Last week, my column focused on kidney donations. I would like to add one heartwarming story I heard this week about the same subject that created a tremendous kiddush Hashem. In 2001, Member of the Knesset Rabbi Avraham Ravitz was in need of a kidney transplant. All 12 of Rav Ravitz’s children were found to be a match for him. Not only did all of his children volunteer to donate a kidney to their father, but they each also fought for the z’chus to be able to do so, so that they could fulfill the mitzvot of both saving a life and kibbud av.
Rav Ravitz himself disqualified his daughters. Each of his sons had an explanation as to why he was most suited to be the donor and none of them were willing to give up on such an opportunity. They actually went to a Din Torah to resolve the issue. The Beis Din suggested that they choose the donor based on a lottery. As the lot was being cast, each son davened in his own corner that he be chosen to have the honor of donating a kidney to his father. In the end, Rav Ravitz’s eldest son, Rav Moshe, who incidentally was my son’s teacher in high school, was chosen. Years later, Rav Moshe Ravitz’s son donated a kidney to a total stranger.
Mazel Tov! Esther* and Chaim* Schwartz were the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl, whom they named Elisheva*. They were overjoyed, until it became clear that Elisheva wasn’t growing properly. Then at two-and-a-half months, they noticed that she was using extra muscles to breathe. The pediatrician sent Esther and Chaim to the emergency room where an x-ray revealed that Elisheva had an oversized heart, which was causing heart failure. If that wasn’t enough, the next day another test revealed two holes in her heart. The pediatric cardiologist suggested treating the heart failure with medication and letting the heart heal by itself, as congenital holes often close by themselves. Approximately one month later, Elisheva spiked a fever. This time, when they returned to the hospital, Elisheva was admitted. For some reason that no doctor could identify, Elisheva’s condition continued to deteriorate. She was transferred to the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and was eventually intubated. It seems that the holes in her heart were constricting her pulmonary artery and affecting her lung. The doctors tried to resolve the problem with a few surgical procedures but had no success. Despite the fevers and added lung concerns, they were left with no choice but to perform open heart surgery. This was frightening, as the doctors had informed Esther and Chaim that the operation which had started out as having a 1% mortality risk had now jumped to a 10% risk.
As the Schwartzes spent their days in the hospital filled with worry about Elisheva’s condition, a neighbor suggested that they write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. For a while, Chaim resisted this idea. As an unwavering Litvak, this was not his path. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Chaim stated that just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are no Misnagdim (those who follow a more rational approach, as opposed to Chasidim who follow a more mystical approach) in the Intensive Care Unit.
Chaim sent a letter to the Rebbe asking for a brachah for a refuah shelaima for Elisheva. The Rebbe wrote back and told Chaim to check their mezuzas. Mezuzas placed on the doorpost are viewed as a layer of protection for the home. When bad things happen, many people will immediately check their mezuzas. A pasul (invalid) mezuzah could potentially be the cause of the problem. Chaim viewed this approach as a segulah, an action that is thought to lead to a change in one’s fortune. Well-known segulot include being a kvatter at a bris in the hope of having children, wearing the jewelry of a kallah in the hope of finding a husband, making shlissel (key) challah after Pesach so that Hashem will shower us with parnassah, and traveling with shaliach mitzvah money (money designated for tzedakah) for protection when flying. Of course, mezuzas adorned every doorpost in Chaim’s home, as halachah dictates. But he could not imagine that a pasul mezuzah could be the cause of their daughter’s illness. But if they already had sent a letter to the Rebbe, they would follow through to the end and take his advice to heart. Chaim brought their mezuzas to a reliable sofer, who found them to be kosher. Chaim felt vindicated, until he suddenly remembered that they shared a machsan (storage room) with one of their neighbors. It happened to be that those neighbors were also dealing with a medical crisis with their own baby. Their baby had a kidney problem. Chaim was shocked when the mezuzah of the shared machsan was found to have been pasul. As the pasuk “bochen klayot va’lev” (literally: Hashem checks kidneys and hearts; figuratively: Hashem knows what man thinks and feels inside) floated through Chaim’s head, he replaced the mezuzah, and within a day, both babies had surgery, and their conditions improved immediately. Baruch Hashem, they both recovered completely.
We are required to check our mezuzas twice over the course of seven years. The auspicious month of Elul is considered to be a particularly favorable time to do so. Some even check their mezuzas every year in Elul. B’ezrat Hashem, our mezuzas should provide protection for all of Klal Yisrael during this coming year and onward.