What rings in the air on Motzai Yom kippur?
The sound of the shofar, of course. But almost immediately after that, it is the telephone.
“She’s gone” whispers the raspy voice at the other end of the line.
Leah is gone. No, not as in, gone to shul; she is gone to a better world.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, while every other soul awaited its final heavenly verdict, weeping to the words of Kol Nidrei , Leah’s soul ascended to the Heavenly Court.
Just one day earlier, the family had shared a seudah hamafsekes tasting of bitter herbs, hoping for a miracle. And now…
Five young children sit down to mourn. Not many people come to pay condolences on the day after Yom Kippur. It’s an overwhelming time of year, those crammed days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos.
- * *
“It’s almost dinner time” Gilah, Leah’s younger sister observes. Her eyes are bloodshot with grief. “Does anyone remember that these kids need to eat?”
Tzippy, another sister, sighs.
“It’s Erev Yom Tov; everyone’s busy. People don’t think. “
She gets up and shuffles to the kitchen, hoping to find some bread in the freezer.
At the entrance to the kitchen, she startles.
Pans of freshly fried schnitzel, piping hot rice, and stir-fried vegetables line the counter. A clear container of thick, fragrant vegetable soup stands beside the pans. Someone has remembered, after all. Leah is not here to make sure her children are fed, but there is someone else in the world that cares. Fresh tears spring to her eyes. Tzippy doesn’t even fight them.
“Diskin sent this” someone remarks.
And they continue to send. The day after. And the next. Meals that nourish the body and warm the heart.
“Don’t worry about a thing”, the kind woman at Diskin assures. “We will take care of all the food for Yom Tov.”
Yom Tov? Who has even remembered about Yom Tov? Five young orphans sit on low chairs, barely digesting the fact that their mother will no longer be there to take care of them, that she will never brush their hair in the morning again or sing them to sleep or kiss them goodnight…
But Yom tov is coming and the family needs food. And although no one else is has remembered, Diskin has not forgotten.
At two thirty in the afternoon, they rise from their cramped, low chairs. They are still grappling with shock, struggling to stanch the steady trickle of tears. They stumble about the bare apartment, trying to gather the scattered shards. It is almost Yom Tov. And there is no mother to shout, “Let’s go, kids! Into the bath this minute! You haven’t been bathed for four days.”
Someone must take control. Tzippy opens the closet in the children’s room to check the kids’ Yom Tov wardrobes. She looks despairingly at the tangle of hangers that meets her eye, and bites down hard.
She has always known that her sister’s family subsists on a shoestring budget. Leah is- was—- a wonderworker at making the pennies stretch. Yet ever since the dreaded illness struck, the debts have spiraled out of control.
These past few months have been a battle for survival, every spare minute spent at Leah’s bedside in the hospital. Who has had time or headspace to notice the state of the children’s wardrobes?
Leah feels a tingle of desperation crawl up her spine. The kids needed at least one decent outfit for Yom Tov! What do they wear every Shabbos?
“Riki!” she calls her oldest niece. “Show me where you keep your Shabbos clothing?”
“I’m wearing my Shabbos clothes!” Riki protests, pointing to the light colored dress she has been wearing all week since the fateful eve of Yom kippur. There is a gash at the neckline, pinned crudely with safety pins.
Tzippy’s eyes do a quick scan of the children. Her heart sinks. Each one is wearing his or her single precious Shabbos outfit, slashed by the awful blade of grief; a rip that slices right through the heart, never to be soldered.
There are four hours until candle-lighting. And the children have nothing to wear. Nothing. To. Wear. Literally. Like the proverbial orphans out of the storybooks. Tzippy tries to smile encouragingly. But her muscles fail her. All she can manage is a stifled sob.
Gila enters the room. One look at her sister and at her bewildered nieces and nephews tells the entire story.
“I’m calling them” she declares quietly.
“Diskin. The organization that sent the food.”
“What’s the connection?” Tzippy’s words come out sharp and irritable, a flimsy veneer for her sorrow.
