June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Hillside-Elizabeth Bids Farewell to Neshama Tehila Heller, z”l

“My Little One,” was composed and written by Neshama Tehila Heller, and conveyed in silence to her father, Ira Heller, who performed the moving composition at Madison Square Garden in March of 1998. You can view the YouTube video if you want to be inspired. For the Heller family, the phrase “It takes a village” only begins to describe their journey; but they will tell you that the abiding love and supervision of Hashem, together with the silent but implicit influence of Tehila herself, have always piloted their journey.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, sh’lita, close friend, spiritual advisor and confidant of the Hellers from the beginning, so poignantly described the effect that Tehila had on her environment and others around her—even for people she and the family never knew or met. While in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as an infant, Tehila’s effect was felt when total strangers became regular visitors. He relates that he told Ira, after the medivac helicopter lifted their infant to CHOPS, leaving both parents behind and bewildered, that they would dance at Tehila’s bat mitzvah…and they did. He shared that his experience with the Hellers throughout these 23 years was astonishment at their deeply spiritual perception of the value of human life. During the numerous times when Tehila hovered between this world and the next, their emunah and bitachon were both boundless and contagious.

Rabbi Goldwasser also shocked everyone by revealing a shortcoming of the Hellers: “They were not very good listeners.” For the abundant amount of times when they were delivered negative, indeed hopeless, prognoses by unnumbered medical experts, they “refused to give up for even one second…” and relied instead on the spiritual counsel of their rabbinic authorities and their own determined hope and prayers. For “those who questioned their limitless and unconditional efforts and advised them to accept reality, they wouldn’t listen.”

“The Ramchal says that Hashem gave suffering the power to dispel the insensitivity in man, allowing him to become pure and clear, prepared for the ultimate good. We live in a world that is both insensitive and indifferent. To be sure, the challenges and adversity over the past 23 years have made us a more sensitive, caring and unified people.”

Tehila, a”h, had both the hidden and revealed power of mobilizing the local and global community. Ira’s blog following Tehila’s cardiac arrest at school almost six years ago chronicled the deepest thoughts and impressions of the family upon this trying turn of events. Following the blog, one could sense the deepening emunah of the family, and its penetrating effect on those who kept up with the frequent installations and updates. More than being “nosy,” the blog viewers transformed into a communal support and action advocacy of caring and spiritually involved participants. While the Hellers inspired infinite and continual Tehillim, they also provided some essential information as to how people could be actively helpful to the family in times of great and often unexpected need.

Alysia Heller has been a critical-care nursing professional for a very long time, inspired by the special and continual needs of their precious Tehila and her strong but silent will to live. Countless times Tehila’s care team would report that she was stable, but Alysia—with the combined instincts of the quintessential mother and consummate professional—would say otherwise. And upon closer examination; the team would concede that she was right and provide the necessary interventions. Eventually, these same doctors and care professionals learned not to simply yield, but to carefully attend to Alysia’s wise and seasoned assessment, often making an essential difference to Tehila’s condition.

The intensity and demands of Tehila’s situation upon a family defy description. To refer to the Hellers simply as a team wholly minimizes what this journey has meant for them and their grandparents. They rose to both Tehila’s needs and the needs of an admiring and awed worldwide community, to share not their neediness or heroism, but to share the inspiration of Tehila herself and to give strength and hope to the thousands of others who suffer various trials that life brings, which was always a main focus of their communication and efforts. The outcome of these efforts has been unfettered emunah and bitachon inspired in others, giving hope to the hopeless and creating a Kiddush Hashem at every juncture.

So, during the early morning hours of the last Shabbos of her life, Neshama Tehila, a”h, beckoned once again to a place so familiar from her frequent visits there, serenely just alighted. And carried with her the rare and priceless yerusha, a wholly and absolutely pristine legacy. The community joins in sympathy and the offering of condolences at the passing of Neshama Tehila Heller, a”h.

The Hellers offered a profound thank you to Chai Lifeline for their indispensable support, sensitively and graciously provided all these years. They invite you to share your appreciation by making a donation in Tehila’s memory to www.chailifeline.org.

By Ellie Wolf

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