Letters – Winter 2020

Rabbi Dr. Ari Z. Zivotofsky’s fascinating article “What’s the Truth About . . . ‘Ad Me’ah Ve’esrim Shanah?’” (summer 2020) on the classic blessing of “May you live to be 120” highlights the reasons why people might not want to receive such a blessing, i.e., most people over the age of 100 suffer from a low quality of life. Furthermore, the blessing may be viewed as a curse as it limits the duration of its benefits to a fixed period of time. I have a proposal: one should wish people a full and productive life until at least 120, but add “b’vriut, b’tzlilut, ub’yedidut”—“May you live to be at least 120, in good health, with clarity of thought, and with the emotional and physical support of friends and relatives.”

Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.  
Kew Gardens, New York


How delighted I was to see WellTab featured in your magazine (“Creative for a Cause,” by Rachel Schwartzberg [fall 2020]) as one of the many ways that Am Yisrael responded to the suffering of their fellow Jews.

My son Saadya, a”h, had been on a ventilator in a medically induced coma for four weeks when someone suggested I contact WellTab, an organization that provides tablets to enable families and patients to be connected during Covid. I called WellTab, and the gentleman who answered the phone asked for nothing more than my name and my son’s name.

He arrived at my door the next morning, peyos flying, and set up a tablet for me within moments. Despite the fact that the hospital was not allowing visitors or even packages, the WellTab gentleman reassured me that he would take care of it. One hour later, my screen lit up and there was Saadya—smiling despite the tubes—with a nurse in full PPE patting his shoulder.

Saadya, who had Down syndrome, had been taken out of the coma. He just had a tracheostomy and though he could not speak, we “conversed” for the next four hours; he responded to us by raising his arm and nodding his head and, of course, with his eternal smile. We had not spoken or seen him in four and half weeks. His sister took the tablet up to his room to show him that everything was in place, awaiting his return. We took the tablet to our front door and neighbors came running over to greet him. His siblings “spoke” to him. I called his counselor at Makor Disability Services, who turned on his smartphone so Saadya could see his apartment mates. We “visited” for four hours until he looked quite exhausted.

The next day, Saadya was undergoing a procedure prior to leaving for a rehab center. After it was over, the doctor assured me he was doing well. Less than half an hour later, I saw the hospital number on my phone. Saadya had gone into cardiac arrest and many attempts to resuscitate had failed. Our visit on the WellTab tablet was no longer just an act of chesed but, indeed, had become “chesed shel emes.” Mi K’Amcha Yisrael. Some acts of chesed are eternal.

Ahava Ehrenpreis
Brooklyn, New York


I’m writing in response to to the anonymous letter writer who replied to your article on “Faith and Family: When A Child Leaves the Fold,” (spring 2020) with the following question: “Are there no behaviors that deserve a wall to be built and a firm goodbye to be said?”

As the mother of a young man who is currently not shomer Torah u’mitzvos,
I have chosen to follow the precedent set by the Torah. Avraham Avinu put Yishmael out only when HaKadosh Baruch Hu ordered him to do so. I guess until one of us hears otherwise from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, a child should stay home with his or her loving parents.



Shana Yocheved Schacter’s article, “The Ability to Bounce Back: The Psychology of Resilience” (fall 2020), provides a list of “ways to become more resilient.” I would add prayer to the list.

We are in the habit of communicating our innermost thoughts, fears and desires to Hashem. We firmly believe that this is not a one-way dead-end conversation, but a means of asking for help.

Whether reciting Tehillim or consulting a book of techinot, observant Jews know the secret of baring our souls and finding resilience in the act of prayer.

Dinah Rokach
Silver Spring, Maryland


“The Death of Nuance” by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer (fall 2020) on the need for balance was excellent! The article has more insight and intelligence than anything I have gathered from all the so-called experts and talking heads. It puts some wisdom into the current meshug’as we are all experiencing. It reminds me that all of us are yearning for the “good old days” back before March.

Ron Farbman
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


In his interview in Jewish Action (“Life After the Holocaust: How They Rebuilt” [fall 2020]), Rabbi Berel Wein comments on figures in the post-Holocaust era who played a major role in helping the Jewish people build post-war American Orthodoxy. Mention should have been made of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe) and of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (the sixth Rebbe). The enormous contributions of these Torah giants speak for themselves.

Lee J. Shonfield, MD
Cincinnati, Ohio

Please note that transliterations in the magazine are based on Sephardic pronunciation, unless an author prefers otherwise. Thus, inconsistencies in transliterations are due to authors’ preferences.

This article was featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Jewish Action.
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