It has been seven long days and nights since the Petira (passing) of our dear friend, Avigail Maima Rochel Rechnitz O”H. Although, the skies are crystal clear, there remains a dark cloud over our community. Most conversations I have had over the past several days are about the deep sadness we all feel. Then the conversations invariably shift to the need to make a change in our community and ourselves.
The common theme throughout the Levaya (funeral and eulogies) was Avigail’s primary drive to help others. In the midst of her own hardship, and the tremendous physical pain she experienced, she couldn’t be stopped in her pursuit of helping. Avigail’s O”H husband, R’ Yisroel Zev Rechnitz(YBLC”T) mentioned, that while Avigail was receiving chemo, she would be on the phone arranging Bikur Cholim tasks with no one the wiser.
Once, there was a Choleh being treated in the same hospital where Avigail was receiving chemo. They were on the phone with one another when a code blue rang out throughout the hospital. When the person heard the code blue coming through the phone, she realized that Avigail was in the same hospital and asked “are you in the hospital?”
Thinking quickly, Avigail said she was visiting someone and then the Choleh asked, if when she was finished, she could please visit her next. After 6 hours of chemotherapy, Avigail mustered up all her strength to go be M’Vaker Choleh this patient.
Our ancestor, Avigail, was one of the seven N’vios (prophetesses). Avigail Meima Rochel O”H was a true N’via in our times. She knew the needs of others before they were verbalized. She knew of the empty cupboards that needed to be filled, of the lumpy mattresses that needed to be replaced, the outgrown children’s shoes that needed the next size up. She was determined to make a difference in those people’s lives. She knew the meaning of life; she lived each minute, not for herself, but for others. Not only did she not waste an opportunity that came her way, she searched high and low for those chances. Throughout it all, no one knew of her incredible handiwork… or her hardship. No one knew that she was in need of the same Chesed she gave to 1000’s of others.
Avigail’s O”H illness was only revealed to the community two weeks before her Petirah. I consider those two weeks a tremendous Chesed that we were given a chance to cry, Daven and do what we could as a Zechus for her Refuah.
R’ Yisroel Zev (he should live and be well for 120 years), explained why Avigail wanted to keep her 2 plus year-long battle with this Machla a secret, it wasn’t because of privacy. It was because she felt and knew that if people knew of her illness, they would not call her for help. This “addiction” of helping others remained with her until her Neshama departed this world. However, I firmly believe that the kochos and legacy she left behind will continue in this world and in the next.
Avigail O”H, was a Tzanuah (a modest woman). As R’ Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz said at the Levaya, at one point while Avigail O”H, was intubated in the hospital, she was vigorously moving her hands around while heavily sedated. One hand was pulling to remove the intubation tube, while the other remained by her head holding on to her teichel (scarf) to ensure that her hair remained covered. Her Tzinius was deeply ingrained in her very being.
R’ Yisroel Zev said that Avigail was a diamond and that when we are not worthy to store it, Hashem removes it from our midst. The only part of his speech I disagree with is when he said he was not worthy to marry her. He is mistaken. Not only was he worthy, he enabled Avigail O”H to work her magic. Both of them as individuals and as a team built the Los Angeles community thru G’milus Chasadim. I am sure that thousands of people can attest throughout the world that they too were recipients of their Chesed as well.
70 years after the second Churban, the Torah Shel Bal Pe (Oral Torah) was at risk of being forgotten. It was Reb Yehuda Hanasi, who gathered the information of all the Halochos and codified them in short hand, which became the Mishna.
We are 70 years after the destruction of the Holocaust. Although, we are living in a period of perhaps the greatest Torah learning since that bygone era, we must not forget one another. Mitzvos ben Adam L’Chavero (between man and his fellow man) will serve as our touchstone toward the great Yeshua to come very speedily in our days. Avigail O”H, was the GPS of Chesed in our community. It is now our job to learn from her ways and follow the roadmap that she wrote for us.
As the songwriter Shewky so beautifully sings, “Mama Rochel cry for us again, won’t you shed a tear for your dear children…” We now are in desperate need of Avigail Meima Rochel O”H, along with Rochel Imenu (our Matriarch) to cry for us to hasten the days of our Geula Shlema B’korov.