Sunday, May 29, 2005

A must read

This is a wonderful letter posted on Aish. I hope you are all as touched by this as I was.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Doctors Appointment

For us a doctor visit, is different than for other people. It comes with a lot of baggage. Nechama was diasgnosed on a routine checkup. For us "what's the worst that could happen", happened.
I had a friend once who didn't have insurance, he felt confident that everything would be ok.
While for him, his experience confirmed that, that is foreign to me. I sort of feel that we are "damaged goods" Forever tainted..seeing things through discolored glasses. As beareaved parents, we see things different than other people. We relate to experiences differently. it is not always bad,in fact, many times, we appreciate small things and see life in a bigger way. We recognize the lack of permanence in this world. A bearaved parent sees life as fragile.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Letter To uncle Moishy

This was a letter written to Uncle Moishy a few years back when he came to visit Nechama in the hospital:

Having a child with a serious illness is difficult enough without the added hardship of hospital stays.

The stay at the hospital is among the most difficult in dealing with an illness. In the hospital lies the constant reminder of the illness that consumes you. Never allowing you to forget, the tests, shots and intravenous placement and tubes are all painful and constant reminders. Each day becomes worse because each day compounds on the next. Sometimes with no end in sight, it starts to eat away at you one emotion at a time. After spending one anxiety filled week in the hospital rushing between the child in the hospital and my children at home, I couldn’t imagine the thought of enduring it for a second week. It was then that we were put in touch with Rabbi Golding who arranged for Uncle Moishy to come. When Uncle Moishy came, it was ,as my daughter phrased it, like we were dreaming. In his Uncle Mosihy hat , shirt and guitar, he spent his time with us singing, laughing and joking. He transported us all to another world. It was hard to tell who was enjoying it the most.

When we requested a song which we sang at home titled “the clapping song”, Uncle Moishy corrected me saying it was the jumping song. Only in conversation later on did I realize why he chose jumping instead of clapping. My daughter had an IV on each hand preventing her from clapping.

In his usual humble and sensitive way he had brought joy to a hospitilized child in a special way.When he finished his “concert”, I had expected that he would be in a rush to leave, however Uncle Moishy spent time with me inquiring about how my wife and myself were doing. His sincerity and concern were evident and meant a lot to us both. Who would have thought that Uncle Moishy would have brought as much joy to the parents as he did the child. Then Uncle Moishy and I went floor by floor looking for another Jewish child who would benefit. It was the second wind that we need to get through another week.

Thank you Rabbi Golding and staff and especially Uncle Moishy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Amazing Hesped

We only speak words about the נפטר in the presence of the נפטר, is the simple translation of the words of חז''ל that we quoted. A deeper interpretation could be: we should only speak about the lessons this noble נפטרת taught us. In other words, “the words which the נפטרת herself is speaking to us”.

In משנה תורה, משה רבינו reviews all the different experiences that בני ישראל experienced during his tenure as the מנהיג of בני ישראל and the lessons that משה רבינו wants בני ישראל to derive and internalize. This is the מוסר ספר which the Great Rebbe wants בני ישראל to live by.

In this week’s סדרא, משה discusses the experience of the מן. משה says הקב''ה pained you and hungered you and fed you the מן….למען ענותך לנסתך “to pain you and test you”. The חפץ חיים says that here משה reveals that the objective of every pain in life is to test a person. It is obvious that a “test” from הקב''ה is not like a test as we know it i.e. to know where a person is holding or what the person knows, because הקב''ה knows a person without giving him the test. The correct understanding of a test by הקב''ה must be a means of bringing out a persons potential to actuality and thereby elevating the person to a loftier and more meaningful state of existence.(עי' במדבר כא' פסוק ח' ושים אותו על ''נס'' שפירושו דבר גבוה וא''כ פי' נסיון הוא שמגביה את האדם למקום ומדרגה יותר גבוה.(

In this פרשה where the general purpose of נסיונות is revealed we must search and find the more specific guidelines for every נסיון and the keys to utilize these intense “courses in purposeful living”, properly. The גמ' explains that the pain and hunger mentioned in the פרשה is not referring to the hunger before בני ישראל received the מן, rather, to the whole time that בני ישראל actually received and lived on the מן. (Then the question arises what is so painful about having sufficient amount of food that tastes as tasty as one could imagine, delivered fresh daily to your doorstep?) The painful elements of the מן were that one could never create for himself the feeling of security that he has provisions for tomorrow. If someone in the דור המדבר wouldn’t humble himself to completely be reliant on הקב''ה then the worry of what will be tomorrow would never allow him a single peaceful night of sleep. Secondly, although the מן nourished and satiated in the most perfect way, the external appearance of מן was completely untempting and its endless benefit was completely invisible. Someone in the דור המדבר who was rooted in the external superficial level of life was living in constant deprivation and continuous unsatisfaction.

