Back in December of 2013, The Jewish Press featured a story, “A Family’s Search for Izzy’s Mission,” about a terminally ill 3-year-old boy, and his family’s reaction to this ominous and tragic news. The author provided readers with a window into the life of Izzy Zundell. I’m going to open the front door and bring you directly into Izzy’s life. Let me introduce myself. My name is Shmuel and I am proud to be Izzy’s father.
Our story begins with a visit to the pediatrician when Izzy was nine-months-old when his pediatrician assured us that Izzy was perfectly healthy and had perfect hearing. It moves to one Friday this past October when we a pediatric neurologist informed us that our angel was born with a progressive, irreversible and fatal genetic disorder. I remember little from the next few weeks as we attempted to gather and digest all published information on the Leukodystrophy that was consuming our child’s brain. What I do remember is our commitment to accept that everything that is decreed by Hashem is emes and just; it makes it significantly easier to digest the ramifications of this g’zar din. I proudly declare “HaShem Hu HaElokim” each and every day, with the same fervor as I do during Neilah
I continue to regard the mindsets of our nine-year-old son, Roovy, and seven-year-old daughter, Batya, as a priority. They are both cognizant of the fact that Izzy is on loan to us, until such time that Hashem deems that he has completed his angelic mission, and takes him home to live in Hashem’s personal abode in Shamayim.
What I believe and continue to express is that Izzy’s mission in life is to begin reversing a trend that has plagued the Jewish people for thousands of years – namely to put a halt to the baseless hatred that exists within Klal Yisroel and that led to the destruction of the 2nd Bais HaMikdash. Although Gedolei HaDor for a plethora of generations have spoken about the critical need to respect, rather than to demonize, those with whom we might differ in regards to basic ethical, religious and philosophical principles, the Jewish world seems more polarized than ever before. Yet, Izzy, who is unable to utter a single audible word, has been successful in uniting Jews of all stripes and flavors, for the common cause of assisting him in his up-HILL (Help Izzy Lick Leukodystrophy) battle.
We continue to live by the mantra that the G-d who split the sea, enabling 600,000 Jews to escape the shackles of the slavery, can most certainly opt to spare the life of a single terminally ill 3-year-old child, if He so desires. However, we cannot simply expect a miracle to be wrought on Izzy’s behalf. We must always do our hishtadlus. We have, therefore, taken a two-pronged approach in dealing with this fatal disease. We have done research regarding all possible medical procedures that could potentially slow down its progression, as medical science currently has no cure. Our research has taken us to world- renowned medical experts throughout America and Europe, and it is clear that for now, the only possible treatments that could possibly halt or slow the continued regression of Izzy’s already severely limited physical and mental capacities, are either unobtainable, or have been deemed halachically impermissible to attempt. This is because the significant risk to Izzy’s life posed by the very procedure that might perhaps be the only hope to increase his life expectancy.
The second prong of our duel approach is what I refer to as “Plan A” – to beseech Hashem to invoke Midas HaRachamim upon our resident malach. We are, baruch Hashem, overwhelmed by the multitude of people, all across the globe, who are saying Tehillim daily for Yisroel Alter ben Chava Chana. Irrespective of the fact that medically speaking, the odds of Izzy reaching bar mitzvah are quite slim, it is only the Boreh, who is the true Rofeh Cholim, who makes these decisions, and we continue to daven that He send us a cure.