A Special Prayer for a Special Mother

I have an interesting relationship with God and prayer. Well, that’s a funny sentence. There is a Jewish custom to say Tehillim (Psalms) in times of distress, at times when you need special prayers. When someone is sick or something is about to happen. Friends told me to say Tehillim when Elie was in the Gaza War…I couldn’t. Friends told me to say Tehillim when my oldest daughter was having an operation – I tried.

I know I should be saying Tehillim now for RifkA bat Teirtzel (http://www.coffeeandchemo.blogspot.com). RikvA’s fight with cancer has been long and hard and I pray it will continue to be long, though not hard. She has three children and a wonderful husband, a loving family, and friends all over the world. My brother knew her in high school and though it is sad for me to admit it, I just don’t remember her from those days. I know that for a variety of reasons, I have blocked out much of that period of my life and things that others say I should remember, I don’t.

There was a traumatic night when my brother was having an asthma attack and my mother says she took us all into the car and drove around to help him breathe better…I was there, they say…no memory. It’s just not there. RifkA went to Barnard College, as I did, but we weren’t there at the same time. I really met RifkA here in Israel, after she had been diagnosed with cancer and despite some conversations on the phone, email, and some meetings in person, most of what I know comes from others or from her amazing blog.

So it is 2:00 a.m. and I woke thinking of her, praying for her. I should say Tehillim for her – instead I sit here and write. It’s a philosophical debate I have with God at times like this. He knows what I am asking for, must I ask it? Must I verbalize the prayers? And if so, does saying Tehillim do this?

I am one for action more than words. I believe in prayer and the power of prayer, but I also believe that acts of kindness and charity speak volumes. When a cousin was sick, I bought extra food to give away, donated more money to charity and for each, I said her name and a hope that this kind deed would honor the person. It’s the way my mind works.

But there is nothing I can really do for RifkA – she has a world of friends around the world praying for her and for her family; she has neighbors and close friends, including several of my own, who are in touch and even organizing the prayers more formally. I can give charity, and I will. I can say a prayer, and I am, but there is a helplessness that I hate when it is a battle I can’t fight.

I laugh when people say I am brave. I don’t really know what that means in the context of my life. I live in a country that I love beyond measure; have a family that means more than I could ever explain. I am challenged by my work; I love to write. What is brave in living a life you feel is blessed by family, friends, country?

I heard this a lot during the war and sometimes I hear it just for having a soldier (or two or three or four) – or just because I live in Israel. In all of these context, I don’t know what that means – that word bravery. But when it comes to RifkA, her spirit, her love of life and family, I finally understand. Brave is a battle taking place even as I write – please join me in praying for RifkA bat Teirtzel (RifkA, daughter of Teirtzel) who has been sick for a long time…and is now in the hospital. She has been writing her story for a long time now, month by month, week by week and often day by day. Say one of the Psalms; think of her and ask God to grant her a speedy and complete recovery, give some amount of charity…do, think…pray…for RifkA.

RifkA wrote recently that she had a revelation in which she realized that her most recent request, to see her daughter’s bat mitzvah, was granted this past summer and so I have another request on her behalf. May she live long enough to see her son become a soldier, to see her children marry and have children of their own. May she be granted an amazing and miraculous recovery in which the cancer is beaten back and down and away so that she can continue to share her wisdom with others, her patience, her smile.

She has suffered much, pains and disappointments, recurrences and fears and through it all…to this very moment, she is an inspiration to others all around the world. She is a parent who has tried to ease her children into, around, through, and past her illness so that they see her for the mother she is, not the patient she has had to be.

RifkA’s most recent post says much about who she is – if you have a moment, please say a prayer for her. You can say Tehillim, as I often fail to do, or just kind thoughts. All help.

A few days ago, RifkA wrote, “At the end of the day, it is God’s challenges. God is our ultimate caretaker and we will be taken care of. So, I’m still here and I am still ‘fighting the good fight.’ ”

Keep fighting, RifkA. Refuah shlayma.

Read more: http://coffeeandchemo.blogspot.com/#ixzz132wF2me7


  1. Miracles are granted but RivkA doesn’t need a miracle. To be able to live for many years, to see her children grow up and marry, is well within the limits of the possible now. RivkA wrote often about her 20-year plan and while she knew it was ambitious, it was also possible — without miracles. She’s been sick for about three and a half years, and her health had started to fade in recent weeks and months. But nobody — certainly not her, and RivkA is a realist — thought that she might have much less time than we thought. I saw her for the last time during Sukkot and I was concerned for her (and told her so) — but it never crossed my mind that it might be our last real conversation.

    Refuah shleima, RivkA. Or at least hang out with us for a good long while.

  2. Right now, she needs a miracle. She needs to get strong enough to hang on for another round of chemo, of radiation, of whatever… and that, right now, would take something close to a miracle.

  3. I will take RifkA’s hand, (across the miles) and include her in my own ongoing “chats with God” as I go about my days..I KNOW that all things are possible with God.

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