So this is the nature of every נסיון on the surface it looks very bad and one feels completely inadequate to create for himself a way to deal with the situation. One lives with the constant worry of how will I persevere and continue to live on.

Here also lies the secret to utilizing נסיונות successfully. Disregard the external appearance and connect to the hidden good that definitely exists in the deeper levels of spiritual and eternal living. Trust totally in הקב''ה the ultimate טוב ומטיב that he will provide the ability to overcome and utilize your נסיון and that each נסיון is delivered to the exact address of the person who is destined to rise to the lofty and transcendental calling of meaningful spiritual life.

נחמה ליבא ע''ה lived a life that spoke, or better said, yelled this potent and timeless message with the utmost eloquence of expression. On the superficial level her life was one big tragedy. At the tender age of five she began suffering in a terminal illness with constant pain and frustration. She was never able to enjoy the carefree fun filled years of youth being always inhibited by the restraints of her frail and precarious physical state. Maybe one could have hoped that one day she would be healthy and then we would forget, forgive and move on. But that hope was also smashed with her untimely death days before her 11th birthday.

Yet נחמה who had a mature mind and was well aware of what she didn’t have lived with a smile cemented on her face. She could have wrapped herself in a well justified cocoon of self pity, yet she lived in the most generous and selfless way. Always sensitive to her caregivers, never to be a burden and even figuring out ways of being helpful to others and generating an atmosphere of happiness and serenity to everyone she came in contact with.

The “words” of this noble נפטרת were everything we said and more. So like משה רבינו ,as he prepared for his departure, made an effort to coax בנ''י to undertake a course in life centered on faith in הקב''ה and driven by a continuous search to uncover the veil of superficial vanity and tap into the wellsprings of רוחניות and חיים נצחיים. As we depart from this noble נפטרת we must make sure that her message is heard, that her suffering should not be in vain and that her legacy will guide us forever. Reviewing her life from her point of view we say she wasn’t inhibited in her ability to live carefree. She was crowned with the mission to teach us the deeper meaning in life. She knew she was on a mission and that gave her the ability to conduct herself so beautifully in spite of her external difficulty.

She wasn’t untimely torn away from life. She was never intended to loiter in this world longer than was necessary to speak her “words” and then go to a place where one doesn’t have to live with endless veils and obstructions. She moved on to the world of clarity and truth where she belonged.

(See Artscroll Siddur נוסח ספרד in the ר''ח מוסף) Every month has a different צירוף of Hashem’s name. When the letters of the שם are in order it symbolizes רחמים. When they are not in order they symbolize the opposite. The first two letters correspond to עולם הבא the world of מחשבה, Hashem’s thoughts and plan. The last two letters correspond to עולם הזה, עולם המעשה, Hashems thoughts being actual. The month of אב the שם is (ה-י / י-ה) the first half is not in order, the second is. That means from טו' באב begins a הנהגה of רחמים where הקב''ה is planning to be מטיב. In the physical world עולם המעשה it is the exact opposite of טו' בשבט. On טו' בשבט the sap for new production begins to flow into the trees. On טו' באב the sap for production and life begins to reduce. Yet it is a happy day (עי'משנה סוף תענית) because on a deeper level in the world of מחשבה, הקב''ה is planning a new and better growth and therefore he must dismantle the old to enable the new. What we see in עולם המעשה (עולם הזה) is the opposite of what it really is in עולם הבא. This is a process which coincides with 7 weeks of נחמה for the חורבן and צער. It is the understanding that הקב''ה is always חושב מחשבות only to be מטיב in a bigger and more perfect way. One is מתאבל with great sorrow on the חורבן contemplating the magnitude and severity of אידישע צרות during the first half of the month. Only then it becomes fulfilled the words of חז''ל: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בנחמתה. This intense meditation of the 1st of the month forces one to the only possible conclusion that all אידישע צרות are only a preparation for better happier perfect days.

The example that is used in the Torah and חז''ל to exemplify the love that הקב''ה has for us is כרחם אב על בנים. That must be the greatest possible, the most real and endless love that exists in the world. Then the pain and anguish that is induced by the loss of a child is the greatest pain that exists. Then no words can soothe, no speeches can alleviate.

Only the knowledge that we are בנים לה' and every אידישא child that is lost means that Hashem lost a child. That the pain of parents suffering the loss of a child means הקב''ה watching his children suffer, yet הקב''ה who is completely in control allows and causes it to happen, may help us look beyond and connect to the idea that

כל מה דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד. הקב''ה is constantly losing בנים in “natural” and violent humanly caused ways. We are forced to concede that there is something so great and perfect that will come out of all this suffering that it makes it worth the investment.