“I don’t know. But they’ve been so tuned in. They seem to have that … motherly touch. They ‘ll know what to do.”
“Four hours before Yom Tov? In the best case scenario, they’ll throw together some old hand me downs. We can’t do that to the kids, Gila. They’re not orphans. They’re Leah’s kids.”
Her words unleash a fresh deluge of tears. But Gila forces herself to look up the number.
The phone-call to Diskin is made and the race is on.
It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Most of the stores are closed. But Diskin will not allow a child to enter Yom Tov clothing-less. Volunteers are alerted and cars are dispatched. At the last minute, one storekeeper is found lowering the shutters on his window and Diskin implores him to reopen.
Pleeeaase... It’s an emergency… It will only take few minutes…
The storekeeper is gracious. He unbolts the door and flicks open the lights. He waits patiently as the children try on and deliberate and finally decide on their purchases, crisp new outfits for each child.
Outfits are not enough, though. The children need socks and tights and shoes and bows; everything, from the bottom up.
Another round of desperate phone-calls. The storeowners don’t answer their cellphones.
What does a mother do in this case?
That’s what Diskin does. They call friends and relatives and neighbors of the storeowners. They beg, cajole, plead and press, offering tears and blessings and promises of extra payment. Who can remain indifferent to the plight of orphans who cannot shower for Yom Tov because they do not own a fresh change of Yom Tov clothing?
Kindhearted storeowners melt under the impassioned pleas. They apologize to their families for reneging on their long-awaited help, drop their last minute preparations, jump into their cars and speed back to their shops. They wipe the weariness off their faces and smile to young orphans who have lost their mother only four days ago. Who have risen from mourning only 2 hours ago. Who, after consulting with a rav, are waiting to buy clothing for Yom Tov that is approaching in a mere 3 hours.
And their mother, looking down from on High, beholds a scene she has not merited to see while on earth: her delighted children clad like princes and princesses in honor of Yom Tov.
From her place above, she knows that Hashem has not abandoned her. And she has not abandoned her children.
There is someone worrying for her them: angels of mercy by the name of Diskin.
- * *
The above scenario (that occurred this past Sukkos, 5776,) captures the essence of what Diskin is. It is one tiny heartwarming chapter among hundreds, the story of a fund that is the closest thing to a father or mother for thousands of orphaned children.
And the story has not begun today. For the past 130 years, Diskin has served as a home for Klal Yisrael’s orphans. From the day it was founded by Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, zatzal, as an orphanage in Yerushalayim, until today when it functions in the form of “The Diskin Fund”, it serves as source of rescue and support to thousands of orphans and their families, from every sector of Klal Yisrael.
This year, too, as Pesach approaches, Diskin provides thousands of vouchers to orphaned families so that they can clothe their children in honor of Yom Tov.
Orphans must no longer walk around branded. In the merit of Diskin’s untiring efforts, they can dress with dignity and pride, shopping in the same fashionable, quality stores as their friends do. They can wear clothing that not only does something for their image, it does something for their heart; it mends that invisible gash just beneath their necklines and allows it to heal just another little bit.
Does anyone have an inkling of the value of an orphan’s smile on High? Can anyone imagine the rewards Hashem bestows on those who make that smile possible?
In honor of this Pesach, let us be among those who do.
Let us offer a gift of true happiness to an orphaned family. And let us treasure the warranty that comes along with it.
For Hashem, the Father of all orphans, guarantees: “Im atah mesameiach es sheli… b’yamim tovim shenasati lecha, ani mesameach es shelach. If you bring joy to mine… during the yamim Tovim that I gave you, I will bring joy to yours.” (Midrash Tanchuma, Parashas Re’eh.)
For details about the Diskin please visit the Diskin site: www.diskin.org.il
Credit card donations can be made by phone, Or online: http://diskin.org.il/donations.php
Checks can be sent to
16 Reiness St. POB 36320
Jerusalem 91363, Israel
Phone: +972 2 5488621
1533 44th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11219
2823 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON M6B 3A4
Donations are Tax Deductible in the Israel USA and Canada.