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Making Sweet Lemonade Out Of Bitter Lemons

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When faced with a life-changing tragedy, the ones afflicted have three options: They can let the horrific event destroy them; they can just absorb and accept what happened and adapt to their new reality living their lives in a “business-as-usual” kind of way or they can tenaciously pursue a course of action that will result in extreme good and have a tremendously positive and beneficial impact on others – the ultimate tikun olam.

So many people, for example, who lost children have created gemachachim or chesed organizations that have financially and/or emotionally enhanced the lives of so many.

One example is Dor Yeshorim, an organization that discretely tests young people in the shidduch parsha for recessive genes that can result in fatal diseases if both are carriers.  It was launched years ago by Rabbi Yosef Eckstein, who lost four children to Tay Sachs, a particularly insidious disease. Babies with Tay-Sachs initially grow normally and thrive, but gradually their physical and mental abilities deteriorate and they regress. Eventually they lose their ability to see, hear, swallow and move, and often die by age four.  Tay Sachs is one of several diseases caused by mutated genes found in Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe.

Dor Yeshorim has prevented much grief, anguish and emotional devastation by allowing potential couples to make an informed choice in terms of their shidduch compatibility, and has been instrumental in significantly reducing new cases of Tay Sachs in the community. Out of the bitter lemon that a young father had been forced to swallow emerged life-enhancing lemonade due to his fortitude in creating  a huge good out of  tragedy.

AT.I.M.E, an organization dedicated to helping heimishe couples navigate the confusing, overwhelming and frustrating journey of infertility, was founded by Rav Shaul and Brany Rosen who initially found themselves in this difficult parsha and resolved to help others attain their dream of building a bayit ne’eman.

AT.I.M.E has become an invaluable resource in providing vital information as well as spiritual, emotional and financial support to couples on this stressful journey to parenthood.  Hundreds upon hundreds of babies have been born because the Rosens decided to convert their difficult, soul-stressing situation into an organization that, like lemonade on a hot day, has quenched the  torturous emotional thirst of countless couples  yearning for children.

The Koby Mandell Foundation was launched 12 years ago by Sherri and Seth Mandell, the parents of 13 year old Koby Mandell, who was brutally and senselessly murdered by terrorists.  Its multifaceted programs are designed to help the devastated mothers, fathers, widows, widowers, orphans and siblings who have lost loved ones through violence, and help them transform the pain and suffering of tragedy into positive personal growth.

Ordinary people with extraordinary mesirat nefesh were able to “grow” goodness from the acrid soil of extreme loss, sorrow and hopelessness.

May we all be blessed with the faith and fortitude to convert our “Qassams” into menorahs full of light.

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