Saturday, June 16, 2012

Guest Post: Rabbi Anne's Sermon on Sammy

On Friday night, our dear friend, Rabbi Anne Persin, gave this D'var Torah.
I love how she wove our little person into those two brave souls, Caleb and Joshua. 
I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to know that she gave this sermon.
(I like her ending the best - imagining Sam's Bar Mitzvah has become a favorite pastime. I think it will be November 10, 2018....Parashat Toldot....God willing.)

Sh’lach L’cha ~~ Team Superman Sam
by Rabbi Anne Persin
As Cantor read beautifully this evening, this week’s torah portion tells us the story of the spies… [recap story].  Of the 12 spies that went in to scout out this promised land, 10 came out afraid and certain that nothing but doom was before them.  Only two, Caleb and Joshua, believed that they could face the challenges before them, that they could fight the fight.  
You may have noticed that Rabbi Sommer is not here this evening.  He is spending some very important time with his family.  Some of you may have heard that this week we received the terrible news that his six year old son, Sammy, has leukemia.  This has been a very long and very difficult week.  Sammy and Michael and Phyllis and the entire family have a long road ahead of them.  
I have been doing a lot of research on leukemia this week and the good news is it has some of the best cure rates of all of the cancers.  The bad news is: it’s cancer.  There will be chemotherapy.  There will be weeks at a time living in the hospital.  There will be nausea and hair loss and all of the pain and discomfort of having cancer.  And Sammy is only six years old.   
Sammy… I would like to tell you a little bit about this kid that I adore so much.  He is so funny.  Sometimes he can be a little mazik (that’s Yiddish for troublemaker) but more in the class clown sort of way.  He is so sweet and so polite, well to strangers—when one of the nurses asked if she could draw blood, he said, “yes, please”!  As a six year old boy he loves lizards and turtles and angry birds and jokes featuring bodily functions.  He LOVES stories.  Whenever I come over (and that’s pretty often) he asks me to tell him a story.  He makes requests for his favorites but is always happy to hear a new one and if one especially catches his fancy he can pretty much retell it to the next person who comes by.  He has a sign on his hospital door that says: NO GIRLS ALLOWED!!  Thanks, Sammy.  Sometimes he is a cranky old man.  Sometimes he is wide eyed with wonder.  He is sly and cheeky and pushy and silly and helpful and caring.  And Sammy is a fighter.  Sammy is Caleb and Joshua.  
It is not easy to be Caleb and Joshua.  So many challenges that life throws at us make us feel like we are nothing more than grasshoppers about to be stepped upon by giants.  Our Torah reminds us that ten out of twelve people agree that life can be scary and imposing and can make us want to run far far away.  But sometimes we do not have the option of running far far away, of being paralyzed with fear.  Sometimes we have to be a fighter.  We have to face the giants in our path and we have to be Caleb and Joshua.  Poor Caleb and Joshua did not have much support in their readiness to fight or, for that matter, in their faith in God.  Luckily, Sammy and Michael and Phyllis have tremendous support from you, B’nai Torah, from Am Shalom where Phyllis is a rabbi, from Oak Terrace where Sammy just finished Kindergarten, from Lutz where he went to preschool, from family and friends throughout the Midwest and throughout the country and even in Israel.
Sammy is a fighter but for him to face this giant and to reach the promised land, he needs the support of his communities.  We are Team Superman Sam. And here’s are some of the things that we can do to support Sammy, Michael & Phyllis throughout their fight with the giants.

  • Follow their blog:
  • Sign up with B’nai Torah to provide a meal one day throughout the next month
  • Please have patience with Michael—he may not be able to return every call or text or email just yet
Tami Jacobs, our Executive Director, has taken on the incredibly wonderful task of point person for B’nai Torah throughout all of this.  If you have any questions or want to do more, please call her.  And keep checking our website and eblasts.  We will have updates on Sammy and on how we are helping him fight the fight.  
One last thing that we can all do: pray.  Imagine this silly, sweet, cheeky, fighting kid healed and playing at home.  Imagine him being called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah when he’s 13.  Imagine him graduating from college, getting married, having kids of his own.  Imagine him living a long, happy, healthy life.  Hold that image in your minds and in your hearts and in your souls.  And let us pray that it will come to be.

From Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr’s blog post on Sammy:
Holy One
Who has brought comfort and strength to our mothers
and courage and hope to our fathers.
May You bestow the caregivers with gentle hands and tender words.
And hold
Shmuel Asher ben HaRav Pesah Esther
close during this time of great difficulty.
May the day come soon when his pain is but a distant memory
and we can rejoice in his renewed strength and health.

Keyn y’hi ratzon…May this be Your Will.


  1. Hi Sam,

    Usually I write to Solly, but I'm glad to have a chance to write to you, too. That was a really terrific sermon that Rabbi Anne wrote about you, and it made me feel as though I know you, even though we've never actually met. I look forward to meeting you and hope that when we do, you'll tell me some of the cool stuff you know about turtles and lizards. In the meantime, work hard at getting well so you'll be in tip-top shape to fill me in about the critters. I hope that'll be soon.

    Take care and give my best to your Ima and Abba,
    ~ Jane.

  2. Fabulous sermon! You have a member of Team Superman Sam here in South Florida.

  3. Hey Sam! My name is Dana and your wonderful Dad helped to teach my two young children Eli and Maddy at B'nai Torah Pre School. I have heard so many fabulous things about you, and we can't wait to meet you :)! I just wanted to send you a note and let you know that the Decker Family is thinking about you every day and we are sending you lots of strength and love!!! Be strong Superman!!!!!

  4. I'm glad Rabbi Anne wrote and gave that sermon -- blessed indeed are all of you to have such worlds of support. One of my twin sons, Jacob, was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) when he was five, and the folks at Childrens' Hospital of Wisconsin were amazing! They made it so that we didn't have to spend weeks living at the hospital -- taught me how to do lots of the chemo outpatient, and how to do all kinds of things to keep life as normal as possible for our family. You are in good hands. And that image of Sam at his bar mitzvah and beyond??? My Jacob is now 23, almost 6 feet tall, and living well! It can happen...and I pray it happens for Sam, too.