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Diamonds

Jacob L. Freedman MD

"Each Jewish woman is a bas Melech, Dr. Freedman!"

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

R

ebbetzin Silverberg was known throughout Eretz Yisrael for her amazing shiurim.

This was a woman who had inspired a generation of women with her unique blend of humor and Torah. Beyond this, her intellect reached even the most skeptical secular corners of the Land, where she was famous for lecturing on college campuses and kibbutzim.

From the Golan to Eilat, Rebbetzin Silverberg’s shiurim were packed with women — young and old — who came to hear her words of Torah. She was so busy and in such high demand, with tens of thousands of women seeking her advice on relationships, chinuch, and everything in between, that it might have been, lehavdil, easier to get in to see the Chofetz Chaim ztz”l for a brachah.

For me though, Rebbetzin Silverberg wasn’t known for her derashos — although according to my wife they were quite exceptional — but rather for the tremendous achrayus she took for her students.

I’ll never forget the first time I received a phone call from the Rebbetzin: She wanted to refer me a woman with what sounded like postpartum depression. And while I’d spoken with countless roshei yeshivah, rebbes, and rebbetzins about their loved ones, this case was notably different. The young woman being discussed wasn’t a family member of the Rebbetzin, a donor, or anyone that sounded as though they had some sort of protektziya.

She was a stay-at-home mother of two, married to an electrician, who lived in Maaleh Adumim. She had come to the Rebbetzin to ask for a brachah to be less overwhelmed at home. Upon hearing the story, Rebbetzin Silverberg was appropriately concerned that it might be a case of postpartum depression and wanted to ensure that the young mother got timely and high-quality care.

“So can you help her, Dr. Freedman?” she asked hopefully.

“I’d be honored to help your talmidah, Rebbetzin Silverberg,” I answered humbly. “If you don’t mind me asking though, what makes the case so urgent that you called me yourself right now?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“Nothing, just that it’s after hours, and you’re likely rushing to give your weekly parshah class,” I said, knowing that it was time for the shiur my wife had been to dozens of times.

“I appreciate your concern for my time management, Dr. Freedman, but please remember that this is a special neshamah we’re talking about here. Every single Jewish woman is a special neshamah and a true diamond.”

“She’s a long-time talmidah of yours?”

“No. I actually only spoke with her once. But you have to understand — she’s a mother of two children, a wife of a husband, a Jewish woman in need of help. And she was in terrible distress when I met her, acting in a manner that suggested she needs your help immediately.”

I tried to ask the Rebbetzin what exactly this woman had done to suggest she needed an emergency evaluation. Was she suicidal? Psychotic? Violent? The Rebbetzin let me know that this was not the case, rather that the woman was quite distressed. Finally, after continued prodding, she admitted to me that this woman had screamed at her, letting out a tirade of epithets, calling her a “busybody rebbetzin who thinks she knows everything” and, according to Rebbetzin Silverberg, using “the kind of curse words that most people don’t use in front of me.”

I was getting the picture. “I understand, Rebbetzin. Please tell her to send me an e-mail, and I’ll make sure to see her in my next available slot.”

“This is very important to me, Dr. Freedman. She’s a bas Melech. We all are. Hashem should always bless you for your good work. Please make sure to call me directly as soon as you’ve seen her to let me know how things went.”

And things went relatively straightforwardly. I met the young mother with her husband later that week, and it was pretty clear that she was suffering from postpartum depression. We discussed the pros and cons of starting an antidepressant medication, given the severity of her hopelessness and helplessness, and stressed the need for cardiovascular exercise. I also referred her to a colleague who was an expert psychotherapist.

Before we finished the consultation, the woman asked me for a favor. “Dr. Freedman, will you call Rebbetzin Silverberg for me? To let her know that I’ll be okay? My meeting with her was such a disaster, and I was such a nervous wreck. I really ranked her out, said the most horrible things to her. But you know what? She didn’t even blink. Still, I’m humiliated — I can’t face her.”

“Of course I will,” I answered, overwhelmed by this unbreakable bond of Jewish women.

“Thank you so much. I know she’s very busy, but you have to understand what an amazing woman she is. As jam-packed as her schedule is, when you’re sitting with her it’s like you’re the only one in the world.”

After she left, I fulfilled my promise and called the Rebbetzin back. I wasn’t expecting to reach her, given her schedule, and so I left a simple message: that I’d seen the young woman from Maaleh Adumim and had taken care of ensuring that she was on the right track.

After my next appointment, I noticed that there were seven missed calls from Rebbetzin Silverberg. As I dialed her back, I found myself hoping that there was no additional emergency.

“How is she, Dr. Freedman? Were you able to help her?”

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the Rebbetzin’s level of concern for this woman, who’d even verbally abused her. “Yes Rebbetzin, she’s headed in the right direction.”

“Baruch Hashem. This is a tremendous mitzvah, and I’m so grateful to be a part of her healing. You must be so grateful to be able to help so many people.”

“I certainly am,” I thought out loud. “But Rebbetzin, if I may ask a question, how do you do it?”

“Excuse me?”

“Take such a profound and powerful achrayus for every woman you encounter. I mean, you only met her once, correct?”

“Only once? Each Jewish woman is a bas Melech, Dr. Freedman. A mother, a wife, a precious diamond. Don’t ask me how I could put in so much to try to help her — ask how I could do anything less! Now please keep me updated, and let me know how she progresses and if there is anything else I can do to help her. And now if you’ll excuse me, Dr. Freedman, I’m off to give a class.”

I wished the Rebbetzin a good day and then called my wife to let her know I’d be home early to watch the kids that evening. I wanted to make sure she’d be free to attend Rebbetzin Silverberg’s parshah shiur.

Identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of patients, their families, and all other parties.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 753. 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

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