This true story is written as heard from Tzippy, the woman involved. She agreed to tell over her personal story so that its profound message could influence and encourage as many people as possible.
Tzippy pointed to a framed picture on the sideboard in her dining room. I couldn’t help but smile at the cherubic face of the handsome two-year-old. His long brown curls covered the sides of his face and framed shining eyes and a winning smile.
But Tzippy didn’t return my smile; instead, a veil of sorrow briefly swept over her caring eyes as she said, “That was Yehoshua, my third child – alav ha-shalom (may he rest in peace).
“That picture was taken just after we had discovered that he had a serious blockage in his intestines. We left the rest of the children in Eretz Yisroel and flew off to America to operate, full of hope in Hashem, although the doctors had given him only a fifty percent chance of being cured.
“The operation was not successful; the growth spread. The doctors advised another operation, and then yet another one. We gave our consent, increasing our tefillos (prayers) and kaballos (taking something upon yourself in the sick person’s merit), reinforced by the prayers of our friends and relatives.
“But he didn’t survive. He passed away shortly afterward.”
Tzippy’s eyes were moist with tears. The pain remained deep in her heart.
“We had no choice but to accept it as a Heavenly decree and get back into our daily routines. We began a crib Gemach (lending society) in his memory, lending out portable cribs for newborn babies.
“After Yehoshua passed away, we had more healthy children, Baruch Hashem.
“Things ran smoothly again…until Reizy was born.
“She also began to have digestive problems, slightly different than what Yehoshua had suffered. But the prognosis was just as serious as Yehoshua’s had been.
“This time I took it very badly. It was like a terrifying dream, a nightmare that I was reliving. All the trying times and vivid, mental images of Yehoshua’s suffering came back to me and gave me no rest.
“I felt like I did not have the strength — both physically and emotionally — to go through it all again. The doctors again advised difficult and complicated surgery which they could not guarantee would succeed. Preparations were made to fly to the same hospital in the United States, where Yehoshua, alav ha-shalom, had been treated unsuccessfully. The required sum of money was collected.
“When my older children heard the news they were also very worried. They too, recalled the difficult times we had been through.
“‘What can I do?’ I thought in desperation.
“Then my husband came up with a most appropriate idea. We would begin to say asher yatzar (a prayer of thanksgiving on the proper functioning of the body) with a little more concentration, reading the words from inside a siddur (prayerbook).
“Weren’t those the very words that I needed to say? Didn’t I, of all mothers, need to turn to He Who ‘formed Man with wisdom, and created numerous openings and passages within him’? Wasn’t it I who needed to acknowledge that ‘it is revealed and known before the throne of Your glory that should any one of them burst open, or should any one of them become obstructed, it would be impossible for man to survive and stand before You’?
“My child now had an obstruction; would she merit to grow up and survive, and stand before Hashem as a healthy child and adult, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother?
“Could any human being heal my child without the guidance of the Supreme Healer, the Rofei chol basar u’mafli la’asos — the Healer Who cures all flesh, and acts wondrously?
“‘Ribbono shel Olam (Creator of the world)!’ I prayed, ‘You can heal Reizy so easily. This time, please let her have a refuah sheleimah (complete recovery) and live!’
“My older children noticed how I had begun to recite asher yatzar and they followed suit. I went out to buy an attractive poster of the beracha with an explanation of the words in Hebrew. The younger children watched as I hung it up over the sink outside the bathroom. They were also eager to join in our efforts for Reizy’s sake. My ten-year-old even enlisted the help of his friends.
“This ‘ashar yatzar effort’ was in addition to the many chapters of Tehillim (psalms) that we were already saying for Reizy’s merit and the specific hours of practicing shemiras ha-lashon, consciously monitoring our speech and what we listened to.
“Meanwhile, Reizy lost more and more weight. We were in and out of the hospital with her until a date for her surgery in the U.S. was finally set.
“I knew that my neighbors, family and friends who had shared my pain and come to be menachem avel (comfort the mourner) when Yehoshua passed away were also devastated. I decided to accept their offers for help.
“On Erev Shabbos before our departure for America, I invited a few neighbors to come over for a visit after hadlakas neiros (candle lighting).
“I’ll always remember the way they walked in — silently, their faces drawn in worry and dread. Their discomfort was clearly visible as they settled onto the couch. What do you say to a mother who is facing a life-and-death crisis for the second time?
But I didn’t mince words. ‘ I would like you to do something for me,’ I began.
“‘Tzippy, of course we are prepared to help,’ Goldy interjected. ‘We’ve already designed a meal-preparation plan for when you’re gone. We’ll be taking runs sending over meals for the children. Tell us what else you need; we all want to help.’
“I smiled. ‘Thank you, that’s very kind of you, but actually I want to ask you something quite different…I would like to ask all of you to take upon yourselves to say the berachah (blessing) of asher yatzar with extra concentration, preferably from a written text, as a special merit for Reizy.’
“They all heaved a sigh of relief! They seemed to think I was asking a simple favor.
I explained to my friends that my request was not as easy as it sounded, and told them that our family had already begun this ‘project’. I told them what it involved — standing still for a few moments and concentrating on the words of the berachah, without drying one’s hands or doing anything else — even mechanically — at the time.
“Each woman gave her full consent and I handed out translated copies of the berachah.
“After Shabbos, I called a few relatives and friends and made the same request.
Then the day of our flight arrived. We took our sick daughter, our hopes and our prayers, and left for the United States.
“A few days later we were back in that terrifying hospital, the scene of Yehoshua’s suffering, of our agony, of our bereavement. So many black memories came back to me!
“The only positive moments I experienced were when I received word from Israel, as my friends and family updated me on the success of the ashar yatzar campaign.
“The day and the hour of Reizy’s operation arrived. The doctors were trying to cure our daughter, but they couldn’t promise anything. As I handed her over to the anesthetist who accompanied her into the operating room, the only thought from which I drew strength was the knowledge that she was accompanied by wonderful, perfect angels created by the perfect berachos and Amens uttered specifically to help her in her time of need.
“Thirty-six hours after the surgery Professor Gerald Simpson, a world-famous specialist in the field, shook my husband’s hand warmly and told him, ‘You couldn’t have hoped for better results!’
“We knew that he would not speak so hastily unless he was confident that the operation had been a complete success.
“A week later we were informed that Reizy’s condition was excellent. The surgery had been so successful that she wouldn’t even need a second operation, as was usually the case. One of the doctors classified it as a medical miracle.
“Another few days passed and we were dismissed from the hospital. A short while later, we were allowed to fly back to Eretz Yisrael.
“We arrived home bearing a gift in our hands, a gift called Reizy.
“As soon as Reizy learned to speak, we taught her to say asher yatzar. Tears would stream from my eyes each time I listened to her. She could recite the entire berachah by heart even before she knew how to read.
“To this day, our family is careful to recite the berachah the way we took upon ourselves over twenty years ago. We know that it is in the merit of this berachah that we have our Reizy — and her wonderful children. Our heartfelt berachos are an expression of our boundless thanks to the Rofei Chol Basar, Who heals the sick and constantly maintains the wondrous functioning of our bodies.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.