“He died?” Father says in a whisper to the cell phone, and turns pale all at once. “Baruch Dayan Ha’emes…”
Naty, sitting next to him in an armchair in the Oncology department, looks at his father with frightened eyes.
“I am going to Mother now,” says Father, and Natti nods in agreement.
Tel Hashomer is a giant hospital. A virtual city of patients. In one wing, a strong chemical is dripping into Naty’s arm and burning his veins. In a different building, the Chevra Kadisha is taking care of his baby brother, who was born with severe congenital disorders and survived only a month and a half.
Father and Mother go back home in silence. She is a weak and broken post-partum Mother. But without a baby in her arms.
The home is catastrophically upside down, dirty laundry everywhere, a jumble of bags and objects, all the pots are in the sink and the electricity is disconnected.
This is the second time that Naty has cancer. His parents are torn between him and the other children, and now they have been running back and forth because of the baby, who just passed away. The children are alone for many hours at a time. They manage somehow. They circulate between the homes of neighbors and uncles. They lack essential items of clothing, they long for normal life, for a caress from Mother, for Shabbos meals where Father sits at the head of the table.
They are so broken. So crying out for our help. At least to lessen the financial pressure. So Father won’t have to beg for mercy at the Gemachim to buy medication for Naty. That there should be some light in the home, vitamins for Mother, money for transportation here and there… a little alleviation. A little love of Klal Yisrael within the nightmare of troubles.
Four months ago they found that my husband Michael has cancer. We went through a wearying period of chemotherapy sessions, hospitalizations and side effects, and baruch Hashem we were informed that the malignant growth is gone now.
Except that the last MRI scan showed an unidentified growth next to the optical nerve.
Because of the sensitive location, the doctors preferred to not to perform a biopsy. But further x-rays did not produce a clear picture and the doctors insisted on an operation, nevertheless.
Two days before the operation I said to Michael, “I want us to donate to Vaad Harabbanim, the tzedakah that rips up a gezar din!” We decided to donate 101 shekels, the gematriya of my husband’s name, מיכאל.
On Sunday, 3 Sivan, Michael was hospitalized in the neurosurgical department in Hadassah, and they started to get him ready for the operation: a last MRI scan before the operation, a meeting with the anesthesiologist, questions, signing the waiver. The doctor comes in again, explains to us the difficult repercussions of the operation, which I will not mention here, Michael signs again, and I am shaking with fear.
After 45 minutes a head doctor comes over to us: “You can go home,” he says. “The operation is canceled. The MRI didn’t show anything that needs to be operated on. We don’t know how this growth disappeared, but it isn’t there anymore.”
Before I shook from fear, and now I shook from excitement. “We know what happened to the growth,” I told the doctor. “The tzedakah of Vaad Harabbanim saved my husband!”
A man, clearly not Torah-observant, who was attending his father in the same department, came over to us, visibly moved, and he handed me a hundred shekels. “I am donating it for my father,” he said with tears in his eyes. “We also want a tzedakah like that.”
Meir was a promising, shining child. A child that everyone who met him, caressed his check with affection. Rambunctious and energetic.
And now he can’t pick up a foot.
“Stop the nonsense” said Mother impatiently, when Meir sat on his bed and announced that he can’t get up. “It’s late, Meirush! Come get dressed.”
“I can’t.” Now he cried, and his crying shocked her.
She stood him up on his feet, and he swayed unstably. “Aryeh!” Mother screamed. Father ran in from the kitchen. “What happened?”
They sat in the ambulance petrified with fear. A full week of hospitalization, tests again and again, consulting with medical experts, and then a clear diagnosis:
An eight-year-old child will not be able to run and will not be able to walk to yeshivah. How will he stand up at his bar mitzvah, how will he function after that? How can an active child be imprisoned within degenerated muscles?
Life turned into a black pit, and nothing went back to being what it was.
The expenses were insane, astronomical. Meir’s intensive therapy sessions extracted a very high price. Critical operations, top doctors, an enormous amount of money and work hours went and did not come back.
Several years have passed since then. In the beginning, Father handled the finances, borrowed and paid back, shuttled from gemach to gemach. Until he, too, collapsed.
They now live in unbelievable poverty. Father hardly leaves the home, the healthy children are developing emotional problems, and one mother is pleading for our help.
I stretch my aching arms and look worriedly at the thermometer. An hour ago the little girl got aspirin, and the numbers are climbing back up too high!
Two weeks ago, one-year-old Tehilah was hospitalized for a virus in her blood. On Erev Shabbos, when her temperature rose again and the blood count was high, the pediatrician was concerned that the two might be connected, and instructed us to go to the hospital if we don’t see an improvement within twenty-four hours.
At midnight of Motzaei Shabbos I decided we can’t wait any longer. Tehilah didn’t look good at all, she was feeble from the high temperature that didn’t go down despite antibiotics and aspirin. “I am calling an ambulance,” I said to Channy.
Channy nodded. “But first donate to Vaad Harabbanim.”
I called the number and donated 26 shekels. “Take her temperature again,” I asked Channy. I don’t know why I said that. I did not really expect that the donation would work so fast.
We were surprised. The thermometer showed a slightly lower temperature. This was the first change for the better we had seen in two days.
Channy packed a bag for the hospital, and I, encouraged, called up again and donated another 26 shekels.
Like a miracle, the thermometer reading we took a moment before ordering the ambulance showed a significant improvement!
We were excited to see Hashem’s Hand at work, and decided that in the meantime we will not go to the hospital.
At 4:00 AM I woke up Tehilah to take her temperature, and now it was almost normal! Without any medicine to lower temperature!
In the morning I called my mother to tell her about the amazing miracle. My mother laughed excitedly. “We also donated to Vaad Harabbanim last night, 250 shekels…”