Every one of us was shattered each time we heard about another member of Klal Yisrael who succumbed to the coronavirus. We cried and begged Hashem for mercy, but then we mostly went on to deal with our own challenges as we coped with the severe repercussions of this rare pandemic.
But one man did something more.
Mr. Milton Pfeiffer, who lives in New York’s least famous borough, Staten Island, has lived his life a bit differently. For many decades he has been guided by Chazal’s directive, “B’makom she’ein ish, hishtadel lihyos ish,” when few step forward as a man to act, try to be that man.” When he read about the 54th shomer Shabbos Jew who had died, Pfeiffer decided to honor the memory of that group in a most meaningful manner.
Since Mr. Pfeiffer is an accountant, numbers “speak” to him, and the number 54 immediately called to his mind the number of parshiyos in our precious Torah. A veteran of countless tzedakah initiatives, it didn’t take him long to envision a campaign to write a sefer Torah in their memory and donate it to Misaskim, so that, going forward, additional families in mourning will be able to convene Kaddish minyanim in their homes.
Being a man of action, Mr. Pfeiffer contacted a sofer, and when he discovered that he could arrange for a 14-inch sefer Torah to be written for under $40,000, he divided that specific amount by 54 and began calling people on his extensive contact list. After explaining what had prompted his call, he concluded by saying, “For a donation of $716 to my existing tzedakah organization, Nachas Unlimited — which extends funding and services for severely sick Jewish children — you can ‘purchase’ one parashah in a sefer Torah that will be donated to Misaskim, the organization that services Jewish mourners by providing them with all the paraphernalia needed for observing shivah, including a small ark and Torah scroll.
“The parshiyos will be assigned by lottery, but for an additional $180 donation you can reserve a parashah that is particularly meaningful to you. Where else can one donation accomplish so many goals? It’s almost like a ‘3-for-1-sale’: (1) Honoring the memory of frum COVID-19 victims; (2) benefiting severely ill Jewish children; and (3) fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedakah, which is a great segulah/merit for saving one from death.”
To date, 46 generous individuals responded enthusiastically to Mr. Pfeiffer’s ingenious appeal, some of them having accepted his offer to delay payment until the sefer Torah is completed. At that time, when the final letters in the Torah scroll will be written, each donor will be handed a list of about eleven names of those coronavirus victims who are being honored, so that when they write their letter in the Torah, they will have those names in mind. Why not only one name? Because since Mr. Pfeiffer initiated this campaign, to our great sorrow his list of shomrei Shabbos victims has grown to over 590.
Readers who wish to participate in this huge mitzvah are invited to contact Mr. Pfeiffer, a longtime resident and most active and involved member of Staten Island’s Willowbrook community — as well as someone who has through the years raised untold amounts for various tzedakah initiatives — by phone at 718-761-8908 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the merit of this memorial sefer Torah that will bring comfort to countless Jewish mourners through Misaskim, may our unforgettable brothers and sisters who were taken from us during this pandemic beseech Hashem to bless all those who participated in this project to honor their memory.