Smoothing out the Rough Patches
"But why does he still look like this?" Malka was on the verge of tears. "How come not a single cream helps? I can't bear what he looks like!"
The doctor, a young, friendly woman, gazed at her kindly. "You're asking the wrong questions," she said softly. "Your question should be, Why does he feel so awful? His appearance is not your chief concern right now. Your child is suffering. He's so tiny, and that peeling skin hurts. The itching drives him crazy and he's helpless to stop it. That's the problem right now, not the way he looks."
Malka blushed. The doctor was right. But her baby's appearance did bother her. As she strolled down the street with her baby, she'd bump into friends and acquaintances who'd bend down and peer into the carriage to see the little prince – only instead of a beautiful, pink-cheeked baby, they saw a face full of huge rough, red, pussy patches. Automatically, they'd recoil and look at her with pity. No one ever asked to pick up the baby and coo to him. No one even smiled at him. How could a baby grow up emotionally healthy this way?
The doctor spoke about seborrhea and prescribed yet another, more expensive cream. "We'll try this one," she said. "If it doesn't help, we have one more option left, but it's far more expensive. Let's hope it won't come to that."
Malka left he doctor's office with poor little Duddy, hoping and praying this new cream would do the trick. A week later, however, there was still no improvement whatsoever, so she returned to the doctor to get a prescription for the last cream in the doctor's arsenal. This time, she didn't mention the baby's appearance, but she wept openly as she described his suffering.
But the last cream didn't help either. Perhaps there was some slight improvement, but the baby continued scratching and crying, and while Malka knew there were worse tzaros out there, she, too, was in tears most of the day.
"Go to Dr. Galina," some friends advised. "She's a conventional skin doctor but she also practices alternative methods. She concocts creams that aren't sold in pharmacies. She custom creates creams for her patients. Try it, we've heard amazing stories about her."
Malka called the office and was given an appointment five months down the line. After describing the situation and pleading for empathy, the secretary squeezed her in for three and a half weeks later.
Duddy continued crying all day and Malka had to hold him in her arms, trying to comfort him as she dried his sores with a sterile gauze bandage to prevent infection. She continued applying the expensive cream that the doctor had prescribed, but there was still no significant improvement.
A few days before her long-awaited appointment with Dr. Galina, a brochure from Kupat Ha'ir arrived in the mail. The brochure described the plights of thirty-five orphans who were getting married without any parental support. Malka read their stories and felt her heart go out to them.
In the introduction to the booklet, she read the following sentences:
Contribute at least ten shekels per orphan. Thirty-five orphans are visiting your home in this brochure. Ten shekels for each one means three hundred fifty shekels.
Contribute this sum and keep an eye out, over the next few days, for the marvelous ways in which Hashem will repay you for your contribution.
Malka felt a chill run down her spine. Three hundred fifty shekels. That was precisely the sum her appointment with Dr. Galina would cost! Only she'd also have to pay for a babysitter for the other children, the travel fare, the cream Dr. Galina would create and additional visits…
"I think we should do it," she said to her husband later that night. "Let's contribute three hundred fifty shekels to this fundraiser and ask Hashem to help Duddy in that merit. Instead of looking out for the way Hashem will repay us, we can show Him where we want to be repaid."
Her husband gave his agreement, but in his heart, he worried. What if they were disappointed?
But they were not disappointed. On the contrary, the change was swift and sudden. Within a few days, Duddy's face looked much better. His wounds closed and his skin healed. Slowly, gradually, they began seeing patches of soft, pink skin in between the splotches. Before long, the splotches disappeared completely and Duddy looked like a regular, happy baby.
A month passed and Duddy's face remained smooth. Malka feels unbelievably close to Hashem; a surge of joy and thanksgiving wells up inside her every time she looks at her baby. And she knows for sure that Hashem will continue to help her.