By Rabbi Label Lam
"According to the Torah that they teach and according to the judgment
they will say to you, you should do. Do not turn from the thing they tell
you right or left." (Devarim 17: 11)
A few years back, my wife and I had the pleasure to spend Shabbos at a
hotel with Rabbi Pesach Krohn. He told over the following story. A young
man from Mid-West was married for a good number of years without the
blessing of children. One year his wife was expecting and she gave birth
prematurely. The child weighed only a few pounds and remained hospitalized
in Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit. After a period of time the child was
strong and healthy enough to be sent home. They made a Bris and named the
Now with his son at home, the father of the boy didn’t forget the tireless
effort of the nurses that cared day and night for his child. He wanted to
express his gratitude somehow. He did something seemingly unusual. He
called his Rosh HaYeshiva – his spiritual mentor Rabbi Elya Svei in
Philadelphia and asked him what he thought would be appropriate as a thank
you gift. Should he get flowers, candy, or balloons etc.?
The Rabbi’s answer was at first surprising. He told him to get them
nothing. Misunderstanding, the young man reiterated his reason. He only
wished to express his gratitude to those who had benefited his child so
much. The Rosh HaYeshiva had, of course, understood that.
He asked, “What was the benefit that given by HASHEM to the Hebrew
midwives, Shifra and Puah (Alias Yocheved and Miriam) for risking their
lives to care for the Jewish infants in defiance of Pharaoh? Everyone
thinks, “That He made for them houses”, that is family dynasties but
that’s not what the verse says.
It states, “G-d benefited the midwives- and the people increased and
became very strong.” This was their benefit that they saw the work of
their hands prosper before them.
Rabbi Svei advised that he should rather bring the child back to visit the
each year on his birthday and offer personal thanks. That’s what he did.
Year after year he paraded little Yaakov before the nurses and to thank
them again and again. Before his 13th birthday and for the occasion of
his Bar Mitzvah young Yaakov and his father delivered a Bar Mitzvah
invitation personally to the hospital.
Soon afterward, they received a reply. The head of nursing writes, and I
paraphrase what Rabbi Krohn read verbatim from the text of the
letter. “Congratulations on your family milestone. We wanted to let you
know how much your visits have meant to us over the years. We work in a
high risk setting never knowing if things will turn out alright.
Even after a child leaves our care we have little or no idea what ever
became of our efforts. I was not even at the hospital when your Yaakov was
treated here but you should know that when we train for this difficult and
often thankless task your son has become the poster child of what’s
possible. We mention again and again that the infant that you are
currently caring for may turn out like “Yaakov”.
Then she adds as a postscript, “Many people send us flowers, balloons, and
candies. The flowers eventually wilt, the balloons deflate, and the
candies are eaten up but the gift that you have given us has been proven
valuable beyond comparison.”
Take note how a Gadol- a Great Torah Scholar learns Chumash with such
depth and practicality. How wise it is to follow their priceless advice.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.