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Chorus in the Corridors

Lying in a hospital bed or caring for someone who is,who couldn’t use a little musical pickup?


Just recently, my father had to have a surgery done without general anaesthetic. The doctor recommended that he listen to music he likes, in order to allow his brain to relax but not fall asleep. Of course, my father let the doctor know that he was listening to his son’s music albums. The surgeon called me afterward to tell me that since the patient was so relaxed and humming along with the songs the entire time, the surgery actually went faster than it normally did.

—singer BERI WEBER


I’ve actually been inspired to compose several of my songs in the hospital. There was a patient for whom the doctors had not given much hope — they were on the verge of giving up on him. I remember being in the hospital with him and composing a new song. Well, a year later, I sang it at his seudas hodaah in Monsey, baruch Hashem.



I was touring in America when I stayed with old friends of my wife’s family. Bob was a retired doctor who loved playing the trombone and improvising jazz. He invited me to his local jazz club where we both jammed, me on piano and Bob on his beloved trombone. Several years later, Bob was stricken with an illness that made him totally physically and mentally debilitated. When I next found myself in New Jersey, I went to visit Bob. His wife apologetically led me into his bedroom and explained that he had been bedridden and unresponsive for months. She doubted he would even know that I had bothered to come. Standing by his bed, I felt heartbroken that this Jew who had so loved life and loved people was now impossible to reach. I started to sing one of his jazz favorites. He suddenly opened his eyes, looked straight at me, and started nodding his head in rhythm to the song. For those music-filled moments, he came back to life.

—composer/arranger LEIB YAACOV RIGLER


It’s not easy to spend time in the hospitals, and it can be very painful if you become close to a patient who then passes away. I have learned that it’s easier to cope with regular hospital visiting by just going, playing music, and moving from room to room, without asking the patients’ names. The music is a great thing for patients. Just recently, someone sent me a random WhatsApp, a video from ten or twelve years ago. I could see myself singing and playing music in a hospital room. The sender asked if I was the guitarist on the video. He told me that the patient I was singing for was his baby daughter, then just 18 months old, who was in a coma. I had started to sing, and the baby had opened her eyes. From that point, things improved, and the father had wanted to tell me about it, but he had no idea who I was. He sent me a picture of his fully recovered daughter, which actually made me cry.

—singer/guitarist DOVY MEISELS


I go to the hospital quite a lot. It wasn’t easy for me initially, because my mother was sick for 28 years, and going into hospitals brings up a lot of memories. But it also puts things in perspective, and helps you realize what life really is. Once I was in L.A., and I was asked to come play for Rabbi Yitzy Hurwitz, the well-known shaliach with ALS. I wasn’t able to make it in the end because my schedule was totally packed, but when I came back to Israel, we got together on Zoom. I played and sang, but I can tell you that I got far more chizuk from Rabbi Hurwitz, a talmid chacham in such a compromised situation but not sunk into himself, not self-absorbed, just busy with others. Actually, that’s often how it is. You come to give chizuk and leave having gained chizuk yourself.

—composer/singer NAFTALI KEMPEH


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 906)

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