Synopsis: Yeshivas Avnei Chochma is in dire financial
straits. R' Menachem, the yeshiva director, gets word that
the English millionaire, Mr. Clyde, will be paying a visit
to the yeshiva. He considers sending the disabled
bochur, Refoel Chaim, somewhere out of sight until Mr.
Clyde has left, but thinks better of it.
In the warm atmosphere that pervaded the room, and opposite
the pure, radiant face of the Rosh Yeshiva, the dam of stolid
reserve broke and a flood of tears suffused the lined face of
Mr. Clyde. And this is what he said:
"About forty years ago, my wife gave birth to twins. We had
waited two decades for these children, years filled with
longing, hope and anticipation. Hope that would banish the
horrible memories both my wife and I nursed from our
devastating childhood years of the Holocaust.
"Not everything went smoothly. Unexpected complications set
in, and after a long week in which we fluctuated from despair
to hope and back again, the head of the pediatric department
called us to his office for a meeting.
"`Look here, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde, your baby girl is going to
make it. She will continue to develop into a fine, healthy
child and bring you much joy, please G- d.'
"`And what about the boy?' I asked, afraid to hear his
"`I am very sorry to say, but his days are numbered. His
brain was damaged during birth due to lack of an oxygen
supply because of a weak heart. He is in very poor condition
and it doesn't look like he'll survive very long.'
"`Are you sure, Doctor?' my wife asked tearfully, daring to
doubt his prognosis.'
"The arrogant man did not even deign to favor her with a
direct look. He was certain that the child had no chance of
survival, and to presume to question him was more than he
could take. But I refused to accept his word as final. I
called in the biggest specialists, who corroborated his
diagnosis that the child's heart was weak beyond repair.
Another cardiologist also gave him a month at best. Even
surgery would not help.
"Pediatric cardiology was not as developed then as it is now
and so we had to rely on this diagnosis, which was like an
extended death sentence. When the time came for our daughter
to be released from the hospital, the head nurse suggested
that we leave the boy there -- and simply forget about him.
`Don't even bother to call up. Why rouse the heartache afresh
each time? Enjoy your healthy daughter and leave the other
one to his sad fate.' This was the final verdict, the death
"We left the hospital bearing a soft pink bundle of joy, and
left behind us her twin brother, brain- damaged, with a fatal
heart defect, doomed to an imminent death.
"The years passed in a whirl of business activity that sucked
me into its maelstrom, not leaving me a moment's breathing
space -- in which to think about the painful past. Old age
finally crept up on me and my body began to rebel against my
driving energy but dwindling physical resources, and I
"`You've got to slow down your pace, change your lifestyle
completely,' warned my doctor. `Just look at the cholesterol
level of your blood! It's climbing to very dangerous heights!
You are a very likely candidate for a heart attack!'
"I heard him, but as soon as I left his plush office, I was
already deeply engrossed again in my financial affairs,
forgetting his dire warning and the pain that had brought me
to him in the first place.
"That night found me writhing with excruciating and very
frightening chest pains. I was taken by ambulance straight to
the operating room, from which I emerged a different person.
I had to relinquish my position in the firm in favor of my
son-in-law. I was still the figurehead, but with no active
power and nothing to keep me occupied.
"`Now, finally, you'll be able to relax,' my wife encouraged
me. But we both knew that I would not be able to rest; my
memories would not allow it.
"Thus it was that one cold and misty morning, I entered my
limousine and was driven to the very hospital I had left
forty years earlier with one precious bundle. The secretary
in the office referred me to the elderly head nurse who was
still on the premises after fifty years of loyal service.
"`Yes, I remember your baby. We called him Dick. In the
beginning, he struggled valiantly for his life but they
hardly gave him a chance of survival. He was still hanging in
there for three weeks when a world-famous pediatric
cardiological surgeon came to our hospital to perform a
private operation. A few nurses begged him to operate on poor
Dick. At first he refused to even attempt it, feeling that
the baby was too fragile to withstand even the anesthesia.
But in the end he agreed. The operation was far more
successful than he had dreamed.'
"`He survived?' I asked, impulsively interrupting her, even
though it was rude.
"`Yes, he lived, together with his cerebral palsy.'
"`But why didn't you tell us about the success of the
"`Tell you?' she repeated, shrugging her shoulders with
typical English coldness. `Why should we have involved you in
his future when you had abandoned him to his fate? There was
nothing in the world that could be done to cure his cerebral
palsy.' She paused, drawing upon her memories. `We had to
transfer him to some institution that would care for brain-
damaged children like him. And that's the story. I have no
idea what became of him afterwards.'
"A short search among the hospital archives revealed that he
had been placed in the Convent of St. Pius the Fourth
Children's Home. There, in the shadow of the cross, he was
cared for alongside other homeless, severely handicapped
"My driver did not know what possessed me to order him to
drive in that heavy fog to some address outside of London. I
insisted that I wanted to go immediately, and he set
"The convent which housed this institution was a threatening-
looking gray stone building erected on the slope of a green
mountain. After a long exchange by the tall forbidding-
looking iron gate, the guard finally agreed to admit us. I
felt a terrifyingly choking sensation as I walked along the
dingy corridor whose dim lights eerily illuminated numerous
paintings on Christian themes and figurines squatting in
"`What do you want here?' thundered the bass voice of the
abbess when we entered her room, sparsely furnished if you
discounted the many figures and crosses all around. I briefly
explained that I wished to learn what had happened to a child
placed in their cloister forty years before.
"`How am I supposed to know that?' she asked. `We don't keep
too many records here. The children in our custody have been
abandoned by the outside world. No one is interested in them;
it makes no difference to anyone, so why bother?' she
concluded dryly, rising from her wooden chair to usher us
out, the sooner the better.
"`Please, Madam,' I said, forgetting how to address her
properly, `we don't mean to cast any aspersions on how you
manage this institution. All I want is information about one
boy, my son. Please help me.'
"`You might ask Katherine,' her tone softened somewhat.
`She's been here the longest.' Katherine was summoned to the
room and said, after a moment's reflection, `Yes, I remember
Dick, the cerebral palsy infant who came to us from a London
hospital. He was a very intelligent child, compared to the
other children here. I was even able to teach him to read,'
she added proudly."
Mr. Clyde broke down in tears. "My son, that pure soul,
abandoned by his natural parents, abided in the shadow of the
cloister, under the sign of the cross, for his eight years of
life, until he died of pneumonia." He wept bitter tears of
"I am not a religious person, Rabbi, but in my pain and
guilt, I turned to my local rabbi for comfort and counsel. He
advised me to consecrate a large bulk of my fortune to some
religious institution, a yeshiva where Torah would be studied
to save the soul of my son. If not in life, at least in his
afterlife. And when I saw Refoel Chaim this morning I knew
for sure that I had found the right place and that this would
be the correct choice."
No, this story is not true, but it was written as the
result of a long, hard struggle of the mother of a cerebral
palsy victim (not the author), a child with normal
intelligence whose pure soul yearned to study Torah like any
other boy his age.
She tried one yeshiva after another, but they were all wary
of accepting him. `What will people say? That we are an
institution for the handicapped? What will potential donors
think? That we are favoring one unfortunate child at the
expense of all the others?'
And what do you think, dear readers?