You as parents have risen to very great heights in בטחון and אמונה during this lengthy and extremely intense נסיון. I always felt small when I came to the hospital and watched you perform. You weren’t uninvolved or detached from the situation. You were fully aware of every detail and conscious of the constant imminent danger נחמה was in. Yet you remained calm and level headed making every possible השתדלות from the medical and רוחניותדיגר angle. You never let an experienced doctors prognosis to intervene with your wholehearted trust in הקב''ה’s ability to change לילה to יום.

So I’ll share a thought that entered my mind as I said תהילים by the מטה of נחמה while we waited for the לוי'ה to commence in ירושלים. על זאת יתפלל כל חסיד אליך לעת מצא רק לשטף מים רבים אליו לא יגיעו(תהילים לב פסוק ו'). A חסיד prays that during an עת מצא he should not be inundated with a flow of מים רבים. The גמרא in .ברכות ח gives one interpretation of לעת מצא to mean the time of קבורה (בפשטות מיירי בקבורת האדם עצמו). Maybe aפשט could be that during the time when someone ח''ו is קובר a loved one he could be attacked by a flow of מים הזידונים i.e. thoughts of תרעומות or doubts in the power of תפילה, ה' ישמרנו. A חסיד is מתפלל always that the נסיונות which are given to elevate a person should not ח''ו have a negative effect. May ה' help us to continue to live with אמונה and to take the “words” of נחמה ליבא to their fullest interpretation and through that be מזכה the whole כלל ישראל to an end for all אידישא צרות to a time that the נביא promises

ומחה ה' דמעה מעל כל פנים.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The 7 most destructive words....

The 7 most destructive words are: Life would be so much better if….
How many times have we told ourselves that even if we could live with a certain difficulty or challenge that Hashem gave us. Life would be so much better if.. I did not have to go through this. If my children would do well in school. If I had a better job or better spouse. I were smarter or more attractive or had easier parents or in-laws. Unfortunately there is no limit to the amount of calamities and difficulties there are in this world. And sometimes when it rains, it pours.
Problem after problem . One on top of the other. It is so tempting to say “My life would be so much easier if I did not have to go through this.” We might even make promises, I would do all the mitzvahs even the ones that I have difficulty with. I would love Hashem and my fellow Jew. I would be happier and certainly, if I were happier I would serve Hashem better. If only….. We have to believe that Hashem knows what we need. If a person were going to do something, he would be doing it already. These statements or promises are only an excuse for not doing something difficult. Acceptance is the key to growth. Acceptance is a struggle. To accept means I have to face something that is too difficult to admit as a reality. Once I accept something as something that I cannot change, there is no turning back.
G-d grant me some serenity already :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


G-d gives based upon what you need....not what you want.

I hope everyone likes the new format

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Letter To Nechama's doctor

Dear Dr. K,
When one is completely engaged in a crisis, one doesn't have the same perspective as an outsider looking in. There are 2 parallel transitions that are taking place in our lives. Firstly, we go through the typical grief or mourning process. There is certainly more good than bad though Nechama is in our minds constantly. Secondly, we are slowly getting back to normal life. As we look back, it is hard to imagine how we lived through all of that.

Life was filled with chaos, fear and a nagging feeling that we did not know what would happen next. The worst has happened and we are in the process of moving on. We have good memories and positive feelings.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral. Rabbi Jaeger spoke first (the one with the white beard), then Rabbi Hiller (the principle of her school) spoke and then I spoke.
I have included that speech from the funeral. When I got to Israel, Dr. Carrey and his family met me there. About 100 people attended the funeral in Israel which was a significant number especially considering that it was so close to Shabbos and we live in America. I wasn't expecting more than 10-15 people. Rabbi Steinwertzel spoke in Israel , followed by my brother in-law and myself. Most of the speakers mentioned the letter that Nechama gave to Rabbi Stein.

Rabbi Stein & his family were close friends of the family. He was a very learned and pious man. Rabbi Stein was extremely ill with cancer so Nechama wrote him a letter to inspire him. It was a letter about how to live with an illness and serve G-d while being happy. I have attached that letter as well.

At the burial, when they lowered the body, I blacked out and my knees gave way. I was passed out for about a minute or two. It was the single most painful experience of my life and even my body could not withstand it. One of the members of the Chevra Kaddisha (burial society) "shpritzed" water in my face in order to wake me up. I finally came to on the 3rd try. Boy, I am going back just to find that guy!

Anyway, that Shabbos was very difficult for me especially being that I was in Israel and Saguite was home. I took the first flight out on Saturday night.

Shiva was a tiring and draining experience. I remember when you walked in with Lynn, Saguite and I jumped up. We were so excited. It was like there was no one else in the house. The 50 people waiting for us didn't think so but we did.

