I had a friend, Florence, whom I met when I started to go to the shul she attended. I would see her on the bus when we were both going to work, and enjoyed sitting next to her and having friendly conversations. It was a nice way for me to start the morning.
Once, she told me about her mother, who had endured a rough existence in Europe before coming to America with her husband and young child.
Florence’s parents had a small business and lived on top of their store. They worked hard to support their family. Their lives must have been wonderful compared to being in Europe.
The following series of events took place in the early 1900s when Florence’s mother was in a hospital in Manhattan with pneumonia. I remember my friend saying that at that time there were only two remedies for that malady: either aspirin or “aspireen,” she said, pronouncing the second version with a Yiddish accent.
One night two nurses passed by Florence’s mother’s bed and noticed that her nightgown was drenched in sweat. They rushed her downstairs to be X-rayed and were stunned to discover that their patient no longer had pneumonia; her lungs were clear. They could not explain or understand her sudden recovery.
Florence’s mother and father used to have a guest for Shabbos and Yom Tov on a regular basis. He had no family whatsoever and felt at home with his hosts and their children. He had passed away a few years before this story took place. Florence’s mother shared with her family what happened to her in the hospital, including a most unexpected connection to their former guest.
Right before she was X-rayed, Florence’s mother fell asleep and saw her “guest” in a dream. She apologized to him and said that she was sick and could not offer him something to eat. He replied that he had not come for that; rather he had something for her. With that he handed her a fruit. She took a bite and woke up shivering in a pool of sweat.
Florence’s mother had a husband and young children and was relieved to learn that she would soon be going home to them. When she told her family about her miraculous recovery, she ended the story by saying, “My friend did not give me just a fruit – he gave me a fruit from the Garden of Eden.”
Florence’s mother was a young woman at that time, had more children in the years to come, and lived to a nice old age. Her story has inspired me so many times. I think of Florence’s mother as a tzadekes (righteous woman) and Florence as a tzadekes, the daughter of a tzadekes. Their memories should be blessed.