A little over a week ago (on Thursday morning) a relative of mine was scheduled for surgery at the Hadassah Har Tzofim hospital. We were hopeful that he would be discharged for Shabbat, but it turned out that he needed to stay until noon on Sunday.
Thursday afternoon I started to inquire about the possibility to stay with him in the hospital over Shabbat. The information desk of the hospital didn’t have any information, but instead referred me to a posted sign in the hospital’s synagogue. The sign mentioned that there were beds and food available for those who needed to stay over Shabbat with their relatives who were patients, and gave phone numbers of the organization’s members who were in charge.
I called, and spoke to R’ Chaim Pertzovitz, who assured me that all would be prepared for Shabbat, and explained that there was no charge for the services provided.. He told me that there was no need to reserve a spot before Shabbat, but that I should try to set up my belongings a few hours before Shabbat on one of the beds in the hall set up for the men. There was a separate hall for women with beds available on a different floor. He asked me to meet him an hour before Shabbat in the kitchen area that the organization had been allocated.
So I was the first to put my belongings on one of the 15 beds set up for the men, and then a while later went down to meet R’ Pertzovitz. He greeted me and showed me that he had a staff of 5 young men who were unloading catered food that would be served to the guests. He also told me that he had an extra room that I could use if I wanted to sleep privately, but that I shouldn’t spread that word around, as he only had one (perhaps he was saving it for an ‘older’ person). I thanked him, but told him that it was not necessary. as I could use the standard beds provided for everyone.
I also had been concerned where I would leave my phone, as well as my money and car keys over Shabbat, as the hospital staff had mentioned that there were occasional burglaries of patients possessions. R’ Pertzovitz showed me that in the kitchen he had a locked cabinet where I and others could leave valuables, and I availed myself of that opportunity.
Before Shabbat a group of five young men with musical instruments walked the hall in my relative’s ward playing and singing Shabbat songs to cheer up the patients. A Chabad lady came around to the rooms giving Shabbat candles to those women who were stuck in their beds. Those who were able to, walked down the hall and lit candles in the space allocated for all women in the ward.
I went down to the evening services, and came back up to his room about an hour later. I found that a man had come through the halls and had made Kiddush for all who were interested in hearing his rendition, and that supper had already been served to the patients. I then went down to the communal Shabbat evening meal.
The dining area soon was filled up with around 25 men and 25 women. There was a lavish meal served with multiple courses of delectable food. Many men came by for packages to take to the wives who had just given birth, and I noticed big bags of food that the volunteer young men were taking upstairs to various wards. A few patients from the rehabilitation wards also were wheeled down for the meal (they preferred the stricter Kosher standards of the caterer as opposed to the standard hospital fare). Shabbat songs were sung by the meal participants and Torah thoughts were shared. I met a number of people who came to the hospital at the last minute (and also throughout the night) with their wives who were in labor, and who would have been stuck without food or lodging if not for the organization’s kindness and thoughtfulness. I figure that at least 100 portions were served at each meal. We were told that later that night at 9 pm a Shabbat party would be celebrated, especially for all the new fathers, and that all were invited to attend. But I was pretty tired and didn’t think I would attend that party.
I went back to the room at around 8 pm and found my relative asleep. I also went to sleep, but woke up at 11:00 pm and I went down to peruse what was going on in the dining area. I found R’ Pertzovitz and the organization volunteers there with a number of young fathers still in a celebratory mood.I also noticed that he had a side table piled high with small packages of pre-cut toilet paper for anyone who needed it. It seems that everything was thought of to help those in need.
I finally was able to grab a few hours of uninterrupted sleep and at 7:30 I went to the hospital synagogue for the morning prayers. After services the organization had set up a gala Kiddush. In celebration of the start of my relative’s recovery, I ate my first piece of potato kugel in close to 5 months (I have been on a very successful regimen of exercise and careful eating habits that has resulted in about 40 pounds of weight loss during that time).
I brought back to my relative some jello with fruit and a piece of cake, and he was happy for the extra treats. At 11:30 I returned to the dining area for the main Shabbat meal which was was delectable as the first. And at 4:30 the final Shabbat meal was served to all those gathered, including new fathers who had only made their way to the hospital with their wives in the past few hours. When Shabbat was over, I went to retrieve my items that were locked up for the past 25 or so hours.
I spoke with R’ Pertzovitz and he informed me that the organization had been providing such care for 30 years, and that he and his wife had been active there for 4 1/2 years. I’m not quite sure of the name of the organization, but the sign in the synagogue seemed to indicate that was just called ‘Seudot L’Shabbat’ (Meals for Shabbat). I thanked him profusely for his care and support, and gave him a donation for the organization. And on Sunday afternoon my relative was released from the hospital and has steadily continued his recovery at home since then.
Occasionally one finds himself in need of outside help to get through a difficult situation. It takes wonderful, devoted people to realize that such a need exists and to work diligently with great care to fulfill that need. It is reassuring to know that such people reside here in Jerusalem. Let’s hope that in the future we can all be on the giving side and not the needing side.