Joanna Molloy, of the New York Daily News, reported a very touching article on July 17, 2005. The piece is about Judith Fertig's dying wish to attend her son Rafi's bar mitzvah. Doctors said it would be impossible.
By chance, Rabbi Areyeh Oberstein walked into the 52-year-old "muter" of four's room at Mount Sinai Medical Center and recognized her brother, Aaron Braunstein, the New York radiohost and boxing promoter.
Braunstein pulled Oberstein into "der koridor" (the hall) and whispered, "She doesn't have much time." Oberstein decided to "helfn" and had an idea. There was a "kleyn" (small) synagogue in "der shpitol" (the hospital), and he could perform the bar mitzvah there.
Preparations began quickly: kosher food from Borough Park. A klezmer band. The guests. A "sheyn" dress for Judith.
On the Fourth of July, Judith, who suffered
from ovarian cancer, was wheeled into the
sanctuary. "Di zunenshayn" (the sunshine) poured through the stained glass windows,
as she was surrounded by "di mishpokhe"-- the family: her husband, Joseph, and children, Avi, Yochevet, Tsvi and Rafi, who donned his tallis and wrapped tefillin around his "orem" (arm).
Oberstein handed him the Torah. Rafi chanted the words "Baruch Atah Adonai..."
His mother gave a "shmeykhl" (smile)
the youngest son born after her initial bout
with breast cancer. She named him "Raphael," Hebrew for "God's healer."
Oberstein blessed Rafi, the klezmer band
struckup triumphant chords, guests hesitantly
began to chat, "esn," and even dance. "Rafi, you know how much money you saved your parents by not having this at Leonard's?" said Braunstein to "dos gelekhter" (the laughter). "And you're definitely going to become a doctor being bar mitzahed here."
This was the "ershter" (first) bar mitzvah in the hospital's 141-year history.
And now the sad part: Judith passed away
just 12 hours later at 1:30 a.m. There's little
doubt that as a last motherly act of protection, she WAITED until past "di halbe nahkht"
(midnight) so it wouldn't be on the same day.
My thanks to Joanna Molloy for sharing this story with her readers.
Longevity Magazine once contained an article
by David P. Phillips, in which he found a
significant dip in the number of deaths among Jews before Passover and a peak right after- wards. The number of deaths for the control group of non-Jews was stable throughout the Passover season.
This research suggests that the social importance of the event
was an influential factor
Yes, when someone is ill and says, "Let
make it through the holidays (Passover, Purim,
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc.), it is
probably more than idle wishing. Our loved
ones have made a subconscious postponement process and literally will
themselves not to die until AFTER a certain occasion. "Der profesor" (the professor) has called this the Passover Effect.
I'm convinced that Judith Fertig willed herself to live!
Let's recall the words of the late Sam Levenson ("In One Era & Out the Other"):
Mama lived with time, but not on time or for time. She measured time not by seconds, minutes, or hours, but by the milestones, and tombstones that marked the road of her life...They were not just happenings, but HAPPINESSINGS, full of emotional as well as historical impact - holidays, disasters, births, deaths, miracles, narrow escapes, handed down as the Bible was, by word of mouth.
More Majorie Wolfe
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World