A Blood Clotter’s Meeting Made in Heaven

Meet Mitch. Mitch and I share a unique bond. Of the over 700 kidney donations ever facilitated by Renewal, Mitch and I are the only two donors that ever developed a blood clot post-surgery. His was in his leg, mine in my lungs.

I live in Atlanta and wanted to go up to NYU for a check-up. My surgeon said I didn’t have to. I said I wanted to anyway. My surgeon said OK, and after a few back and forth emails, we decided on February 6, last Thursday.

Mitch donated his kidney a year ago at NYU. He lives in Stamford, CT. But his mother was having surgery (not kidney related) at NYU earlier last week. So he spent a few days this week at NYU with his mother.

Before I went to NYU, I asked Rabbi Steinmetz, the amazing head of Renewal, if there were any patients – recipients or donors – that were recovering in NYU from a transplant who might appreciate a visit from me since I would be there anyway. He said there were none.

Mitch was in the hospital with his mother and on the first day or two of last week he went to say hello to the nurses that helped him recover after his kidney donation. On Thursday in the morning he had the idea to maybe reach out to Renewal to see if there were any recovering donors or recipients that would appreciate a visit.

Rabbi Steinmetz told him that there were no inpatients, but there is this guy who ‘happens’ to be in NYU that day for a checkup. His name is Mayer Freedman. And he is the only other Renewal donor, out of over 700 donors, that ever developed a blood clot. “Maybe the two of you want to meet.” And we did want to meet. And we did meet and shared our stories with each other.

I don’t know why G-d decided that I, Mayer Freedman, should develop a blood clot through the very action that I was doing to help someone else out. And it never bothered me that it happened. Like I told my children, for some reason G-d decided that this fellow named Mayer Freedman had to go through a painful experience. How lucky I am to be able to have fulfilled that ‘decree of pain’ through helping someone else, and not merely though a car crash, an act of antisemitism, or some other event. So though I was in pain for a bit, it never bothered me how G-d could do this to me. But if there was any doubt whatsoever in my mind that a ‘mistake’ happened, and that I really was ‘not supposed’ to get that blood clot, it was wiped out totally last Thursday.

Medically, I wasn’t supposed to be up at NYU at all. Feb 6 was chosen as a day that worked out best for my family’s schedule. I don’t even know all of the steps required that led to Mitch’s mother to have to have surgery at all, let alone at NYU, let alone last week. And there was no reason for Mitch to wait until specifically Thursday to reach out to Renewal about seeing if there were any other Renewal patients to visit. But G-d, the conductor of the world, wanted us to meet, and so he orchestrated events perfectly.

Mitch and I did not necessarily learn last Thursday why G-d wanted us to develop these blood clots at all, let alone through donating our kidneys. But through our super improbable and unlikely meeting G-d helped us not just know intellectually that this was His will, but rather feel through and through that the blood clots were all part of the master plan He had for each of us. Though we are taught and we know that G-d is guiding us every step of our way through life, when we have the opportunity to see it so clearly, it helps internalize that knowledge and bring it from our brains deep into the recesses of our hearts.

Parshas Terumah – Passionate Wisdom

A new video series featuring, Rabbi Freedman, Rabbi Freedman, and Rabbi Freedman! You can subscribe directly to the YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnamNZsuUWMC-oBbV4XB7Hg

This week’s discussion is about the skills that the Jews needed to build the Tabernacle – the portable Temple that they carried with them throughout their 40 year journey in the desert.

Parshat Bamidbar | Shavuot – Unity Despite Individuality

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It has been one year and one month since the exodus from Egypt.  The Jewish people, divided by tribe into clusters Har Sinaiaround a central point, have just completed erecting the Tabernacle as the nucleus of the encampment. Each tribe is now assigned a flag that highlights that tribe’s unique abilities and strengths.

The timing of the designation of the flags begs a question. Why did God wait until now to instruct the various tribes to carry flags?  The Jews had been separated and organized by tribe as soon as they left Egypt, over a year ago. It would seem fitting for them to display their tribal flags from the very start! Continue reading Parshat Bamidbar | Shavuot – Unity Despite Individuality

Parshat Bechukotai – Traveling with the Torah

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In this week’s parshah, we discover what we will receive if we fulfill tpathwayhe mitzvot properly and the consequences if we do not.  The Torah delineates all of the blessings that will be showered down upon us for following the directions of God and all of the terrible curses that await us if we don’t fulfill our responsibilities.

