High Holy Days in the Hospital

“On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who shall live and who shall die, who shall perish by fire and who by water, who by Roman soldier and who by cancer…”

Created by Ruth Cohen Golmant, the author’s longtime friend, this oil pastel is called Tefilah L’ Batya: Drawing Strength. Its title translates as “Prayer for Bonnie.” Credit: Ruth Cohen Golmant (facebook.com/golmantgallery).

“No, that’s not how it goes,” I wearily chided myself from my hospital bed. I knew I was making up my own words. But alone in the wee hours of the morning, as the High Holidays approached, that was the best rendition of the Unetanah Tokef (the central prayer of the High Holiday service) that I could muster. And my brother Jeffrey later told me that spending the eve of Yom Kippur with me in the hospital was the most meaningful Yom Kippur of his life.

I had been acting strange for a few weeks. I am usually conscientious and punctual, but that month I had slept through work and two piano lessons. My friend Barbara grew concerned and called me, only to learn that I was sitting outside my doctor’s office on a Sunday, confused about why the building was locked. I thought it was Monday. I had been so tired that I had requested medical leave from work to get tested for mononucleosis. Mono was the only thing I could imagine that could account for such relentless fatigue. After Barbara whisked me to the ER for a brain scan, I learned that a brain tumor also has that power. My sister Ann, on learning that I was in the neuroscience ICU, drove down to Virginia from New York in the middle of the night to help.

And so I found myself, several days later, under the surgeon’s knife, just when I should have been getting ready to fly to Boston to attend High Holy Days services with one of my favorite rabbis, Jonathan Kraus, and my best friend, Sandi. Instead, Sandi flew to Baltimore to be with me in the hospital, leaving her family and community to be by my side. .

After surgery at Johns Hopkins, I moved to Sinai Hospital in Baltimore for rehabilitation before returning home. My sister Ann, who is Orthodox, was staying with our dear friends of over twenty years in a nearby Orthodox Jewish community.

How to Read the Rest of This Article

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun‘s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the article.

(To return to the Fall 2014 Table of Contents, click here).

Bonnie earned her B.A. from Brandeis University, her M.S.W. from Catholic University, and her M.A. in Jewish Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University. She met artist Ruth Golmant at Beth El Hebrew Congregation, where both women completed their adult bat mitzvah ceremonies, working with Rabbis Jonathan Kraus and Arnold Fink.

Source Citation

Gracer, Bonner. 2014. High Holy Days in the Hospital. Tikkun 29(4): 39.

tags: Health, Judaism, Spirituality   
Tip Jar Email Bookmark and Share RSS Print
Get Tikkun by Email -- FREE

COMMENT POLICY Please read our comments policy. We invite constructive disagreement but do not accept personal attacks and hateful comments. We reserve the right to block hecklers who repost comments that have been deleted. We do have automated spam filters that sometimes miscategorize legitimate comments as spam. If you don't see your comment within ten minutes, please click here to contact us. Due to our small staff it may take up to 48 hours to get your comment posted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *