Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It was a day the Bernstein family had been looking forward to for months: Shabbos Parshas Yisro – the Shabbos of Baruch’s* bar mitzvah.

The tables in the Kiddush hall were elegantly spread with all sorts of delectable delights. The guests would arrive soon. Dressed in their finest, Baruch’s mother and younger siblings made their way to shul. They wanted to hear Baruch read the parshah from the Torah. Literally for months they had heard him rehearsing over and over again, every cantillation note carefully nuanced. He was sure to do them proud.


What a surprise it was to discover that another bar mitzvah boy was davening in the same shul that week! His extended family was present in shul, too, eagerly waiting to hear their celebrity read from the Torah.

How this “double booking” had escaped notice was a big question mark. But an even bigger question was – who would be the one to read from the Torah?! Both boys had invested untold hours of preparation. Both boys were primed and ready. Both boys had fan clubs of family and friends anticipating the milestone.

The time to read the Torah arrived. Baruch’s mother pressed her nose to the mechitzah, wondering how this would play itself out. Sure enough, the other bar mitzvah boy approached the bimah and began to read. Mrs. Bernstein tried to mask her disappointment. She felt deprived of her nachas, nearly choking over her turbulent emotions… All those hours of practice – what purpose did they serve? Obviously Baruch couldn’t read this week’s parshah another week. She pitied herself, but pitied her son even more. He must be so disappointed and ashamed, she thought, and wondered, what prompted the gabbai to give the privilege to the other boy and not my son?

Soon the Kiddush began and Mrs. Bernstein remained a gracious hostess, welcoming the stream of guests with grace. As the last of the well-wishers trickled out, her bar mitzvah boy, clad in his new suit, came over with a big smile.

The question that had been clouding her mind during the entire affair burst forth, “What happened?”

With a serene smile, Baruch replied, “I gave in…” He waved his hand. “Someone had to give in, no?”

“But you worked so hard,” Mrs. Bernstein countered.

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to be the one to cause someone else to be disappointed. It’s okay, Ma. Really. It was better this way.”

Mrs. Bernstein couldn’t help but be proud of her oldest son. What a big step into the grown-up world he had taken.


It was on a Friday afternoon, four years later. Mrs. Bernstein was preparing for Shabbos, when she suddenly felt sharp chest pains. She didn’t take herself seriously until she realized that it was hampering her ability to continue her work.

She got in touch with her doctor who sent her straight to the emergency room. “You don’t play around when it comes to the heart,” he said.

It was nearly Shabbos and leaving all the little kids at home alone sounded daunting. They decided that Baruch would join his mother in the hospital while Mr. Bernstein stayed home to hold down the fort for the rest of the family.

At Shaare Zedek Hospital, the doctors debated whether to put in a stent. One argued that it was life threatening, the other didn’t think it was necessary. In the meantime, Mrs. Bernstein was in pain and her life was on the line.

Just then, there was a commotion in the hallway. Nurses were rushing to arrange a sterile niche in the corner. The flurry of activity peaked when Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was brought to the ward. He needed care for his ailing back and the testing took time, warranting an over-the-weekend stay at the hospital.

On Shabbos morning, a minyan was arranged for Rav Elyashiv. Baruch joined the davening. When it came time for Kerias HaTorah, people asked if there was anyone who could read the Torah. No one offered. Suddenly, Baruch realized – he could do it! It was Parshas Yisro, the very parshah he had practiced exactly four years earlier for his bar mitzvah.

Baruch recited a flawless read.

After davening, Baruch approached Rav Elyashiv. The Rav, who had enjoyed the clear Torah reading expressed his wonder at the beautiful job. He also asked what brought the boy to the hospital over Shabbos. Baruch described his mother’s heart issue and told of the deliberation over the course of treatment.

Rav Elyashiv requested that his personal doctor check Baruch’s mother. The doctor, whose opinion was greatly valued by the local team, advised that the stent procedure proceed without delay. With the brachah of Rav Elyashiv, the procedure commenced. It was successful, and two days later, Mrs. Bernstein was back home, recovering steadily.

The Bernsteins were amazed to discover that Baruch’s efforts and practice some four years earlier had not gone to waste, but actually triggered the turn of events that healed his mother. His toil, coupled with the selfless sacrifice of his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, threw a long shadow.

*Name has been changed.

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