Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blessing in a Hospital Room

When my son, Sam, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the first things we learned was that the hospital was about to become our home.

For about a month at a least four times.

After this sunk into my brain, I started to consider how the room could become home-like for Sam. And for us.

Home is where you hang your mezuzah, after all.

In my foggy brain, I recalled that after 30 days, a mezuzah is usually required on the door of a dwelling. But without doing any research at all, I knew that even if we were here for 300 days (God forbid), I wouldn't want to believe that this was a permanent dwelling.

No way.
No way.

So I started to think about what we could do instead of a mezuzah. After all, its basic underlying purpose is to bring blessing upon the home, to remind us of our connection to God our community and the blessing that these connections are to us. So I went to our home and I looked around for a symbol of blessing that I could transport to this temporary dwelling place.

I looked around and saw the chamsa art pieces hanging next to my bed. I bought them in Israel and consider their presence to be a beautiful reminder of the blessing of Israel...and the chamsa is, of course, an amulet for protection. Perfect. So I scooped them off the wall and hung them carefully in our hospital room. (Using lots of tape.)

Not only is it a blessing, but a reminder of home. When our time in the hospital comes to an end, I will place these amulets back on the wall at home. I will say a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving, a prayer of survival and success. Trust me, I'm planning ahead.

For now, its presence brings blessing here in the hospital.
A blessing for protection.
For hope.
For health and healing.
For us.

For those interested: the halacha (legal interpretation) of mezuzot actually suggests that a hospital room is, in fact, a temporary dwelling that I do not own. Therefore I am not required to place a mezuzah on the door no matter how long our stay in the room. In addition, I have learned that the practice of reaching up to touch the mezuzah upon entry into a room can actually spread bacteria in a hospital and is now discouraged in Israeli hospitals. "Air-kissing" the mezuzah is now the suggested practice.


Rebecca Einstein Schorr said...

What I love most about this is the struggle. The struggle to take normative Jewish practice and see how, and if, it can work within your current situation. I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you have approached this and the comfortable solution you have found.

May your temporary dwelling always be a sacred space, one of healing and one of blessing.


Otir said...

Being (a quarter) sephardic, I can tell you the chamsa is definitely the way to go for the hospital room.

It also brings the healing power attached to Myriam's figure.

Thinking of you all a lot. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

Batya said...

In the Holy Land, the Mezuza goes up on day one.