A Journey With Joy

If all you knew about Malky Hirth, A”h, was her illness, this may be a strange thing to hear, but for anyone who knew Malky, it is the most obvious truth about her: Malky was synonymous with life, with simchas hachaim, with the joy of being alive.

Malky was born on Friday night, just as her father whispered the last words in sefer Tehillim: Kol haneshamah tehallel Kah — Every life praises Hashem.

At the young age of two, Malky’s pure closeness to Hashem was already apparent. “I wish I could be a bird,” Malky said to her mother one day while walking outside. “Then I would be able to sing to Hashem all day!”

Malky overflowed with thanks to Hashem, singing songs of gratitude for everything in her life. Thanks for her family, thanks for the sun and the stars, thanks for the trees and the grass. And again and again, thanks to Hashem for her life.

During the five-and-a-half years in which she was treated for leukemia, Malky’s love for Hashem grew to unfathomable proportions. Throughout her long stays at the hospital, her many surgeries and painful medical procedures, Malky continued to raise her voice in joyful singing and dancing, twirling with genuine happiness. She remained full of fun, holding tight to her emunah and bitachon in Hashem and never letting go.

Once, on her way to the emergency room with a raging fever and the onset of yet another infection, Malky turned to her father and said, “I talk to Hashem, I sing to Hashem. I thank Him for my life. Even though I would like it to be different, I know Hashem has a plan for me... the best possible plan.” 

Her father felt compelled to write down these amazing words as soon as he could. Much later, these words were publicized and became a source of comfort and inspiration for countless others going through their own challenges.

Malky, a”h, spent only a short time in this world, yet she impacted so many so deeply. Her life of joy, gratitude, the kiddush Hashem she made and all the outpouring of Klal Yisrael’s tefillos and chessed continue to inspire us.

The Blue Angels

The Blue Angels, a squadron of skilled U.S Navy pilots, flew their aircraft over the Baltimore Harbor. They were performing aerobatic stunts and formations for three days. Fortunately for the little girl on the eleventh-floor oncology ward at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, the view was spectacular.

Malky wouldn’t pass up a chance for some joy in her day. Although she was hooked up to an IV pole and unable to walk at that time, she was excited to be wheeled in a carriage to the window down the hall. Hearing the noise and commotion from outside, she wanted to see the show for herself.

Malky Hirth, A”h 

After a long while of watching the performance along with her parents, the three of them walked away from the window completely amazed.

Together, they walked the corridors discussing what they had just experienced.

“We are our own squadron, flying in a formation,” commented Malky’s father. “Our balancing act, with you in the carriage, me pushing the carriage and Mommy pushing the IV pole with its many tubes and plugs, is our own Blue Angels team.”

This thought sparked an idea. “Malky, you’re the ‘captain’; you tell us where to fly.”

Malky was excited with the idea and eagerly got involved in telling her parents which direction to turn. “Now turn left, now right… now go straight.” The little captain continued repeating her orders enthusiastically, while her parents tried to keep up with the many runs and turns around the ward.

After a while of keeping up with this routine of running and wheeling, mimicking the planes still flying above, Malky’s parents were exhausted.

“Malky, I think we have to stop; we’re getting tired out,” explained her mother.

Malky seemed disappointed; she had been enjoying every moment of this activity.

Her father turned to her, joking, “Malky, if you want to continue, I think you’ll need a younger set of parents!”

With a twinkle in her eye Malky looked at her father and said “Totty, you’re only old on the outside, but inside you’re young! Just like me: On the outside I look weak, but inside I am strong.”

Blue Laffy Taffies Before Midnight

In Parashas V’Zos Habrachah on the passuk that starts with “Amim har yikra’u,” Rashi writes: Merchants of the nations of the world arrive on the shores of Eretz Yisrael and decide to travel to Yerushalayim to inquire about the Jewish people. 

They discover that “Klal Yisrael worships one Hashem” and “Klal Yisrael eats one food.” What is the meaning of this puzzling statement of Rashi that “Klal Yisrael eats one food”?

Perhaps the following story that took place with Malky can explain.

It was past 10:00 p.m. when Malky requested a blue laffy taffy. The candy drawer in her hospital room was full of many snacks and treats, but no blue laffy taffies. There was even a pink one and a green one, but that did not suffice.

Laffy Taffy from The Candy Store in Baltimore

Malky had been enduring some of chemotherapy’s many awful side effects. She had a significant loss of appetite and altered taste buds. Her parents took the requests for whatever food she desired or disliked very seriously. Although they tried to persuade Malky to try a different candy, she insisted that she was only in the mood for the blue laffy taffy.

Malky’s father felt sorry for her, and he wanted to provide the one thing that would taste good to her at that moment. He made a phone call to his close friend, Rabbi Neuberger.

The Neubergers lived in Baltimore, a twenty-five-minute drive to the hospital on average. Before Malky’s father could finish explaining the circumstances, Rabbi Neuberger got into his car to check the local grocery store for the taffy. While on the phone with Malky’s father, he pulled up to Giant’s supermarket. After a brief search of the candy aisle, it was clear that the hunt wasn’t over. There were no blue laffy taffies. He drove farther to try one more store, only to find it closed. With no other solution in mind, Rabbi Neuberger returned home.

Back in the hospital, Malky was still waiting for the taffy to arrive. Malky’s father called his daughter in Lakewood and proposed an idea. Since many grocery stores in Lakewood were still open, perhaps she could go buy the laffy taffies and then drive to meet someone on the highway at a half-way point. Malky’s sister agreed to the plan and was able to recruit a friend of hers to come along for the blue laffy taffy drive.

In the meantime, Rabbi Neuberger was updated on the new plan, but he wasn’t pleased with it. He couldn’t believe what a shlep the family would have to go through to bring the candy down to Baltimore. He convinced Malky’s father not to set the plan in motion and asked for another few minutes to work on the issue.

A couple of minutes later, Rabbi Neuberger called back. This time he had good news. He had called the owner of the only kosher candy store in Baltimore, Mrs. Goldstein. Rabbi Neuberger explained the situation and Mrs. Goldstein got on board right away. She was out of town when she got the call, so she hung up and called her son-in-law, who lived in Baltimore. Mrs. Goldstein sent her son-in-law to her house to pick up the key to her store.

By this time, it was already 11:15 at night, many hours after the store had closed for the day. Her son-in-law drove over to the store and met Rabbi Neuberger outside. The two of them went inside, opened the lights and made a beeline to the blue laffy taffies. After securing a large full bag, Rabbi Neuberger called Malky’s father. “I finally have them!” he said with excitement. ‘But tell Malky” continued Rabbi Neuberger, “that I’m standing in the candy store, and the owner said the whole store is hers! Whatever she wants, she could have.” Malky listed a few additional candies she wanted, and then the two men were en route to meet each other halfway.

With the bag of the so kindly attained blue laffy taffies in hand, Malky’s father returned to the hospital. He couldn’t help but marvel at the united efforts of Yidden to bring happiness to one hospitalized little girl.

As Rashi states, Klal Yisrael serves one Hashem and Klal Yisrael eats “one food.”

Reprinted with permission from Hamodia