A Gift of a Lifetime

September 27, 2020

Dear Berman Community,

I’ve always wanted to change the world, to contribute something positive to people’s lives. I would read biographical books and articles ranging from The Rebbe’s Army to, l’havdil, Steve Jobs’ biography to best understand the traits and habits of the people that have changed our world.

Each year I would revisit this personal objective on aseret yemei teshuva and Yom Kippur. I would bow my head during “al chet,” take responsibility for all of my imperfections, and feel a sense of inadequacy overshadowing this aspiration. Similar to Avraham’s plea for Hashem to save Sodom with a more realistic calculation of tzaddikim that may be found there, I would find myself calibrating my own personal mission: “How can I change the world?” would evolve into “how to best contribute positively to my community,” and eventually “is there one person that I can help?” With maturity and humility, I prayed for an opportunity to change even one person’s life – to believe that I may hold something, that I may have some gift, that this person may need.

On October 29th, 2018, the Berman Hebrew Academy Lower School hosted a STEM event, “DNA and Me.” The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry was invited to present that evening. To be able to model the importance of this mitzvah to our students, I swabbed my cheek and handed over the cotton-tipped stick to the representative. On July 24th, 2020, I got the call. I was a match for a two-year-old girl battling an immune systems disorder. This past Monday, on Tzom Gedaliah, September 21, 2020, I completed the process by donating my bone marrow. I was able to give a second chance at life to this child and hope to her family. By giving her the “gift of life,” I received the gift of living mine more fully.

As I recovered over aseret yemei teshuva, I couldn’t help but celebrate the Divine intervention and message. Each of us holds a gift within us – that gift can inspire, uplift, and even save a life. Each of us is a match for someone who needs something we have. We all have the unbelievable potential to help someone in need. We have always learned that “whoever saves a life it is considered as if he has saved the world entire” (Talmud Sanhedrin, 37a). So too, by helping even one person, we are helping make the world a better place. By helping one another, by giving of ourselves, we are actualizing our potential and improving the quality of life for families and communities. Through small gestures and actions, even on a local level, we are creating a better world.

This Yom Kippur, may we all merit a year of actualizing our full potential, a year of sharing our gifts with others, and a year of making our communities and the world a better place. May we all merit the gift of life!

G’mar chatima tova,

Rabbi Dr. Yossi Kastan
Head of School