April 18, 2024
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The Hardest Test of All

Hillside—Twelve years ago, Rabbi Mordechai and Mrs. Shterney Kanelsky of Hillside received a precious gift—a beautiful daughter who they named Batsheva after her great-grandmother. Within hours of Batsheva’s birth, their dreams for their newborn daughter were crushed when they found out that she likely had only days to live.

Many parents in this situation would feel hopeless and helpless, but the Kanelskys immediately knew where to turn. They knew that G-d would guide them through this terrible time and they never lost sight of His love and guidance, even when Batsheva ultimately succumbed to her illness a mere 65 days after her birth.

March 1, 2015, the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, marked exactly 12 years since the Kanelskys lost their beloved baby girl. Rather than mourn, they decided to celebrate her life by hosting a “Bat Mitzvah to Remember” in Batsheva’s memory. Over 100 women gathered at the Bris Avrohom center to commemorate her 12th yahrzeit and bat mitzvah year. Women from all over and all walks of Jewish life came out in sympathy and empathy for the Kanelskys’ experience.

“It certainly was a bittersweet occasion, marking Batsheva’s 12th yahrzeit and bat mitzvah on the actual Hebrew date of her passing,” said Mrs. Kanelsky. “Many women came to show respect, that I’m not alone, to give me a hug,” she continued.

The event was extremely emotional, and provided the couple and their children with much comfort. Just as during Batsheva’s 65 days of life many were inspired to do mitzvot in her merit, the family hoped that this event would promote acts of mitzvot in her memory.

“Batsheva’s days were so few, but her pure soul ignited so many others in that short time. Without her special influence, these additional mitzvot would never have been undertaken, and certainly never continued.”

One of the mitzvot that Mrs. Kanelsky stressed during Batsheva’s short life, and continues to stress today, is that of family purity. In their daughter’s memory, the Kanelskys built and dedicated a mikvah to assist women in fulfilling this important ritual in Jewish life. The mikvah itself is an everlasting building to honor Batsheva, and provides purification for both body and soul. The rabbi who certified its kashrut at its inception provided the family with tremendous words of comfort which they keep close to their hearts.

“This mikvah is your baby and you should feel that every Jewish child born after [the parent was] using it is your grandchild because the mikvah is for Batsheva,” he said.

During the event, Mrs. Kanelsky told the story of Batsheva’s too-short life and how, in her merit, the family started the “Batsheva Mitzvah Campaign” to encourage people to take on additional mitzvot “on their level, whatever they can do.”

“Batsheva’s struggle brought out the best in so many people. Her special soul was a vehicle for so many to return to their heritage,” commented Mrs. Kanelsky.

During the morning’s program, Mrs. Kanelsky sang a special song that a friend helped her write about her daughter. At the conclusion, there was not a dry eye in sight. She managed to maintain her composure for much of the event; however, during the song she finally broke as she sang the following lines:

“Today I’d be dancing with you, celebrating with you

A Bas Mitzvah you’d be, a Jewish woman I’d see

Committing proudly

To do all the Mitzvos of Hashem with love

The table’s set for your return”

The guest speaker at the event was Sarah Karmely, who spoke about the three important mitzvot for women in Judaism—lighting Shabbat candles, baking challah, and using the mikvah. The program inspired many to give donations to the mikvah and Batsheva’s Mitzvah Campaign to enable the continuation of its good works “until we are reunited [with Batsheva] when Moshiach comes speedily in our days.”

“I feel like G-d gave us a very hard test in life, and hope you never understand my pain, but we had the zechus (merit) to be the parents of such a holy neshama (soul), even for 65 days.”

By Jill Kirsch

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