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Week 10: "The Best Medicine?" or "Just What the Doctor Ordered"

Daniel Barash

Common to many Thanksgiving gatherings is the tradition of going around the room prior to the meal and sharing that for which we are grateful. Certain themes arose this past Thursday at our dinner table, “family” and “health” the definitive favorites. Luckily (and knock on wood) there was relative health in our immediate and extended family this year.

Unfortunately, in that moment I failed to think of and mention my three-year-old daughter’s pediatrician, Dr. Wolffe Nadoolman, who had been in the hospital for the past month, recovering from surgery and its accompanying complications. Dr. Wolffe, as he is affectionately called, is not your average doctor; starting out in the world of NYC finance, medicine is a second career for him, and his dedication is tangible and heartfelt. This is a doctor who does housecalls (with a briefcase!) at the drop of a hat, a man for whom no question or concern is too small or large. This is a man who’s looked into Aviva’s eyes and listened to Aviva’s heart, and this time it was his own heart that needed care and attention. The tables were turned; the caregiver became the cared for.

And how do we care for those in need within our tradition? Luckily, there are many avenues; we can recite the Mi Shebeirach, the Prayer for Healing, which Debbie Friedman so beautifully sings:

Mi shebeirach avoteinu,
M’kor habracha l’imoteinu

May the source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage,
To make our lives a blessing,
And let us say: Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avoteinu

Bless those in need of healing,
With r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body,
The renewal of spirit,
And let us say: Amen.

We can also fulfill the mitzvah of Bikkur Holim, Visiting the Sick. This mitzvah extends to people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. The purpose of these visits is to alleviate suffering, and can be traced to the rabbinic adage that the visitor relieves the ill person from one sixtieth of his suffering (Leviticus Rabba 34)!

It was in this spirit that I suggested to my daughter Aviva that we visit Dr. Wolffe, soon after he had returned from the hospital. So we drove to his apartment complex this past weekend, rode the elevator to his floor, and trotted our way through the maze of hallways until we saw his glowing doorbell. Once inside, we went to his bedside and presented to him not the traditional jar of chicken soup, but rather a fresh loaf of homemade challah, with LOVE as the magical elixer! Dr. Wolffe’s eyes lit up, as we next gave him a hand-drawn card, followed by a reading of the Caldecott award-winner “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” a delightful little story of zoo animals that take the number 5 bus to visit their zoo keeper when he’s stuck at home with a bad case of the sniffles.

I missed the opportunity to publicly wish Dr. Wolffe a return to full health at our Thanksgiving table, so I will belatedly offer my well-wishes now:

Thank you, Dr. Wolffe, for helping to keep our daughter healthy over these past three years, and may you now have a speedy recovery, with the love and support of friends and family, and the sweet taste of Sabbath challah, fresh from the oven.