I’m writing to you from Jerusalem with very mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m very overwhelmed by the enormous loss of a woman who’s been like a mother to me for 36 years, my dear mother-in-law Mrs. Sarah Morgenstern-Karlinsky, ob”m.
She’s been a rock of our family — and all of my wife’s siblings’ families — for everything big or small, ever since I can remembe
r. She cared so much for her family and for every Jew, and always thought of herself last and devoted all her love and caring to others. I feel very humbled to have been a recipient of so much of that caring.
Whenever in Israel, running around to numerous meetings and taking care of business, I would always receive a few calls a day from her to making sure I was all right, and to find out when I’d be by. It was always a warm feeling knowing there’s someone there who really cares.
This becomes even more meaningful when put into the context of her busy days with the family and running the family pharmacy in Jerusalem, and all that came with that, and still finding the time and headspace to care.
The other emotion is the pride in having had the merit to have been connected to a person who was a legend in her own time; a true legend in her neighborhood of Bayit Vegan and far beyond, as a true baalas chesed, or paragon of dedication, kindness and caring for every Jew. She saw the pharmacy as a vehicle of chesed, loving kindness, to help Jews in need and help them on the road to health and recovery.
In the earlier years I seldom remember a Friday night Shabbat meal when there wouldn’t be a knock at the door with some petitioner apologizing that they need this or that medication. She kept certain common medications at home for such circumstances. More often than not, however, it meant her taking leave of the family for a while to walk over to the pharmacy and provide the needed cure.
And it was done happily.
I remember on Purim day, when most people are exchanging mishloach manos, gifts of food to friends in enjoyment of the day, it was different for my mother-in-law. She would pack up the car with goodies and then spend the day delivering them to home-bound elderly Jews throughout Jerusalem, her visit being perhaps their only happy occasion for that Purim day. She gave them, and so many others, a reason to live, to feel good about themselves, and put a smile on their faces.
And now, during the shiva calls, similar stories are being told by the hundreds of visitors who are passing through the door of her home. So many weep when they tell their unique story of how she saved a parent’s life by providing a much-needed medication after hours or a visit to their oxygen-bound mother on Yom Kippur. A Russian woman shared that she and her family were adopted by her when they first moved to Israel (and remained their mother and adopted grandmother for decades!). The stories abound and the tears flow freely, and I wonder… How did she have the time and strength to do all she did?
This was a woman who came to Israel with her family from postwar Romania to live in a tent for months with nothing more than a sheet between her family and the next. She worked all day to afford putting herself through high school. Her first husband, a kind and gentle man, was a pharmacist with whom she built the pharmacy and her family. After his passing, her second husband was a renowned educator and Torah scholar, and she became a rebbetzin. But she was always a rebbetzin throughout her adult life, teaching, promoting the belief in God and Torah, comforting the downtrodden and curing the sick, offering her sage advice and a comforting hand.
May we learn from her legacy and care a little more for others. May she be a supplication from her station on high for all those in need and for every Jew.
And may her family, near and extended, all be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.