Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

She Moved Mountains — A Tribute to Hindy Ginsberg

 

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

Hindy Ginsberg moved mountains.

Ever since that special day, when Hindy Ginsberg entered our lives, my family felt this magnetic pull toward her holy and very precious neshomah.

Five years ago, we received a call regarding a family from England who was staying at Johns Hopkins Medical Center here in Baltimore, and we were asked, “Would you mind stopping by?” I heard that their teenage daughter was not well, and I wasn’t sure whether or not to bring along my own daughter, a few years older. The individual on the other line was also uncertain. In the end, I brought her; it was a wise decision. They would connect deeply.

Not wanting to come empty-handed, we chose a gift.

A writing pad. And a pen.

It should have been a klaf. And a quill.

For Hindy was heilig. And her life, her writings, depicting her unique journey, are a testament to that.

It’s her Sefer Torah. Our Sefer Torah.

Our initial meeting took place on Erev Shavuos. Knowing that she would not be able to be in shul for the Aseres HaDibros, I assured Hindy that I would have her in mind.

We made up a time. 10:15.

She would stand at her bedside. And I would stand at the bimah with the Torah.

We would both be standing at Har Sinai.

For at Har Sinai, everyone found their refuah. And the same, we hoped, would happen now.

It became our minhag.

Every Shavuos. For five years.

From one city to the next, Hindy moved the mountain. Wherever she went, she brought it with her.

The long-lasting illness she endured proved to be an overmatched opponent for her unbreakable faith.

Time and time again, she was summoned for medical care, for treatment.

Time and time again, she responded, “Hineini, hineini,” and nuch ah muhl, Hineini.”

Hindy had her own special way of expressing her feelings, her challenges, her acceptance, her emunah, her shirah.

Let’s take a glimpse at one perek of Shiras Hindy:

Its been a year.

Weve been there.

Weve done that.

Weve passed that.

Weve lived there long enough.

And weve finally left.

A year gone by:

Perfect and peaceful,

Happy and jolly,

Spending fun times and socializing.

Its been a year.

And Im landing in Baltimore again.

Weve been pulled apart,

Scooped out of our little comfort zone,

 And flung across the Atlantic Ocean,

Back to where weve been a year ago.

Zooming into reality…

Im back in Baltimore,

Back to Hopkins,

Back to doctors and nurses,

Back to blood test results and all.

So here we are,

Walking through the entrance,

Following the footsteps of old.

None has changed,

None has become more inviting,

None has become more accepting at all.

But there is no choice but to walk in those same steps.

Hashem said to Avraham Avinu,

Leave your birthplace.”

So have I.

Leave your hometown.”

So have I.

Leave your fathers home.”

So have I.

He was instructed to leave,

And he did so.

To a place of the unknown, to as strange place,

And to everyones surprise, he proudly proclaimed, HINEINI!!!”

So, Hashem I stand here, again at the entrance of the unknown (Hopkins).

 I dont know why, what, where Im headed.

But one thing I can say for certain, HINEINI!!”

Im here and Im ready for You.

Whats next? I am ready!!

Providentially, she was named Hinda, connoting (in Lashon Hakodesh/Yiddish), “Hinei, da — Behold, here I am.”

Yes, she was.

Always ready.

What riveting, awe-inspiring echoes of the Imahos from an English teen.

But that was Hindy.

As her illness progressed, her neshamah glowed ever brighter. Each round of chemo and radiation brought with it more brilliance, more radiance, more light.

One of the great treats in meeting Hindy was the close friendship that blossomed between our families.  Reb Mordechai, Hindy’s father, a maayan hamisgabeir of chochmah and Torah; and her mother, ever graceful in the face of hardship and chaos, exemplify parental devotion.

Last Rosh Hashanah, we had the distinct honor of hosting Hindy, her father, and a few friends for Yom Tov. The situation was fluid — she would have to go to Hopkins at some point — but until then, we were zocheh to have Hindy and her father daven in our shul and to eat at our table.

Everyone clamored to be near her. To bask in her presence. To perceive her glowing smile.

Even in her weakest state, Hindy was the pillar, the rock, and the light to whom everyone turned.

Perhaps the following story, which I heard from her father, will crystallize just who Hindy was.

November 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht. The Night of Broken Glass.

In their wickedness, after seizing ownership of the synagogues on those horrendous days, the Nazis filed insurance claims for the buildings they themselves had wrecked, and scheduled meetings with insurance agents to obtain damage assessments.

At one such meeting in Vienna, aside from the Nazi and the insurance agent, the rav of the shul, Rav Munk, was also in attendance. As the rabbi, he was most cognizant of the inventory and could calculate what exactly was missing.

In truth, the entire meeting was a façade. After all, the agent didn’t have much of a choice. Were he to deny the claim, he would face certain death.

The three of them walked into the desecrated, darkened building and walked around, climbing over shattered walls and full-blown devastation.

The Nazi officer pointed out all of the damages, as if he were the victim and not the perpetrator. Rav Munk simply nodded along and walked alongside the other two men. What was there to say?

Standing there with his notebook, the agent documented all of the damages. The benches. The tables. The ark. The scrolls. The curtains. The prayer books. The Bibles. Everything was in ruins.

Except one item.

The Nazi officer looked up in the dark room and noticed that somehow, the light of the ner tamid continued to burn strong. Perhaps a battery was keeping the light on. But there was no mistaking its presence, resilient and defiant, glimmering and strong. The officer was intrigued and asked Rav Munk about the dancing little light that hung bright.

Rav Munk responded simply, “Das ist unsere eibigelicht. This is our eternal light.”

The Nazi officer slowly processed the ramifications of this tiny light, and his face became contorted.  “I knew it!” he said furiously. “I knew that no matter how hard we try to eliminate you, we will never succeed. You will always have a light! For although we may be able to annihilate your bodies, we will never be able to stamp out the eibigelicht, the eternal light, inside your souls.”

In a world filled with darkness, Hindy was the light, the eternal light, the eibigelicht.  A light that no pain or suffering could ever extinguish.

Scores, if not hundreds, of single girls gave of their time to be with her. Many found that although they came to give, they received so much more from a girl far younger; they walked away with their lives forever enriched.

Why?

On the surface, perhaps it was because of her grace, her elegance, her modesty, and her ability to smile through the darkest and gloomiest of times. For many, seeing her approach to life and to suffering gave them a feeling of tachlis, purpose.

But perhaps there was something more.

Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Shechinah has no home of its own. Instead, seeking a dwelling place, it rests at the bedside of the infirm. Hindy became a most gracious hostess. Battling illness for so long, she reflected the Shechinah’s glow; the Shechinah felt very much at home in her being.

A true shachein Kah, the dearest of neighbors.

Everyone wants to be close to the Shechinah. Hindy was the closest we could get.

Five years have passed since our first meeting.

But the Ginsbergs proved one can smile even in the darkness.

Who can imagine such a thing?

Hindy could.

Indeed, she did.

She moved mountains.

For she was an eibigelicht.

And her brilliant neshamah will shine forever.

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