Monday, May 10, 2021

Thank You Hashem, and Other Prescriptions for Life

We spoke to her mother, Mrs. Bas-sheva Alpert, to find out more about the “Thank You, Hashem” campaign and other projects that have been set in motion in the past few months to earn zechuyos on Chaya Malka’s behalf. In so doing, they are not only yielding merit for Chaya Malka, they are changing the face of Klal Yisroel.

Thank you, Mrs. Alpert, for spending time with us at such a difficult juncture in your life. Please tell us how the “Thank You” project came about.

Mrs. Alpert: My grandfather, Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l, used to say that the primary reason that Hashem chose us as His special nation is so that we should thank Him.

My grandfather would further explain that since a Yid – also known as a Yehudi – was created so that he could give thanks to Hashem, in the merit of thanking Hashem we can ask Him for life. These were the teachings I grew up with. They are the fiber of my being. So, not surprisingly, when I became a fourth grade morah at Bais Yaakov of Boro Park 36 years ago, I imparted to my girls the importance of thanking Hashem for everything He gives us, adding – as my grandfather would say – that when Hashem sees that we are grateful for what we have, He’s inclined to give us more.

Most likely, these lessons would have remained confined to the classroom had my daughter not become sick in May. From that point on, my family and friends have been doing all they can to help us by saying Tehillim and giving tzedakah.

We also sought brachos from many gedolim. Rav Chaim Kanievsky advised us to add Chaya to her name and told us to say ten kappitlach of Tehillim each day. These days, it seems like everyone is saying Tehillim for Chaya Malka bas Bas-sheva.

What made you then add a “Thank You” campaign?

As a Miller ainikel, I knew two things. The first is that there is nothing “bad” in our lives, even when one’s daughter is comatose. The second is that hoda’ah, expressing thanks, can be used to ask for refuos and yeshuos. For this reason, I started the “Ki Chol Peh Lecha Yodeh” campaign designed to bring my daughter extra merit.

Can you elaborate on how this campaign works?

It’s all about saying “Thank You” to Hashem. We ask adults and children to write down three things that they want to thank Hashem for over a period of at least 30 days, which, of course, they can extend. We’re actually providing a lovely magnetic pad on which you can write your kabbalos, and this can be obtained through hashemthanku@gmail.com. On the pad, children will find instructions for how to take part in a “Thank You, Hashem” contest and win great prizes.

Once school starts, we’ll be giving out “Thank You” bulletin boards for teachers to use in classroom projects, and these are available at Torah Umesorah in Brooklyn and in Lakewood.

This sounds like a great idea. You’ve also started other projects. Can we hear about those too?

These originate from advice we received from Rav Don Segal, who told us to say Asher Yotzar with kavanah and to accept Shabbos early. He also told us to publicize these things. As a result, we’ve started both an Asher Yotzar project and a hilchos Shabbos initiative to make people more mindful of shemiras Shabbos.

Can you explain why focusing on the brachah of Asher Yotzar in particular was chosen as a zechus for Chaya Malka?

There is a very wonderful connection between this brachah and the state of being in good health, because in this brachah, we celebrate the exquisite wisdom of the human body and thank the “Rofei Chol Bosor” for its normal, smooth functioning, without which we would not be able to live.

We cannot take this for granted. People often wait until they are sick, r”l, before they implore Hashem for health. They do not have to. Saying Asher Yotzar with extra kavanah is like an insurance policy. We actually find in a number of sources that saying the brachah of Asher Yotzar with kavanah is itself conducive to good health. Let us mention by name Rav Moshe ben Machir zt”l, one of the Anshei Tzefas at the time of the Arizal, who writes, “Whoever says the words of Asher Yotzar with kavanah will never get sick or need a doctor or medicine.”

It was with these thoughts – and bearing in mind the advice of Rav Segal – that we decided to distribute Asher Yotzar cards so that people could say the brachah word for word with great concentration as a zechus to restore Chaya Malka to good health. We have posters available too. These materials are available at 1dersofourbody@gmail.com, together with a fascinating tape from Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l called “The Secret Remedy for Keeping Healthy,” on which he discusses this subject in greater depth.

Now let’s hear about the hilchos Shabbos initiative.

This program, which was suggested by one of my children, distributes weekly sheets on hilchos Shabbos that deal with relevant, practical questions, such as, “Can I read Holocaust books on Shabbos?” “Can I serve hot cake with ice cream?” “Can I move the garbage can?” There are three versions, one in Yiddish, one for Sefardim, and one for Ashkenazim, and each category is reviewed by a prominent posek before it is sent out.

There has been an overwhelming response. We are currently sending sheets to over 10,000 email addresses every week.

We also have a halachah column here in the Yated.

These sheets are available by fax, email or mail, and can be obtained by calling 732.901.0536 or emailing learnshabbos@gmail.com.

Are you personally involved in these projects?

None of these projects would have been possible without the encouragement and hours of active support of my children and other family members. They’ve literally built a whole “zechuyos network” for my daughter. And this is being done while keeping sedorim and looking after their families, no less.

I myself have been doing a lot of traveling over the past few months to popularize the “Thank You, Hashem” and “Asher Yotzar” campaigns. I visited the schools while they were still in session and then I visited camps. I’ve spoken at women’s gatherings in Flatbush, in Deal and in the Catskills. I try to go wherever I’m asked. I’m scrounging for zechuyos for my daughter and I won’t give up even one.

On a poignant note, I must add that Miss Hindy Spira a”h, who tragically passed away last week in a car crash in Arizona, was the beloved teacher and was very devoted to helping me after my daughter became sick. She meticulously called all the girls’ camps at the beginning of the summer and arranged each one of my camp visits. She distributed hilchos Shabbos sheets during her recent ill-fated trip and made a recording for the Ki Chol Peh contest hotline just days before her petirah. In her merit, hundreds of people have been motivated and inspired.

It’s amazing how much you’ve managed to do to bring zechuyos to your daughter, with whom you spend a lot of time. How do you have the will and stamina to keep going?

To people who wonder how I’m able to wage this war for my daughter’s health, I answer: How can I not?

Although I may not like or understand the present situation that we are in, I am not questioning it.

Hashem has given me, and continues to give me, so many good things in my life – a beautiful family, health, a secure home and a fulfilling career. Should I now be angry with Him because He has deemed fit that my daughter should be unwell? Certainly not. Now, more than ever, is the right time to fulfill our purpose in creation – to thank and praise Him.

By the same token, I also have to thank Hashem for the outstanding response that we’ve received from Klal Yisroel, far greater than we could have ever envisaged. Who would have thought that in a matter of a few months, thousands of people would have taken on commitments that have brought them significantly closer to Hashem?

We’ve heard the comment from many that saying “Thank You” to Hashem each day has altered their perspective on life. They look at their spouses, their children, and their work in a far more positive light than they ever did before.

Wherever I go, women approach me to tell me how much they and their families are learning from the hilchos Shabbos initiative. They’re learning them in their bungalows, in their camps, and at their Shabbos tables at home. It’s changing Shabbos. It’s changing lives.

Yes, I do have pain and anguish at times, and I do have the fears of any normal mother in my position. But when I look and see how our amazing nation truly wants to serve Hashem and to help His precious daughter, I find myself trembling with hope and excitement for Chaya Malka’s recovery, may that be soon.

Readers are asked to daven for a refuah sheleimah bekarov for Chaya Malka bas Bas-Sheva.

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