Bonei Olam 5T Event, June 1
Help others, and the One Above will help you. We know this is true; we believe it with every fiber of our being. As rachmanim b’nei rachmanim, sometimes we help others for totally altruistic reasons. Other times, our willingness to help others is somewhat more self-serving. As we wait for our own personal salvation, we ask our Father for mercy, demonstrating that we, too, have compassion for His children, and we turn to Him, begging Him to see the concern we have for others, and to repay the favor in kind. And we know that He hears us, that no prayer goes unanswered, and that no good deed goes unrewarded.
But sometimes the answers are not all that obvious. And sometimes the wait is so long, so hard, and so painful.
Take the case of Sarah (not her real name). The oldest of nine children, she was always the responsible one, her mother’s right hand, the one who knew just what needed to be done and did it before anyone even needed to ask. Money was always tight in her parents’ house, and her mother was overworked and overburdened. Sarah got used to doing her bit to make things easier for everyone around her, without complaining.
That attitude didn’t change when she married a wonderful young man. She landed a responsible job, with a salary to match. She found herself in a better financial position than her parents had ever been in. And so, every month, she gave money to her parents to help them out.
A year passed, and the next sister became engaged. Sarah rejoiced. Since she knew that her mother’s happiness was tempered by financial concerns, she quietly wrote out a sizable check, grateful that she was in a position to help make her sister’s simcha.
When it became obvious that her sister would “move on to the next stage” ahead of her, Sarah rejoiced in the good news, doing her best to set her own sharp stab of distress aside. She loved her sister deeply, and certainly didn’t want her to struggle with the ongoing disappointment that she herself experienced coupled with a gnawing fear of what might be wrong. She smiled as she complimented her sister on the lovely new maternity clothes. She smiled when her sister asked her softly if she and her husband would be willing to be kvatters at the b’ris. And she smiled as family members wished her “Im yirtza Hashem by you,” telling herself that she was only imagining the furtive eyes that traveled to her narrow waistline, wondering how she was coping.
Sarah continued to smile as her next sibling became engaged, and the next one after that. The company she worked for noted her quiet competence and moved her up the corporate ladder. Her salary was generous, and she smiled as she continued to write out checks for wedding after wedding. One after another, Sarah married off her siblings, watching them start families of their own. She bought gifts for the babies and delighted in the nieces and nephews who sensed that Tante Sarah loved them very much. She smiled as the family got together for yom tov, not betraying the pain that racked her as she lit her two lone candles amid a sea of tea lights. Sarah watched as her husband lifted nephew after nephew up to dance on Simchas Torah, wondering when he too would experience the joy of holding a son of his own under the tallis for kol ha’ne’arim.
She never mentioned the consultations with specialists, the grueling treatments, the days of waiting and hope, followed by more disappointment. Thanks to excellent medical coverage and her own financial stability, Sarah had been in a position to explore what seemed like every possible avenue. She never mentioned the fatigue, the pain, and the toll the treatments were taking.
The years passed, and the youngest child was “in the parashah.” Sarah’s parents looked around at the almost empty house. They looked at the albums and the framed photographs: baby pictures, upsherin pictures, and first-missing-tooth pictures. They were such a source of joy, yet amidst the happiness was the pain that never went away, the realization one set of pictures was missing.
Sarah came to the vort, as always, with a smile. Not once did she let on to the radiant kallah that she never in her wildest dreams expected to attend her baby sister’s vort without a baby of her own. Once again, she wrote out a generous check to cover the expenses of the wedding. After all, her needs were still all too modest.
Her parents davened fervently, beseeching the One Above to let Sarah have some good news of her own soon. But once again her younger sibling received the berachah of a child before Sarah did. As happy as Sarah was for her baby sister, and as much as she davened that no one else should ever experience the heartbreak that she lived with daily, and as much as she willed herself to “fargin, fargin, fargin,” the tears flowed unchecked that Friday night.
