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Daily Study
by Esther Levitan

In my teens I was preoccupied with the search for meaning. I knew there had to be something beyond superficial reality, beyond the material. I had a strong need to search, which was accompanied by a constant sense of unease.

I grew up in a home that was not Torah-observant. My parents were both Holocaust survivors: they were in Auschwitz and met in the DP camps. In our home, the question hovered constantly: where was G-d when their entire families were murdered.

My mother, in particular, had problems with faith. My father, whom I so admired, did not talk about these matters.

By the time I was 24, I was divorced and left alone with my two children. I met a girl who was beginning her journey to traditional Judaism, and she invited me to attend lectures that took place in the home of Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh. At these lectures I “found myself” and felt very connected, but this did not lead me to becoming Torah-observant myself.

For many years I had no connection with Chabad. Just 14 years ago, I walked into a Chabad bookstore to inquire about something. The clerk, Avrohom, welcomed me and helped me out and I began to frequent the store to check mezuzos, to empty tzedakah boxes, and to buy the occasional gift.

Four years ago, I began to experience unusual bleeding. I went to a doctor who said it was a minor problem and nothing to worry about. But I felt that his diagnosis was wrong. Something inside me knew that I had to check this out further. I went to a private clinic for tests.

After a week, the doctor called me and said, “Mrs. Levitan, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have a malignant tumor. The good news is that it is localized, has not metastasized, and you have a very good chance of treating it. You came in time, but you have to hurry.”

I don’t even know why one of the first people I called was Avrohom. He picked up after a few rings and I said, “Hello, Avrohom. I don’t know if you remember me. I come into the store now and then.” Then I began to cry, “They just told me that I have a tumor and I don’t know what to do...”

Avrohom was practical. “When is your operation?”

I looked in my daily planner and said, “Wednesday, June 28, at two o’clock.”

“We are having a big farbrengen the night before and we will mention your name and everyone will pray for you. I will give you the phone number of our rav who is the Rebbe’s emissary here. You should speak to him.”

I immediately called the rabbi. It didn’t take long before I began crying again as I told him what happened. He calmed me and said he wanted to ask for a blessing for me from the Rebbe. Today I know that this meant that he wrote to the Rebbe and placed it into a volume of the Igrot Kodesh, the Rebbe’s published letters.

After a few minutes he came back to the phone and said I had nothing to worry about. I had a bracha from the Rebbe. “The operation will go well and with Gd’s help you will recover. What you need to do is read the Chitas everyday.”

“What?” I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly. “What did you say?”

He patiently explained to me what Chitas is – a daily portion of Chumash (Torah), Tehillim (Psalms) and Tanya (the fundamental work of Chassidut Chabad, authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalmen, the first Chabad Rebbe). He said I should go to the store “and Avrohom will show you how to use it.”

I went to the store and Avrohom recognized me. He gave me a Chitas and showed me precisely how to do the daily study. So that I wouldn’t forget, he took a flyer about the farbrengen he would be having the day of the operation and wrote all the details on the back. I still have the paper because it’s a reminder of the big miracle that happened to me.

I was so rattled that he had to explain it to me again and again until I understood. “Don’t worry. When you get into it, you’ll explain it to others,” he reassured me.

I entered the hospital that week with the Chitas in my bag. It was my anchor. Every day I learned the lessons. At first I read it very slowly in order to understand everything it said. I remember that after the operation, my mind was so unclear as I lay there in bed with the IV that I didn’t even remember what day it was. I called Avrohom and asked him what I needed to learn. Day after day I faithfully studied the lessons.

After a few days I left the hospital. Some time after that, I was informed that the tumor had been entirely removed and that I did not need radiation or chemotherapy. I was ecstatic. I sat facing the doctor who had operated on me and he said that the positive results were very unusual and he had to consult with another doctor. I saw from the way he spoke that he himself didn’t believe the operation had gone so smoothly. He picked up the phone and called the best oncologist in the country to give him the results of the operation. I felt as though I was experiencing another sentencing. Were those truly the results of the operation? Would I have to undergo further treatment?

The doctor read the results of the operation and I heard the senior doctor exclaim, “Tell your patient that she doesn’t need any treatment at all. She’s a healthy woman and everything is fine.” As soon as I heard that, I felt overcome with feelings of joy and gratitude to Hashem and the Rebbe. I began shouting, “I love you, Hashem!”

Whenever I go for a checkup I am scared, but then I hear the doctor’s voice thundering, “You are healthy!”


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