A Complete Tzaddik? The Grandchild I will never see or hold…

Shlomo Amatzya Lev

Shlomo Amatzya Lev was not yet born when an anatomical ultrasound showed that something was very wrong with his heart.  They said the left side of his heart was not yet formed; they called it a very long and horrible sounding name:  hypoplastic left heart syndrome or, more concisely, HLHS.  From wonderful news of a most welcome pregnancy, within moments the entire world came crashing down around my son and his wife.  After being told, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster, not really knowing what to say, think or do.

After months of waiting for results of ultrasound imaging and Echo Dopplers of the fetus, closer to birth Shlomo was diagnosed with yet another complication where blood did not flow from the right side of his heart to the left and the only chance for him to live at all was an in-utero surgery where a stent was placed to allow for blood flow.

Once born, the doctors said he needed immediate open heart surgery to enlarge the opening, as not enough blood was flowing so, at the age of one hour, he was sped into surgery and the hole was enlarged.  Just days later he had his first Norwood procedure, one of a series of three heart operations that give HLHS children a chance of survival.

Shlomo’s tiny body was not able to drain the fluids and his kidneys stopped functioning.  He had ups and downs and every vital function was monitored round the clock in the critical care unit of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto’s Sick Kids Department.  Shlomo remained too bloated for the surgeons to close up his chest and every time they tried to advance too much, Shlomo’s vitals indicated no go.  They would add one stitch at a time to close his tiny sternum.

At the end of his life at 7 1/2 weeks of age, young Shlomo had been through procedures that centenarians do not necessarily have – he had a stent, pacemaker, tubes all over the place, peritoneal dialysis.  Shlomo was visibly suffering and in pain; his soul knew no comfort except for the presence of his parents.  His cries made no sound, as the tube down his throat prevented his vocal chords from giving him voice.  He was administered morphine all along, as well as a myriad of other chemicals which I won’t list here.  Shlomo gradually left this world, in time to say goodbye to everyone, with his pulse rate slowly declining.

Shlomo never left the hospital and never wore clothes but he heard prayers, songs and speech.  He felt the loving touch of his mother and father.  From a distance of 7,000 miles, I kept in touch every day to find out how he and everyone else were doing.  Even when emotions ran high and my phone calls were ignored or received with irritation, I nevertheless continued to phone and offered a listening ear and as much moral support as I could, under the circumstances.  As a working single woman, I could not travel over there to give continuous, hands on assistance.  Such is life and this I say with a heavy sigh.

Goodbye and G-d Bless

Shlomo entered into the covenant of G-d and our father Abraham before his body was ritualistically purified and he had a proper burial, all according to Jewish Law.  His parents sat shiva for him and observed the 30 days of mourning.  His maternal grandparents as well as paternal grandmother and grandfather identified and empathized with the tragedy they all shared.  Life goes on and while Shlomo will always be a loving memory for all of us, we are forced to continue and get our lives back to normal.


Seeking Answers

Human nature, education and a higher spiritual awareness bring people to think and reflect, contemplate and consider.

Everything is for a reason

When Shlomo died, people told me that his soul must have been the very special soul of a righteous person on the highest of spiritual levels.  Without proof or further information, all I could do was nod and lean on my strong belief in G-d and that everything is for the good.

As G-d would have it, long before any news about Shlomo, someone kindly lent me the book called Opening the Tanya by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.  In Chapter 11 of his book, Rabbi Steinsaltz wrote and I quote:

“This opposite the other ‘ -the “rasha to whom is good” is the corresponding opposite of the “tzaddik to whom is evil.” This is to say that the good of his G-d soul which is in his brain and in the right ventricle of his heart is subservient to, and nullified by, the evil of the kelipah that is in the left ventricle.'”

Steinsaltz goes on and talks about

“two types of tzaddik:  the complete tzaddik (the “tzaddik to whom is good”) and the incomplete tzaddik ( the “tzaddik to whom is evil”).

This took me back to thinking about Shlomo, not even having the left side of the heart which stores the evil inclination to which the good G-dly inclination that is contained in the right heart often falls to serve after covetous envy of material things.  Shlomo had no left heart to speak of.  He never knew material things, wealth or pleasures.  Could he have been a complete tzaddik as described in the Commentary of Rabbi Steinsaltz.  We will always wonder but personally I found this insight very interesting.

Like I said above, there is no absolute proof and when I first read this I found it so disturbing, I put the book down, thinking that I would stop reading it.  However, I did pick it up again and reconsidered and putting personal feelings aside, began to open up and think about the deeper meaning.  I won’t every pretend to be objective about anything that relates to my family but nevertheless wanted to share these thoughts.



Steinsaltz, Rabbi Adin; Opening the Tanya, Discovering the Moral and Mystical Teachings of a Classic Work of Kabbalah; Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, ; San Francisco, CA, 2003, pages 268 – 277.

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