The 30th day after burial is of special significance. There was a ceremony in the Yeshiva and about 400 people attended late on a Saturday night Sept. 4th. This time Rabbi Jaeger spoke followed by myself and then Dr. Carrey. I have attached a copy of my speech. I will send you an audiotape when it is ready as well.

This week, we will be sending a letter to the community to encourage people to continue to pray and do acts of kindness for others in need. Similar to what they had done for Nechama. I have attached that as well.

Nechama's school just opened their brand new building. There is a hall in the school that can be rented for weddings, bar mitzvahs or brises. Several people in the neighborhood got together and are raising money for it. The name of the hall has been dedicated to Nechama Liba. The name is "Ateres Nechama Liba" meaning the "crown" of Nechama Liba aka The Nechama Liba Simcha(Happiness) Hall.

There is a bereavement weekend run by Chai Lifeline in October. Nechama loved you so much and we all knew how much you loved her. I was glad we had spoken before she passed away. We wanted you to know how much we appreciated you and how much you meant to us and to Nechama. You will always be in our hearts and prayers. You were truly a blessing during these most difficult times.
You were always positive no matter what, and that inspired us to be positive.

You were the only one who could have gotten me to go home for those few hours. I was getting a ride once during the last few weeks to the shul while we were speaking. After I hung up, my friend asked me whom I had just spoken with. I responded that it was our doctor. He says, "Oh, I thought it was your sister." We could tell how things were going by your walk or the tone of your voice. I used to jokingly tell friends that our doctor is guilty of "getting too emotionally involved." We, all of us, made good choices. I don't regret any of them. We pushed when we needed to push and we pulled back when we needed to.

A person has a certain amount of time allocated to this world. Not a second longer. We did everything that we could have and more.

Wishing you and your family a Happy and Healthy Sweet New Year.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Pesach has come and gone. It was not easy but we survived. The first Seder was basically a cocktail of xanax and the arbah cosos. I don't remember much. The second Seder was a much more conscience experience. We spent the Sedarim with close friends of the family. They understand our pain. They have been by our side and have seen the pain up close. Before the second Seder, the head of the household asked my wife and I if he could say a few words about Nechama. He said that since it is on everyone's mind, it would be a mistake to try to ignore it. At the Seder, he explained that although this was a happy year, it was also a sad year. We lost Nechama Liba. Nechama exuberated a tremendous simcha when she was with us. Since she is no longer with us, we need to make up for that lost happiness by being extra happy. It took the edge off and led the way for a beautiful and fun Seder that lasted until 3 am. It seems universal that Pesach is especially difficult for all bereaved parents. it is a time when you can't pretend. The missing child "stands out" , so to speak. A Rav told a fellow bereaved parent that the neshamas of the children reunite with the families for Yom Tov. It is similar to the experience of taking pictures at a family simcha. The photographer unknowingly asks, "Is everyone here?" I want to scream "NO! Everyone is not here!" Imagine if a family was taking pictures and one child was in the other room. They would search high and low for that child. How can you take family pictures with only part of the family? You would need to retake the pictures when the child was brought. Can you even imagine someone saying, "It's ok, we'll take the pictures without him." Last Succos, we spent the holiday with family in Israel. Someone innocently commented on how nice it was to have thee entire family together. How we shouldn't take for granted that everybody is getting together. It is like a stake in the heart ... a wound that won't heal. I hope& pray that Moschiach will come soon so everyone can be together with everybody.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Nechama Liba was 5 years old when she was diagnosed. It was just around the time of her birthday and she was taken for a routine checkup. My wife called me on my cell to tell me that the doctor heard a murmur and suggested that we see a cardiologist. A Friend told me not to worry considering that many people have harmless heart murmers. I took her to the cardiologist for an echo and an ekg. And heard the news that every parent dreads. "Mr. Holman, your daughter is very sick. She has pulmonary hypertension." Pulmonary Hypertension is a rare heart-lung condition affecting 1 in 2 million. Extreme lung pressure builds up resisting the blood flow to the lungs eventually causing heart failure. What followed were 6 years of pain and crisis. What might be shocking is that in all the years Nechama never complained, except when she was bored. She smiled almost all the time. She suffered but her warm bright smiled concealed to the world how sick she was. Her demeanor led even my wife and I to believe that she did not understand how sick she was. We learned only after she passed away, from a confidant of hers, that she knew that she would die young and she sought to protect us from knowing that she knew. During that time, she survived beyond what anyone in her condition had ever gone through. Three days before she turned 11, on the 18th of av, August 5th 2004, she died after 5 weeks on a respirator in the ICU. During those 5 weeks, hundreds, if not thousands of people davened, learned and increased their mitzos on her behalf. The Far Rockaway community was turned on its side. We owe them our debt that can only be repaid by Hashem. In her quiet unassuming way, she inspired the masses and taught how to suffer bAhavah.

My Goal is to post at least 2x per week on Sunday and Wednesday.