UPDATE: (Wednesday, October 31st, 19th of Cheshvan) I am thrilled to report that I just received word that Masha's surgery was a huge success. Please continue to keep her in your prayers while she begins her recovery. I know your comments mean the world to her so keep them coming! May we only always have good news to share!
Sara Esther Crispe, Editor

Editor's Note: I am thrilled to inform you that Masha just received "THE" call and will be having her double-lung transplant at 4:00 pm, Tuesday, October 30th (18th of Cheshvan). She asks that all the readers please pray for her to have a successful surgery and an easy and fast recovery. Her Hebrew name is Masha Rochel bas Hinda.

Click here for an online copy of Chapter 20 in Psalms - Tehillim which is customarily said for someone that needs help.


Why do we so often work against ourselves? Why do we avoid the very things that we know will make our lives easier and more enjoyable? These are questions I ask myself every day. From the outside, people think I am doing great. They compliment how patiently I am waiting for my double lung transplant and how well I am preparing for it. But truth be told, I am not really handling it so well. I don't always do my exercises and am anxious for it already. And the very things that always gave me strength and direction, my prayers and Jewish learning, are also things I have been neglecting. Yet I am not sure why.

From the outside, people think I am doing greatAm I angry with G‑d because I am being made to wait longer than I had expected for two new lungs? Perhaps He doesn't care. Maybe He has better things to do than consider one person? But I realize these questions are of my own invention, and inside I know that He listens, I am not being punished and I must believe, and I mean believe, that I am where I am for a reason. Enough whining already.

But if I may, let me whine a bit more. I am tired of schlepping the oxygen. I am aggravated that I can't do simple things in the house. I am tired of being tired. I am used to having given up horse-back riding, but I still get frustrated about not being able to spend Shabbat at my Rabbi's or take classes, not to mention just being too tired to brush my teeth at night at times.

However, as all difficulties have their special ways of affecting our lives, new solutions can sometimes sneak their way in, if you're lucky, and help you out of a jam. And I have been feeling all jammed up for awhile. Enter my dear friend, Lily.

She brings me a book. It is a learning book on how to read Hebrew. I look at it and well, it's all Greek to me. But face it. Where am I going? I have something better to do? I have been number 1 on the transplant list since August. It's mid-October. And I am not getting what I need or want out of anything.

This woman sits next to me and starts with Page 1. The vowels, the letters, the sounding out of a few letters together. I am working on this with her and I feel like a five-year old. And after an hour, my brain is tired but I am happy. I have used an hour in a productive way.

She comes the next day and the next day and another page and another page and soon I am beginning to see and say the Hebrew words that before I could only read if they were transliterated into English. This is very exciting. You just cannot imagine. It's back to basics and I am loving it.

And then I hear that apparently if you pray in Hebrew, even if you don't understand what the words mean, that's a pretty neat thing to do. It counts. It counts a lot. This feels so very right, so very spiritual, so very nourishing. I can read the Shema, the most important prayer, in Hebrew. I can say it out loud in Hebrew and because I knew the transliteration, I understand what I am saying. What G‑d would like me to say. We are speaking the same language.

I read and learn and am not afraidAnother two weeks go by. I am going over the letters, the vowels, the sounds and let me tell you, for those who have never read Hebrew, it can be a little tricky. A lot tricky in some places. But now, I am attempting to use my study book alone, practice on my own, get over my fear of sounding ridiculous or making mistakes. I am new again. I am five again. I am an adult again, a bit wiser and surer. I am not afraid. I read and learn and am not afraid. You see, while you wait for a transplant, you can often feel somewhat afraid, somewhat vulnerable, with your life dangling on a phone call and your well-being dependant on a healthy mind/body/spiritual balance.

Who would have guessed that learning to read Hebrew would help so very much in making this a more tenable situation?

When Lily watched me sound out a basic prayer for the first time, she gave me a big hug. I looked at her and told her that learning the Aleph Beit was the best present I have ever received. Ever. But, I said, I still haven't gotten back to davening regularly. She said, "You are learning to read Hebrew… it's all part of it… it's part of Torah."

The other morning, I woke up, washed up, and picked up the prayer book. I read the first page of the Morning Prayer in Hebrew. One page. It took me twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of feeling integrated and not trying to just find something to take me away from a problem.

Aleph Beit. Back to Basics. I'm a kid again with my whole life in front of me.

Editor's Note: Masha is currently #1 on the transplant list and reading Hebrew at a 3rd Grade level!