The Special Mother of a Special Child

The Special Mother of a Special Child

This past Friday night we hosted a group of American tourists and I had the pleasure of sitting next to Amy, a mother of 4 from Larchmont, New York. And this is the incredible story she shared with me over whole-wheat challah and salatim:

“When my oldest son was a year old we discovered he had a brain tumor and over the years he underwent a series of surgeries. Today that son is 29, lives in an apartment nearby, and works 4 hours a week in a supermarket. When he was little, I was working in finance, but I decided, as a result of my experiences with that son, to go back to school for 2 years to train to become an advocate for special-needs children. And that is what I did for 11 years, until COVID hit. All week long I would get calls from parents of special-needs kids and based on all I’d learned with my son, I would guide them through the maze of Social Security, Medicaid etc. I was in the car, my phone would ring. I was making dinner, my phone would ring. It was non-stop. I was able to help a lot of parents and children along the way.”
When I heard Amy’s story, I thought of something I’ve heard more than once from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller-Gottlieb: When we are tested in life, at first we say “Why?” and then we say “What?” At first we say, “Why is THIS happening to ME?” and then at one point (hopefully) we say, “Now that this has happened to me, WHAT am I going to do with it?” What good, constructive step will I take?
After Amy and the rest of the group left, I was in the kitchen with Eidan, a Machon Meir student who helps us with cleanup when we host groups. I told Eidan I had been sorry to hear that the wife of his Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbanit Nava Begun, had passed away the day before.
Eidan told me that Rabbanit Nava’s official death notice had read, “Our mother merited to leave this world as she recited Shema. She merited to have sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters and even great-grandsons and great-granddaughters with her at her side.”
If one’s time has come to leave the world, Eidan said, that is a blessed way to go.
And, I added, that Rabbanit Nava was mourned not only by her own family, but also by the thousands of students, mostly baalei teshuva like Eidan, to whom her husband had fed their first sweet taste of Torah and educated them until they became (like Eidan, after almost 5 years at “the Machon”) talmidei chachamim in their own right.
Eidan told me, “I don’t know if you know Rabbi Begun’s story. He grew up on a secular kibbutz, and when he was in his early 20s, he felt a yearning to deepen his knowledge of Torah and Judaism. Rabbi Begun then studied at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav for 10 years, and was a close student of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. At one point Rav Begun asked HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, “Tell me, why are all the yeshivot for guys who grew up religious? Why isn’t there a yeshiva for baalei teshuva like me?”
And HaRav Tzvi Yehuda turned, looked at young Dov Begun, and said, “There will be a yeshiva like that when you start one!”
And that was what Rabbi Begun did, almost 50 years ago, with his wife Nava at his side. Parenting their own large family alongside a far larger family, their yeshiva students whom they taught and guided over the years.
Like Amy, they stopped saying Why, and started saying What. This is the situation you’ve put me in, Hashem, what do You want from me now?



  1. Thank you, this was a really nice post. It really hit home for me because I have recently started the journey of caring for a special needs son and also because I was the Begun’s neighbor for a long time before moving to a different city a few years ago. I hadn’t known that Rabbanit Nava had passed away until I read this. I always enjoyed spending time and talking with her. Does anyone know of any place where I could get more information or read stories about her life?

    • thanks for your comment, I actually never met her. Did you try googling her name to find stories? And may Hashem bless you on your new journey!

Leave a Reply

Follow by Email