It’s been a while since I’ve reached out to all of you.
The rapid changes in our lives were not very conducive to writing.
The world has changed in many ways.
The dynamics of our communities have shifted.
Everyone has been affected or knows someone who has been affected.
And the coffee?
Yes, I always mention the coffee.
I am drinking it now more to steady myself, to keep myself grounded while I stand on my porch, fixated on the sky, wonder what’s REALLY going on up there in that brilliant blue blue sky –
The same blue as the eyes of the boy who tells us via video – I am lonely. I need a mother. What will I do?
Chaim just lost his mother three weeks ago. He is fourteen. His brother is ten. His father is a child of Avrohom Avinu (our forefather Abraham). A righteous convert who needs a prayer and a complete recovery for his own health.
I knew his mother, Chana, when we were growing up. As a young girl, I was unsure how to deal with her. She was deaf like me but she was VERY deaf. Her smile was constant. Her eyes lit up. She was excited to see and talk to everyone while I worked very hard to look unimpressed with the world. I tried to avoid her. She would wave at me animatedly (really animatedly) if we met in the street. She would sign and point to each of us back and forth and say, Libbi we are the same! Right, we are the same?
And I would panick and think no! We’re not the same at all! And give a condescending little wave and point to my watch to show that I had something really important to do and leave her standing there looking slightly perplexed but still with the wide smile. Over 35 years ago and the memory hovers…
Last year her son came to the yeshiva.
Mathematically inclined. Who knew? I once watched him, fascinated as he calculated numbers at an alarming speed, drawing figures in the air while working on his sheet, poker faced all the way. Just one terrific teacher was all it took.
In February I went to visit my Devoiri, you know the one who has Down syndrome and autism and all these major issues, blah blah blah, who lives in NY. Because my 12 year old wanted to see her. Who am I to say no. So we take the bus to NY for Shabbos. My daughter deemed it an adventure. Who am I to argue …
Sunday I am racing up and down 13th Avenue shopping. You know how it is. Brooklyn tends to have that effect … suddenly everything is crucial. Socks. A robe. Shoes. Mostly Music. Help. Eichlers. Run back to the candy store and the bakery. Right. The headbands. The vitamins. Nosh for the bus. And more nosh.
I get a message that Chana is sitting shiva together with her sister for their father. I think, I don’t have time for this. And I have to light my candles before shkia (sundown) because I was saying a special prayer for 40 days. And the bus is leaving at 7:30 tonight. But in the street, bags cutting into my wrists and my legs threatening to give way, I stop. I know I must go.
Drop the bags off. Promise my daughter she can talk to me all night on the bus. Just hang on till I get back and yeh, go get all the pizza you want.
I walk into the apartment. It’s empty. The two women, their brother is hunched in a corner, their faces light up.
I ask if I could light two tea lights because it’s getting dark. The husband sets them up for me and I light and I sit down.
The two sisters look at me with wide, kind eyes. No guile. No pretense. Child-like interest.
One signs. The other speaks. Same barrage of questions.
Why are you lighting? Who are you lighting for? What are you asking for?
I open my mouth to answer. They wait expectantly. And I can’t.
I start to cry. And I can’t stop.
Chana looks stricken and suddenly rises up, a towering wave and enfolds me into her embrace and I bury my head in her arms and just cry and cry.
Her sister tilts her head sideways and just watches thoughtfully. Knowingly.
For that moment, the angels pulled back the curtain of heaven and the loftiness of the souls of two simple, kind women were revealed.
I walk out with a lighter heart and with a sense of relief of having been shown the value of humility and love and God’s presence.
And Chana and I became very close. We texted Gut Shabbos weekly. We talked. She told me she prays for me and my family every day. I told her it made me feel better just knowing she was praying for us. I knew we were in good hands.
Pesach she was in the hospital for breathing related issues. She came home after Pesach. I breathed in relief. She was home. Back with her husband and two boys.
She spoke with my husband on video about her son. Before they hung up, she signed to him – I am davening, always davening for your family. I always will.
Those were her last words to him.
She was back in the hospital on Shabbos.
Monday morning. I open my eyes. My husband is standing by the doorway.
I look. What?
He shakes his head.
He nods slightly.
Nefesh Dovid is a gentle woven net spreading over the world.
A net that catches and embraces and supports and never breaks
Chaim has homes open to him from Europe to Toronto to Israel to Monroe and Baltimore and Pittsburg and Detroit. Every Yom Tov and vacation and summer break is spoken for. He will mourn and the struggle is real and painful. But he will never be alone.
He will be loved. And educated. And valued. And productive.
His aunt, Chana’s sister called me to say Good Shabbos this past Friday…
Don’t give up.
And try again.
And reach out again.
Do what you love.
Even when doing things you don’t love.
Do. What. You. Love.
And don’t give in. Or up.
This is dedicated to the memory of a beautiful person who loved life so much and was a dedicated wife and mother,
Chana bas Shlomo Menachem
Please join us for a beautiful experience as Rabbi Ahron Margalit addresses us from Israel.
The speech is beyond beautiful and will serve to inspire so many and give us the strength to persevere.
Thank you for providing me with the privilege of sharing with you.
The first of its kind in the world, Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid is a valuable support system for young men with hearing loss throughout the global Jewish community and has become synonymous with excellence in limud Torah, growth and ahavas yisrael.
Nefesh Dovid enables young men with hearing loss to rewrite the course of their futures and obtain a first class education in order to stay one step ahead of today’s fast paced society and makes themselves heard.
Trained and qualified rebbeim, a dynamic secular studies staff, full interpreting services and dorm supervision along with recreational programming including sports and swimming contribute to the yeshiva’s mission to enhance self confidence and self sufficiency through social development and education.
Nefesh Dovid – a place where, through tremendous devotion and hard work, miracles happen.
Nefesh Dovid – the yeshiva that makes a difference.
With YOUR support, OUR boys do not stand alone.
Rabbi Ahron Margalit, a renowned speaker, is the head of the Chofetz Chayim Institution and the author of the bestselling books “As Long As I Live“, “The Impact Of As Long As I Live” and the popular comic book series, “Ahrele“. Rabbi Margalit resides in Ashdod, Israel.
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