As we mark one year since the pandemic changed our lives, we asked you to introduce us to your COVID heroes
My sister Ahuva a”h, was niftar last year, right before the second Seder. Ahuva had Down syndrome and lived in an assisted-living facility in New York. She was admitted to the hospital on Erev Yom Tov and seemed to be okay, despite a COVID diagnosis. We were shocked when the call came at 8:15 p.m. to say Ahuva had passed away. I cannot erase the image of Ahuva dying alone.
With zero time to process the news, a flurry of decisions had to be made. My father had been given a heter to make whatever calls and arrangements had to be made, but who even knew what that meant? There was a distinct reality that her body would be taken to a non-Jewish funeral home or chas v’shalom worse. The hospitals were in a state of chaos and fear. There was no protocol for burying corona victims.
My brother-in-law, Reb Yitzchok Dvoretz, is the guy you go to when you need to get the impossible done. He enlisted the help of Mrs. Elisheva Rothbart, who serves as a liaison for aronos that are brought from the United States to Eretz Yisrael. I am indebted to this stranger; I am sure we don’t know the extent of the chesed she performed for us. She connected us to Harav Hachassid Reb Mordechai Seidenfeld, of Chevra Kaddisha Shomrei Hadas in Boro Park, and there the miracles began. Rav Seidenfeld somehow arranged to have the nifteres brought to the chevra kaddisha and for my sister to have a taharah k’din, interrupting the process only long enough to drink Kos Shlishi of the Seder. He also informed Reb Yitzchok that a private jet would be flying to Eretz Yisrael on Sunday with the aron of a rebbe. The bureaucratic hoops that Yitzchok had to jump through to secure us a spot on that jet may have been “kasheh k’krias Yam Suf.”
Where else in the world does this happen? Who but Your holy nation, Hashem, steps in for a stranger as if he were a long-lost friend? We were zocheh to untold siyata d’Shmaya through the channels of human malachim. These people did their work anonymously and will probably be upset with me for mentioning their names. I’m sorry. It’s selfish on my part. They gave us something priceless and I must say thank you.
We couldn’t be with Ahuva when she died. We couldn’t bury her. We didn’t have a levayah that we could attend. But thanks to Reb Yitzchok, Rabbi Seidenfeld, and Mrs. Rothbart, we had the zechus of laying her to rest on the magnificent hills of Har Hamenuchos. And, ultimately, that is the only comfort we have.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 854)
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