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Who Stole the Challah?

Tova Warman

Atara had no idea she was speaking to a world-class hypochondriac. I could win a Pulitzer for the stories my brain has spun. But this time, I wasn’t crazy

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


EASY AS PIE “The good news is, even if it is celiac, any damage to the intestine can be reversed by simply eating gluten-free. The diet is a complete cure.” Oh, sure. Simple. Just tell the six-year-old she can’t have any more wafers, pizza, cake, pasta, or cookies. Forever

"The cooking’s been an adjustment. Ari only eats gluten-free.”

It was a sunny winter day in Yerushalayim and I was sitting with my cousin Atara, who’d recently gotten married. I raised an eyebrow.

Atara laughed. “It’s not a fad. Ari has celiac disease. If someone has celiac, gluten actually destroys the villi in the intestine, which can cause all sorts of problems. The craziest thing is that he didn’t even have symptoms! He was just really pale, and celiac runs in his family so he got tested.”

Unfortunately, Atara had no idea she was speaking to a world-class hypochondriac. I could win a Pulitzer for the stories my brain has spun about the general state of my health and the well-being of those close to me. I’m drawn to WebMD the way a bug is attracted to those electric-light thingies that sizzle them to death. Luckily, WebMD’s standard death sentence is slightly less swift; it usually gives me at least a few hours to live.

“No symptoms, besides being pale, but a disease ravaging the body?” I repeated slowly. “Huh. How fascinating.” I swallowed hard.

“I think Dassi has celiac disease!” I pronounced, when I burst through the door a few hours later.

My husband covered his face with his hands. “I thought I blocked WebMD…”

“It wasn’t the Internet. It was Atara’s husband. He was pale — it was celiac!”

We glanced at sweet six-year-old Dassi playing in the corner. She did seem pale.

“Okay, Tova, calm down. What is it? Is there a cure?”

“Rice and potatoes. Forever,” I answered morosely.

My husband looked horrified. “What sort of life is that? Drop it, Tova. She’s fine.”

But see, the brain of a hypochondriac cannot simply drop IT. To assuage the spinning brain, the hypochondriac must scavenge the medical world collecting irrefutable proof that IT is not there.

“I’d like to test my daughter for celiac disease,” I explained to the doctor the next morning.


“Um… she’s pale.”

He shook his head and went to call in the next patient.

“It runs in the family!” I scrambled. It wasn’t a total lie. There are tons of Jews with celiac disease, and isn’t Klal Yisrael really just one big, happy family?

The doctor narrowed his eyes. At last, he handed me the form for a blood test, muttering something about crazy mothers.

Blood test completed, the celiac disease obsession slid away from my consciousness as fast as it had entered. It had been just a brief bout of anxiety like the Lyme disease fiasco of 2009, and the lupus scare in 2012.

No big deal.

Until the phone rang a week later and I was suddenly faced with every hypochondriac’s worst nightmare... (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 537)

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