlain Towers, where 55 homes filled with people crumbled to the ground.

He told of how he met a twelve-year-old girl, by herself, reading something from her phone at the site. He learned that her father was presumably in the building when it fell, and that she was reading a Jewish prayer. Mayor Burkett called it the face of the tragedy. The girl's name is Elisheva Cohen, her father is Dr. Brad Cohen, and she was reading Tehillim, or Psalms, from her phone.

There are no explanations for why such terrible tragedies occur. We can only be there for those impacted by them in any way we can.

We can also learn from the exemplary courage exhibited feet from that calamity. The book of Tehillim was created by King David. Its 150 chapters encapsulate heartfelt faith and trust in G‑d in the face of overwhelming difficulties. For a child crushed by such tragedy to have the inner strength and wherewithal to visit the site where her parent presumably is, by herself, and quietly recite those 3000-year-old words of Tehillim is extraordinary. 

As America celebrates Independence Day this weekend, we are reminded of how blessed we are to live in this wonderful country, which has provided freedom to so many millions of people, including millions of Jews. Throughout Jewish history, however, it wasn't always this way. For millennia, Jews were faced with unspeakable challenges and persecution, from England to Iraq. Even a rudimentary study of Jewish history can leave one wondering how we made it to July 4th weekend, 2021.

This story of a child's quiet courage in Surfside sheds some light on how it was done. In the face of such unspeakable hardship, when it would be so understandable for someone in her position to be crushed, she stands at the site of the tragedy, sits down, and takes to reading the prayers of the book of Tehillim which Jews have been inspired by since King David wrote it.

We pray for those who were in that building, and for their families. And we pray for a world where such tragedies no longer occur.

Rabbi Avrohom