Monday, December 05, 2005

A heartfelt thanksgiving for the gift of life

By: LESLIE S. SEIGER Special to the CJN

When a Jew is healed from a grave illness, we customarily celebrate with a feast of thanksgiving n a “seudah hoda’oh.”

It is an expression of gratitude to the Almighty and a proclamation of His miracles.

Our hosts for a thanksgiving meal four days before Thanksgiving were Rabbi Moshe and Sarah Freedman and their 10 children. Some 200 people gathered at the Heights Jewish Center to give thanks for Rabbi Moshe’s miraculous recovery from a double lung transplant performed at The Cleveland Clinic exactly one year earlier.

Rabbi Moshe’s long red beard and black coat identify him as a pious Orthodox Jew. Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he and his wife settled in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, in 1985. It was their mission to inspire Jews there to believe in G-d and to live a Torah life.

Six years ago, Rabbi Moshe was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs. The only cure is a lung transplant . Life expectancy without the transplant is three-to-five years.

The rabbi and Sarah turned to prayer and Torah study. Every time Rabbi Moshe opened the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, his eye would move to the same passage, “Think positively, and then it will be good.” Thinking positively, their faith in G-d became a source of confidence. They let go of their fear.

The Freedmans came to the U.S. looking for the best transplant hospital. In New York, they prayed at the grave of the Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, asking G-d to direct them to the right hospital. The rebbe’s doctor urged them to find the hospital with the shortest transplant list.

Sarah’s research led them to The Cleveland Clinic. More Divine providence. Sarah grew up in Cleveland. Her parents Rabbi Laibel and Devorah Alevsky and her sisters were here to provide the support they would need. And the Clinic would only undertake a transplant if the family had support.

The Freedmans met with a Clinic social worker, who discussed a litany of tragic scenarios designed to weed out families who couldn’t cope or endure. Again and again, the Freedmans replied that the Almighty would help them.

The community rallied around them, providing all sorts of assistance. The Freedman children, home schooled until then, were enrolled at The Hebrew Academy.

Rabbi Moshe’s lungs deteriorated quickly. Sarah was her husband’s steadfast advocate to both the Clinic staff and to the Almighty. People were moved by their serenity.

Five weeks after he was placed on the transplant list, Rabbi Moshe was within moments of death. Miraculously, a set of lungs became available. He was put on the heart/lung machine as physicians confirmed their suitability for transplant.

Thank G-d, the transplant was successful.

Today, Rabbi Moshe has no limitations on his activities, but he must follow a lifelong regimen of rehabilitation and costly medication.

The Freedmans are planning to return to Argentina soon. They feel compelled to resume their work there. They’ll need to import medication and to travel to the U.S. for checkups.

In Hebrew, Jews are known as Yehudim, a derivation of the word “todah,” thanks. Gratitude is the essence of the Jewish people. The Freedman thanksgiving was a public thanks to G-d for His miracles and the salvation of a family dedicated to the preservation of the Jewish people.

To help the Freedmans, contact Randy Diamond at 216-402-6666 or or The Refuah Fund, c/o Chabad House, 2479 S. Green Road, Beachwood, OH 44122.

Leslie S. Seiger is a resident of Beachwood.

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