So, I have a confession to make. I’m lazy with my blogging. It’s a bit like when I come downstairs to a messy kitchen. I love it when the kitchen is tidy, and I even try looking at the mess for really long periods of time and using the power of my mind to focus & transform it, but there’s only one way to get it done and that is to make the time and work on tidying until it’s finished.
Which brings me to this post. I’ve been thinking about writing it and picturing it for months but it just didn’t write itself, ya know? I know i’ll love this post when it’s finished so I’m locking myself in my office and not coming out until i’m done here.
It’s a beautiful story about family and faith and hope and so much love. I dare you to remain dry eyed whilst reading it, from all the love that is bursting out of this story. I hope to do it justice in just a few short paragraphs….
Meet Naftali & Elka Herstik…
Married 47 years with 5 loving children…
and 20 beautiful grandchildren…
Naftali is a very well known and extremely talented chazzan and teacher who comes from a long line of cantors. Over the years, he has traveled all over the world, bringing joy to thousands of ears. Wind back a couple of years to 2013 and Naftali hadn’t been feeling at all well. He was gradually getting worse and feeling weaker when they discovered that he in fact needed a new kidney. So Naftali started dialysis (which he likens to being run through a washing machine) and began the process of looking for a viable donor.
Elka, his wife, is known for being the family optimist and wearer of rose tinted glasses. Her family jokes with her that she will always find the silver lining in everything. So it came as no surprise to anyone that on Erev Yom Kippur, Elka had a dream. She dreamed that she was going to be the one to donate her kidney to Naftali and that everything was going to be ok. She woke up and told her husband about her vision and he joked with her about it. Meanwhile, all the family were getting tested to see if they could be a match for Naftali. And lo and behold, not one member of his family was a viable match. Except for Elka. She was a perfect match.
Can you imagine? Could you even put that in to words? To have the opportunity to save a life in this way, and for this life to be your lifelong partner?? I can’t even…
Of course, donating a kidney is no cake walk. It took months of preparation and another round of tissue matching the week before the operation just to be sure there hadn’t been any changes. But there weren’t. And the transplant went ahead. What a crazy emotional experience for everyone involved; everyone was there; their whatsapp update group was buzzing, there were even some pre-op selfies.
And so, Elka’s kidney found a new home with Naftali. The transplant was a success and the two of them recoevered incredibly quickly (4 months later, Naftali was back on the Cantor track doing what he does best)
And this is what brought the family together almost a year later. Lucky, lucky me, I was asked to be the photographer for the evening.
I was not at all preprared for the very special and emotional evening ahead.
They all came together to give thanks; to G-d and to each other and to speak beautiful words of love to each other..
To just laugh and enjoy being together (oh and of course, to eat, because… Jews?!) .
Thank you Herstiks for this special, special memory. I will never forget it.