"Only Hashem could have brought a pandemic to allow two old sisters to reconcile"
During Chol Hamoed Pesach, I noticed a woman I thought was Baila Friedberg coming out of shul.
“Good Yom Tov, Mrs. Friedberg.”
“Thank you, Rabbi. However, my name is Mrs. Hattie Greenstein. I’m Baila’s twin sister, and I’m staying with her for Pesach.”
I’ve known Baila Friedberg for over 20 years and never heard about a twin sister. So I called Mrs. Friedberg and asked if I could drop over to say good Yom Tov.
When I arrived, standing next to Mrs. Friedberg was Mrs. Greenstein, her exact double in every way.
Mrs. Friedberg broke the tension. “Yes, Rabbi, this is my twin sister, and I know what you’re thinking. How can it be that you’ve known me for 20 years and you’ve never heard of a twin sister?”
I was then riveted by her story for the next hour.
“Until two months ago, my sister and I had been estranged for over 45 years. It began when we were in high school. We’re identical twins, so it was hard enough to tell us apart. In high school, where everyone wore uniforms, it was impossible. We took full advantage of the situation. We covered for each other in classes, and sometimes we even took tests twice if one of us was not prepared. However, in tenth grade, I committed a major infraction. I had copied someone’s homework, and the teacher found out. When the teacher came into the room, she was livid and, thinking that Hattie was the guilty one, she didn’t allow Hattie to attend the school Shabbos in the mountains. Hattie was sure I would ’fess up and admit that I was the plagiarist. I didn’t. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t admit it.
“Hattie missed the school Shabbos, and for the next 45 years, we drifted further and further apart. When Hattie moved to Baltimore after her chasunah and I stayed in the city, our connection dwindled to a phone call before Rosh Hashanah. Eventually, even that stopped.
“I always wanted to ask mechilah and reestablish the relationship. However, when I asked a mentor for advice, I was advised, ‘You hurt her once very badly, give her time to heal.’
“Unfortunately, that was decades ago, and we had still never reconciled.
“And then COVID hit. I heard a shiur on Zoom in which the speaker said, ‘We are all living in precarious times. If we don’t make shalom now, who knows if we will have another chance?’
“Soon after, I heard that my sister had COVID.
“Because of visiting restrictions, no relatives could stay with her. But I used my medical connections, secured a pass, and showed up at my sister’s bedside.
“I did not say a word. I just sat next to her. When they removed the ventilator, her first words to me were, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’
“My first words to her were, ‘I’m so sorry, Hattie, please be mochel me.’ I then broke down sobbing.
“Hattie asked, ‘What took you so long?’
“I stammered that I was advised not to come right away.
“Hattie began to sob. ‘For the last 45 years, I’ve yearned to hear the words “I’m sorry” from you before I died, and now I’ve heard them.’
“ ‘And for the last 45 years,’ I replied, ‘I’ve just wanted to hear three words from your mouth before I died. Will I hear them?’
“Hattie needed no more prompting. ‘I forgive you.’
“We both burst into tears and embraced.”
I had sat spellbound while listening to this story. Baila nodded at me. “And now you know, Rabbi, that I have a twin sister. Only Hashem could have brought a pandemic to allow two old sisters to reconcile and reclaim their love for each other.”
Many people suffered from loneliness and distance during the pandemic, but for Hattie and Baila, COVID brought them closer and revived their love.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 855)
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