Earlier this week, I had occasion to spend the better part of a day in the emergency room of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, with a family member. Throughout that time period, I observed the amazing, selfless work of many dozens of charedi individuals; The Hatzolah members who hovered over their patients, tending to their every need until they were settled, the Bikur Cholim members who were visiting and comforting patients with dignity and grace, a kolel yungerman softly being ma’avir sedrah (reviewing the weekly Torah portion) amid the organized chaos of the emergency room.
At about 5 p.m. a chassidishe fellow, still dressed in his construction work clothing, walked past our bed carrying small brown shopping bags containing hot dinners and cold drinks. There was no pomp or circumstance in his mannerism, only the humble nobility of spirit that comes with touching the lives of others.
Coming as it was on the heels of the past few weeks, when our community was slammed with such horrible publicity regarding the violent protests in Yerushalayim, it was inspiring and comforting to be reminded of all that is right and good in our community.
Please find below an article that I ran in the Jewish Press after a similar experience. I hope you find it meaningful.
Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos,
Thank You All
The story is told of a financial analyst who had his head near a raging fire and his legs in an ice bucket. When asked how he was feeling, he responded that on average he was doing just fine.
Sometimes I feel like that poor fellow.
I write two columns in the Jewish Press; an uplifting D’var Torah on the parsha and a parenting column that often highlights the areas in our society that are in need of improvement. Week after week, Sundays through Tuesdays, I turn on my laptop, and work on my columns, usually in the predawn hours. I use my sefarim and keyboard to do my best to inspire teens – and their parents – by crafting a positive message from the weekly Torah portion. I also utilize that block of time to shine light on the darker corners of our society, and I try to offer solutions to remediate some of these communal problems that we would rather ignore.
But, I guess that is the way it should be. Torah should inspire us. And we should seek to improve our lives. Hashem and our Torah are perfect. We are not flawless – yet.
I often think, however, that regular readers of my parenting lines may be left with an inaccurate negative perception of our Torah society. Over the past few months, I have been thinking about taking a week off from the doom-and-gloom-teen-crisis mode in order to write a column that celebrates what is wonderful and outstanding in our world. Somehow, however, I never got around to writing that one.
A few weeks ago, on a quiet Shabbos morning, one of my family members had an urgent medical condition that required us to rush to the local hospital. Baruch Hashem, it turned out to be very temporary in nature, and things were back to normal by the afternoon. All day long, my grandmother’s words kept coming to mind, “Ribbono Shel Olam; shrek mich, nor shtruf mich nisht.” Loosely translated, it means, “Master of the World, You may frighten me [in the context of a medical emergency], but please do not punish me [with things that are permanent in nature].
For eight hours, I was in a very rare state of suspended animation in an emergency waiting room. No cell phone, no laptop, no one to talk to when my family member was sedated and napping. And, once it became clear that there was nothing medically significant, I was left sitting in a straight-backed, plastic chair – with lots of time on my hands to reflect in silence.
As the day wore on, I kept thinking of the amazing acts of selflessness and chesed that I had been witnessing all day – and how very proud I am to be a frum Jew.
A LONG – AND INSPIRING – DAY
We called Hatzolah at 7:40 on a quiet, sunny Shabbos morning. Two young men were at our home within sixty seconds. Cheerful, competent, and professional, they took care of the medical issues at hand and comforted their patient throughout the ride to the hospital. Once we were settled, they left, only to return with another patient within a half-hour. Over the next three hours, they made FIVE trips to the hospital – with the same good-natured, wisecracking-but-serious composure.
Having left my home with nothing to eat, I was directed to the “Bikur Cholim Refrigerator”, where I was able to make Kiddush and grab a bite. I never got to thank the volunteers who lovingly prepared the wrapped packets of cake and cookies, or the owners of the bakeries and grocery stores who donated the food and drink to stock the shelves.
During the eight hours that we were in the hospital, we were visited by numerous Bikur Cholim volunteers, who walked four miles in 90-degree heat to give much-needed comfort to hospital patients and their family members.
Around noontime, there was a lull in the action in our hospital room. I walked over to the new Bikur Cholim “Shabbos Home” located right near the hospital. It was recently purchased by a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, and renovated for the use of family members who remain near the hospital on Shabbos and Yom Tov. I had to blink back tears as I took a self-led tour of the home, which was so thoughtfully and tastefully done. The home was spotless and freshly painted. There was fresh, matching linen on the beds. The kitchen was fully stocked; soup to nuts – quite literally. I could have had a full meal – or any type of snack. There were seforim, Jewish newspapers and games for kids to play. A beautiful deck was recently built off the kitchen area, to afford the guests some moments of relaxation, when the weather would permit it. The house was empty when I visited it, but there were signs of significant use. Three cars were parked in the driveway – two with out-of-state license plates.
SO MANY THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED – PERSONALLY AND COLLECTIVELY
Throughout the remaining hours that we spent in the hospital, I kept thinking of the things that we take for granted; our health, for example. Sitting in a hospital room for a few hours gives a person a better perspective on why our chachamim (sages) included daily brachos in our morning tefilos – to remind us that we need to thank Hashem each and every day for our health and well-being.
On a communal level as well, there is so much that we should appreciate. We should celebrate our success at transmitting our eternal Torah values to our children. We should be so very proud of the respect that our children have for their elders, about the fact that so many mechanchim and mechanchos devote their lives, year after year, to educate and inspire our children in Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs across this country. We should pause and take stock of the galaxy of Ge’mach organizations (free loan and charitable volunteer groups) in our communities – where countless numbers of our friends devote their time and energy to help their neighbors. We should appreciate the devotion and communal responsibility of those in our community who have achieved financial success – and realize the personal sacrifices that they make; hardly eating a meal without being disturbed by those in need of their assistance. And, we should be grateful to Hashem for the amazing groups of decent, spiritual, and idealistic friends that our children have.
A HUMBLE THANK YOU
So, next week, I guess that I will continue with my divrei Torah and parenting columns. I will try to inspire – and do my best to point out areas where we need to improve.
But, for just this week, please allow me to use these lines in order to pause and thank all of you who helped make my Shabbos morning less stressful:
- To the Hatzolah dispatcher who took my call politely and professionally
- To the Hatzolah members who did such a marvelous job, helping my family member
- To your spouses and children who graciously share your time and love with Klal Yisroel
- To the Bikur Cholim volunteers who visited us, to those who lovingly stocked the shelves, who prepared the kugels and cholent, who painted the walls and cleaned the rooms in the Shabbos home
- To the Bikur Cholim and ECHO medical referral staff members for being available 24/7 to assist and reassure those of us who must make instant and critical medical decisions for which we are unprepared (I did not make use of your services this time, but it was a great source of comfort to me to know that I could have)
- To the countless members of the support staffs of these wonderful organizations, and to those who run the fundraisers without which none of this work would be possible
- And, to those who anonymously contribute the funds that enable these wonderful organizations to do their lifesaving work
To all of you, on behalf of my family members, I offer my humble thanks – and my sincere tefilos (prayers):
May the Ribbono Shel Olam reward you for your countless, selfless acts of kindness.
May He protect you from harm as you engage in your Holy and lifesaving work.
May you always be able to give – and never need anyone’s assistance.
With boundless gratitude,
© 2004 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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