Reviewed by: CH (MAJ) Joseph Messinger, USA
Recently, Aleph’s own Rabbi Elie and Chaya Rochel Estrin published their memoirs of welcoming Nissi, their miracle child, into the world. Nissi has complex cardiac and gastrointestinal defects. This was diagnosed in utero partly accurately and partly inaccurately. The Estrin’s share their story full of faith, love, hope, and indefatigable resolution that offer the reader a chance to share in their journey and grow from the sharing. The book is called Of Medicine, Miracles and Mindsets and is a gripping tale and simply can not be read from cover to cover. It grips the reader into the struggles and emotional vicissitudes of a family’s story. For the empathic reader, the roller coaster of worry, love, acceptance, frustration, let downs are just too much to read in one sitting. Solace is offered to the reader in the form of the advanced knowledge that today Nissi is home, held tight by his parents and playing with his siblings.
At one point during my reading of the book, I tried to keep track of all of the miracles recorded in the pages. They were literally too numerous to count. The counting itself revealed that I wasn’t sure how to count what would be classified as a miracle. Gone are the days of prophets who can reckon such things for us. Instead, I had to step back from the story and simply experience the entire narrative as one long evolving miracle. Actually, this shift in mindset made for a much more meaningful approach to this story. In truth, this is the proper mindset… the good that God gives us is not limited to a specific time and place, but rather is always present. And therefore everything is always a miracle.
Parts of the book were frankly disturbing. Doctors and other medical staff were dismissive, uncaring, and locked into their mindset of being the expert and therefore all knowledgeable. Flippantly they offered thoughts of finality, bereft of hope. Vicariously, I felt twinges of something akin to anger and most certainly deep disappointment in the medical community. Other parts of the book were heartwarming, in particular how certain doctors and other medical staff were warm, embracing, loving, and caring for a family they did not otherwise know. Such a vacillation of experiences! In this sense, Of Medicine, Miracles and Mindsets sets the reader on edge, constantly awaiting the next new medical person to enter the Estrin’s’ lives.
Throughout the experience in Of Medicine, Miracles and Mindsets, the reader is touched by Nissi’s spirit and determination. At first he is an infant and later as he becomes a toddler we slowly start to hear his voice more and more. How tender are the moments when he declares, after a heart wrenching episode, “Me fine, me fine.” Through the pages we can hear his youthful voice and feel the vibrant spirit of this fine young boy.
The book ends with thoughts to offer three distinct groups of people. Those who have ill children, well-wishers to those families, and the medical community. The paucity of my own words and wisdom on this matter urges you to read the Estrin’s’ eloquently crafted words on this sensitive topic. Though I will offer that the common theme that runs between the three of them is to “know your place.” For a family that has this test, you must assess your situation and keep your family strong. For well-wishers, be sensitive, be there and then be gone, according to the wisdom of the moment. For medical professionals, your place is to heal and cause healing, not make predictions or foregone conclusions.
“Causing healing” is a major theme in Of Medicine, Miracles and Mindsets. It concerns the conditions around which we have faith in God. Deeply embedded into the Jewish way of thinking on this issue is that God runs the world and though circumstances seem dire, one must never ever lose hope. It might be said that hope is the ultimate Jewish perspective. The reviewer has had the privilege of meeting Nissi. His smile is contagious, his laughter infectious, and his heart is more than full of joy and love. Reading this book will enhance your emunah (faith) and set firmer your steps in an uncertain world.
The book can be purchased at www.medicinemiraclesmindsets.com.
Originally published in the Chanukah 2021 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.