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To Make A Difference: Every Day a Gift

Machla Abramowitz

A unique Succos supplement, celebrating the unsung heroes in our midst – all nominated by Mishpacha readers

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Dr. Peter Salmon

Toronto, Ontario

 

Nominated by Devorah Shapiro

D

r. Peter (Zev Yisroel) Salmon was always my favorite uncle. We may have lived far apart while I was growing up — my family made aliyah in 1989, and Uncle Peter and his family lived in Toronto — but when our families got together, sparks flew. Uncle Peter was a go-getter, a doer; he had us moving all the time. “Jump into the car, we’re driving to Niagara Falls,” he’d say. He always wanted to give us children a good time, and we loved him for that.

All that changed five years ago. While trimming a tree, Uncle Peter slipped off the ladder and was hit by a falling branch that severed his spinal cord. It left him paralyzed from the neck down. He lost the use of his hands and fingers. Both his legs functioned only minimally. At first, we thought he might be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. That didn’t happen, but life as he knew it came to an end.

Rather than give in to despair and bitterness, he has chosen to live life to its fullest, embracing each day for what it is — a gift from Heaven. No matter what comes his way, he just gets himself up and pushes himself beyond. He’s one of those people who take stumbling blocks and turn them into stepping stones.

 

On September 10, 2017, over 750 friends, family, and congregants gathered together at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto synagogue (BAYT) to celebrate a sefer Torah dedication in honor of a man whose unique spirit continues to inspire, Dr. Peter Salmon. This dedication was initiated by his eldest son, Joshua. The voice of this dignified gentleman seated in his wheelchair was steady and soft, albeit amplified by the microphone that his son Menachem held to his lips. Although his breathing is usually labored and unable to be sustained for too long, on this day his words flowed from within, and without stopping.

Dr. Salmon’s message to the congregants was precise and clear. “The Sfas Emes was niftar at age 59,” he said. “One son lamented their father didn’t have arichas shanim. ‘That’s true,’ answered the other son, ‘but he had arichas yamim. He made the most of every day.’ It is this consciousness that we must carry with us throughout these Holy Days, to make the most of every day. Open your heart, regardless of your pekel, and let the warmth that’s inside you warm others, and you will be matzliach in whatever Hashem tests you with.”

Few have been tested as has Dr. Salmon, yet seldom has a flame burned as bright. His life is a story of endings and new beginnings, of much to lament and much to be grateful for. The eldest of three sons of Holocaust survivors from Tasnad, Romania, he honors his parents’ legacy and remains intensely proud of his Hungarian Jewish roots. It is their personal narrative of survival and rebuilding — the strength and faith they bestowed upon him — that helped him develop the formidable emunah and purposefulness that is sustaining him now. “My inner drive doesn’t allow me to give up no matter how bad things look,” he says. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 728)

 

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