On motzaei Shabbos, a family member took matters into his own hands and called Rabbi Schlomo Bochner of Bonei Olam, begging him to meet with this couple. Although Sarah was hesitant at first, they set up an appointment. He listened as she described everything she had done for every other member of her family and her deep-rooted belief that she would be repaid, and the anguish she felt as years passed and she saw no sign of a yeshuah. She also spoke about the doctors she had seen, the tests they had taken, and the treatments that had led nowhere.
Rabbi Bochner believed with certainty that this young woman, who had given of herself so selflessly all these years, and who had helped her family so consistently, would be helped by Hashem. Since Sarah had done her research well and had consulted with the most eminent specialists in the field, he decided to take a different approach, consulting with a relative newcomer to the field. Perhaps someone who didn’t have years of experience, who wasn’t locked into a particular protocol, would see things with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, seeing something that all the others overlooked. Sarah asked Rabbi Bochner if he had anyone in particular in mind, and he gave her the name of a young doctor who had only been practicing for a year or two but was displaying remarkable clarity and insight. Sarah made the appointment, assembled the stacks of folders and files, and went to see him.
Baruch Hashem, the problem turned out to be relatively minor. Within a few short months, Sarah was able to make the phone call that her parents had been waiting to get for so many years. This time, her smiles at the simcha were smiles of pure, unadulterated joy and tremendous gratitude. And if there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as her family watched her, well, these were tears of a different type altogether.
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Nearly 4,700 births have been celebrated in our homes and shuls with the help of Bonei Olam’s intervention, with 68 Lawrence/Far Rockaway children bringing nachas to their parents thanks to Bonei Olam. Bonei Olam offers teams of dedicated counselors who offer couples cutting-edge guidance, emotional and practical support, rabbinical assistance in navigating the complex halachic ramifications associated with infertility, funding for the enormously costly treatments, and the right doctors to administer the procedures.
Recently, Bonei Olam has expanded its horizons, dedicating itself to trailblazing fields often considered outside the typical scope of services, hoping to bring salvation to those who not only have to deal with diseases of the past, but also the potentially shattered dreams of the future. Infertility is not the only problem faced by families. There are also struggles with various afflictions, such as hearing and vision loss, mental impairment and retardation, and even premature death. Bonei Olam helps the Jewish community take advantage of advances in the field of genetic research. Additionally, Bonei Olam has pioneered research and discovered the genetic mutations for dozens of difficult cases and Bonei Olam’s staff members and their findings have repeatedly been featured in the American Journal of Medical Genetics and other prestigious publications. Bonei Olam continues to conduct studies on scores of others, working in tandem with a vast network of top-flight geneticists and institutions, such as Columbia Presbyterian and Hadassah Ein Kerem hospitals.
Whether dealing with ordinary fertility issues, genetics, or a combination of both, the journey is complex, confusing, and often agonizing.
“When it is bashert to struggle in this area, you realize how much it takes for things to go right,” remarks someone dealing with infertility. “‘Natural’ begins to seem abnormal.”
The annual Bonei Olam Breakfast of Inspiration in Far Rockaway and Lawrence is an event that enables every member of our community to have a hand in increasing the number of brisim and kiddushim that will, b’ezras Hashem, occupy the communal calendar. This year’s breakfast will be held, iy’H, this coming Sunday, June 1, 9:45 a.m. at the home of Ari and Chanie Hirt, 122 Central Avenue, with a special address by guest speaker Rabbi Mordechai Stern, the rav of Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid and a special founder’s message from Rabbi Schlomo Bochner. Please join them and help them be able to continue to help others.
“The most painful thing for us is to ever have to say no to, or even delay, a request for help,” says Rabbi Bochner. “For the sake of Hashem’s children, we hope to continue hearing a resounding ‘yes’ from the Far Rockaway/Lawrence community to their neighbors’ pleas for help.”
For more information about the upcoming Annual Breakfast of Hope and Inspiration in Lawrence, please call 732-942-7773. v