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On Chanukah we remember Chanah and her seven sons, who courageously gave up their lives rather than betray their faith. And on Chanukah we have the custom to distribute Chanukah gelt. What’s the connection between money and loyalty to the Torah? The lives of three fascinating Jewish women who lived during the Middle Ages provide an answer.
Quiet. She wanted silence. Instead, the machine, the little blue monster, constantly beeped. It sounded like a scream as it monitored the amount of medicine entering her bloodstream. And then, whenever she managed to ignore the constant beeping and fall into a restless sleep, after taking a pill to calm the pain, a doctor, nurse, or technician would appear and with a forced smile say, “We’re here to check your pulse [or take your blood, or bring you to another test].”
Your long-awaited Chanukah party is arriving. You have your décor, and dishes. Yet the pressure is on; if last year’s party was a success, then this year’s gathering has to surpass it. What are you going to do to ensure that your company has a terrific time?
“Your child will be a Frankenstein.” The doctor’s voice is cold and flat. “I recommend you terminate the pregnancy immediately.” The chilling pronouncement is followed by more words, an avalanche of words, each one ripping dreams and planting terror. “A baby born with CMV can experience endless problems. She may have hearing loss, vision loss, mental disability, autism, an undersized brain, cerebral palsy, and seizures. If she survives birth that is. Many such babies don’t.”
It was late evening when I got the phone call. “There’s a speech at my house that I’m sure you want to hear,” said my friend Bassie. “Not tonight,” I begged off. “I’m exhausted and so are the kids.” “You’ll regret missing this one,” she insisted. “This is going to change your whole perspective on life.” And so, at her insistence, I came and met Malka Goldberg. And hearing her story indeed changed my entire life.
A medley of emotions washed over me when I was asked to tell my story: relief, sadness, pain, and joy. I’ve never told my story to anyone, and it’s a personal triumph for me to stand before you, albeit anonymously, and pour out my heart, even as I celebrate who I’ve become. It’s a bittersweet, concrete demarcation of where I come from and where I am today, like two polar ends on a globe, with a gargantuan swath of siyata d’Shmaya spanning both opposites.