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t was one of those jam-packed mornings where, in between appointments, meeting my accountant, and traveling for a consultation in Beit Shemesh, I needed to think of an approach to the day’s lunch date with David, a friend of mine and fellow psychiatrist who was on a pilot trip to Israel and thinking about making aliyah. David was on the fence about moving and I had been planning my pitch for moving to Israel from Brooklyn for a long time. It would be a tough sell though — his whole family was in New York and he had a great job, a nice apartment, the works. That being said, Eretz Yisrael was Eretz Yisrael and I wanted to do my best to convince him to come. We need more good docs here and he was just the kind of guy who would love the work too.

But my phone was ringing off the hook and I didn’t have any time to think about David and whether or not he’d make aliyah. The phone was still ringing, when I finally reached it to answer, and I had a second to peek at the caller ID before picking up. When I saw that it was Reb Yitzi, I dropped everything I was doing in order to answer.

Reb Yitzi was the kind of special Yid who gave you the feeling that you were the only person in the world who could make it happen, whether you were his friend, or one of the hundreds of chassidishe bochurim who called him a big brother. You could call him a rav, an askan, or even a therapist, but mostly, he was a tzaddik who over the years had collected close to a thousand disaffected, abandoned, lost, and challenged kids who relied on his help to eventually find their place in the system.

 “Shullum alaichem harofei hanechbad hagadol Reb Yaakov,” came his uniquely exuberant, booming voice.

“Reb Yitzi Harav Hakadosh! What can I do for you?”

“You can tell me you’re ready to drop everything you’ve got on your schedule to see a special Yid today,” he answered honestly.

And Reb Yitzi was one of a few guys who I was actually ready to do this for because he was the kind of person who did the same for his bochurim. At any given time, you could find a few dozen young men at Reb Yitzi’s house — some with big peyos and some without, some holding Gemaras and some rolling cigarettes — because it was the only home they had. Knowing the profound achrayus he took for these kids, it was nearly impossible for me to turn him down when he needed my time.

“Of course I’m ready for you,” I responded. “What’s the story?”

“Reb Yaakov, this bochur Yanky needs someone to take care of him. Not just a psychiatrist who happens to be a Jew, but a real Yid who happens to be a psychiatrist. The kid has PTSD and can’t sleep because of his nightmares. He needs help but he’s burned out on psychiatrists. You aren’t a regular psychiatrist though, you’re a Yid who happens to be a great doc!”

“You’re flattering me just a bit too much for me to turn you down, Reb Yitzi,” I said as I sent a message to David letting him know I’d be late for lunch. As a fellow psychiatrist and frum Yid, I imagined he’d understand. “But why now Reb Yitzi? What’s the sudden rush?”

“There’s a bochur in Antwerp who needs me and I need to fly out for a few days,” Yitzi answered. “Seems like he’s ready to be an admor as soon as he becomes frum again but in the meantime he needs my expertise. Besides, I need to get this sorted out with Yanky before I leave because each moment he’s suffering is a moment that I’m suffering too. You get it Reb Yaakov, because you also have the Moshe Rabbeinu-I’m-in-tzaros-because-my-people-are-in-tzaros syndrome.”

We set a time, and I had drinks and some snacks waiting for Reb Yitzi when he entered the door with Yanky.

“Chacham and Gadol Hador Dr. Yaakov!” began Reb Yitzi as he hugged me emphatically before taking my hand and putting it out for my new patient. “Meet Hatzaddik Ha’amiti HaYid Hakadosh Reb Yanky miBrooklyn!”

Yanky was shy and needed some prodding from Reb Yitzi who was happy to help as he proceeded to tell me the story of a 20-year-old bochur who had been through more than his share of pain and challenges. Ongoing abuse by a family member had left him broken on the inside and with a void that alcohol and drugs could never fill — although he kept trying, with one trip after another. After leaving home at 16, and after having been kicked out of one yeshivah after another, he landed on Yitzi’s door in a terrible, tearful mess. With love, patience, and more love and patience, Reb Yitzi helped this Brooklyn refugee to get to a place where he was sober and willing to talk about his pain. Reb Yitzi put Yanky in contact with a good therapist who was doing the necessary work to help him move past the traumas of abuse and subsequent frightening aspects of street life where he’d hit rock bottom, but the nightmare flashbacks to those years still plagued Yanky and made it impossible to keep a normal schedule.

One psychiatrist had apparently given Yanky a high dose of a sleeping pill that knocked him unconscious, and when he asked to speak to the doctor about it, he was told, “You can pay me for another appointment or we’re done.” The second psychiatrist made a more reasonable psychopharmacological recommendation, but she had her nose pierced and no yeshivah bochur — no matter how far gone he was — was going to be able to take her seriously. With these setbacks, Yanky wasn’t getting his ongoing symptoms of PTSD addressed, and Reb Yitzi thought I’d be able to help.

As a fellow frum Yid with a big beard and a little Yiddish, I had the zechus to reach this broken bochur on the mend who would be naturally mistrustful of an outsider. Yanky had a classic case of PTSD with an inability to sleep due to the nightmares that tortured him. A low dose of Prazosin was a good start, and we discussed the benefits and the risks of treatment and planned to follow up when Reb Yitzi got back from overseas. 

As they walked out, I began to gather my things to run off to my belated lunch appointment with David. I was surprised to see Reb Yitzi at the front door of the building waiting for me.

“I just needed to thank you again, Reb Yaakov Hatzaddik,” he said. “You don’t know how important it is for there to be frum Yidden to help these kids here in Eretz Yisrael. I could send you a hundred bochurim who could use your chizuk!”

“Wait!” I told Reb Yitzi as I whipped out my phone and called my friend David.

David answered and I told him that I was going to hop in a cab and meet him in ten minutes, but that I wanted him to hear something first. I handed Reb Yitzi the phone and told him to repeat exactly what he just told me.

“What, the part about us needing good frum psychiatrists here in Eretz HaKoidesh?”

“Exactly,” I said.

“Am I trying to sell a friend of yours on coming to help you out with all of these heilege Yidden that need you?” he said as he began talking directly into the phone. “Who is this, by the way? Are you some kind of amazing Admor Psychiatrist like Reb Yaakov harofei hanechbad hagadol?”

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 730. Jacob L. Freedman is a psychiatrist and business consultant based in Israel. When he’s not busy with his patients, Dr. Freedman can be found learning Torah in The Old City or hiking the hills outside of Jerusalem.  Dr. Freedman can be reached most easily through his website www.drjacoblfreedman.com.