The Torah uses an interesting terminology when it introduces the potential blessings.  It states, “Im bechukotai teleichu” – if you travel with my laws, then you will receive these blessings.  Why does the Torah use such an unusual phrase to express the idea of fulfilling the laws of God?  Why doesn’t it simply say, “if you follow my laws?”  What message is the Torah trying to convey? Continue reading Parshat Bechukotai – Traveling with the Torah

Parshat Tazriah – Partnering with the Creator

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mikvahIn the beginning of this week’s Parshah, the Torah states that after a woman gives birth she becomes tamei, ritually impure. If she gave birth to a son, she waits for seven days, at which point she immerses in a mikvah, a ritual pool. Thirty-three days later – a total of forty days after the birth – she brings an offering in the Temple and fully regains her spiritually-pure status. If a woman gives birth to a baby girl, however, the first period lasts for fourteen days and the second period lasts for sixty-six – a total of eighty days after the birth. One might think that there is something ‘wrong’ with an infant girl that causes her mother to become ritually impure for forty days longer than a baby boy would! Continue reading Parshat Tazriah – Partnering with the Creator

Passover – Matzah: Celebrating our Dependence on God

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Matzah clearly plays a central role in the Passover holiday.  On Seder night, there is a specific mitzvah to eat matzah.  In addition, the Torah prohibits the consumption of matzahchametz, the antithesis of matzah, for all eight days of Passover.  What do matzah and chametz symbolize, and why are they so central to our celebration of Passover?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808 – 1888; Frankfurt, Germany), explains that as we know, matzah is bread that is made from dough that was not given time to rise.  This type of bread would generally be eaten by one who is pressed for time.  As a matter of fact, the Talmud nicknames matzah, lechem oni – poor man’s bread.  A poor man is always in a flurry trying to survive and therefore has no time to allow his dough to rise.  Throughout our slavery in Egypt, our Egyptian masters did not allow us the time needed for our dough to rise.  Hence, we usually ended up eating matzah.  Upon our long awaited departure from Egypt, we still ate matzah, as the Egyptians were driving us out, again not giving our dough time to rise.[1]  Matzah, therefore, symbolizes servitude.  Chametz, on the other hand, is the bread of one who is his own master.  He can allot however much time he desires to make sure his bread rises appropriately.  Chametz symbolizes independence. Continue reading Passover – Matzah: Celebrating our Dependence on God

Parshat Tzav – The Persistence of the Altar’s Fire

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 alterDuring the days of the ancient Jewish kingdom in Israel, the focal point of the nation was the Temple.  The Temple was a place where the glory of God was revealed on a daily basis; our Rabbis teach us that ten ongoing miracles took place there.  One of those miracles was that regardless of how much it may have rained, the rain was never successful in extinguishing the fire that was always present on the altar.

Rabbi Chaim Ickovits (Volozhin, 1749 –1821) points out that this miracle is puzzling, since God is omnipotent.  Why would He choose to cause rain to fall on the altar and then prevent the rain from extinguishing the fire, instead of not allowing it to rain in the area of the altar in the first place? Continue reading Parshat Tzav – The Persistence of the Altar’s Fire

Parshat Tzav – In the Wake of the Brooklyn Tragedy: Hugging our Children

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One of the karbanot, offerings, brought in the Temple was the Korban Todah – the Thanksgiving Offering.  If a person was in a dangerous situation and managed to survive, he would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem and bring such an offering.  Nowadays, when one survives a situation in which his life was in danger, he or she resassoon funeral 1cites a special blessing called Birchat HaGomel in place of the Thanksgiving Offering.

We have all heard of the tragedy this past week in Brooklyn, in which a fire broke out in the middle of the night, leaving seven children from the Sassoon family dead and their mother and the eighth child in critical condition.  It is beyond belief and the pain is tremendous.  Losing one child is a colossal tragedy in and of itself; losing seven in one shot?  Unimaginable. Continue reading Parshat Tzav – In the Wake of the Brooklyn Tragedy: Hugging our Children