There were numerous stories in the press in recent weeks
about a seudas hoda'ah held in the home of HaRav
Avrohom Pam, rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn,
in honor of the miraculous recovery of Rabbi Chaim Michoel
Gutterman, Shuvu's director in Eretz Yisroel. Some also
mentioned the hachnosas sefer Torah ceremony held in
Copenhagen for the same reason. None, however, mentioned the
miraculous chain of events that led up to Rabbi Gutterman's
recovery. Here is what happened:
It's a warm October day and hundreds of people
have gathered in Copenhagen for a hachnosas sefer Torah
Binyamin Fischer, the director of Magen Lacholeh, is called
upon to address the crowd. He strides to the podium and
shakes hands with Rabbi Chaim Michoel Gutterman, the director
of Shuvu, the American organization that works with Russian
immigrants to Israel. Without a word to the crowd, Fischer
begins to punch a telephone number into his palm-sized
"Hello, this is Binyamin Fischer," he says into the phone,
and within seconds, he is connected to the head of Kupat
Cholim, Israel's largest health maintenance organization
"Remember that man I called you about a year ago?" the crowd
hears Fischer say into the phone. "The one who was suffering
from liver failure?
"Remember how I wanted to fly him to Belgium for a
transplant, and you said he would never make it?
"Remember how I told you at the time that I would get him to
Belgium and that one day I would call you from the seudas
hoda'ah he'd make when he recovered?
"Well," continued Fischer, pausing dramatically, "right now
I'm calling your from Copenhagen where Rabbi Chaim Michoel
Gutterman's parents have donated a Torah in honor of the one-
year anniversary of his miraculous recovery from a severe
bout of hepatitis.
"And I wanted you," Fischer told the head of Kupat Cholim,
"to join us in the celebration."
It all began on Thursday, Nov. 1, 1998. That
evening, Rabbi Gutterman was rushed to the hospital in
serious condition. He had been ill for a number of days from
what his family had assumed was a routine case of hepatitis.
But the doctors at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital quickly
realized he was suffering from liver failure. He had an
extremely low white blood cell count and a severe deficiency
in his clotting system.
Rabbi Gutterman's condition steadily deteriorated. He soon
lost consciousness and had to be hooked up to a respirator.
Specialists were brought in throughout the night to confer on
his case. They all come to the same conclusion -- Rabbi
Gutterman needed a liver transplant to survive, but in his
condition, it was just too dangerous to fly him abroad to get
His family broke down in tears when they heard the news.
Though no one said it, it was readily apparent that the
doctors believed Rabbi Gutterman's end was near.
The next morning saw no improvement in Rabbi Gutterman's
condition, and he sank into a deep coma. At the family's
request, the attending physician contacted Rabbi Binyamin
Fischer, director of Magen Lacholeh. Magen Lacholeh is a non-
profit organization established 10 years ago which provides
medical information, referrals and assistance to patients
The physician spoke at length with Fischer, who came to the
following decision: Rabbi Gutterman had to be flown
immediately to a medical center in Belgium. There the world's
leading experts in liver failure would be able to examine and
treat him, either by connecting him to an artificial liver or
by giving him a liver transplant. Fischer told the physician
to prepare Rabbi Gutterman for the flight. His organization
would take care of the rest.
Back in his small office in Bayit Vegan, Yerushalayim,
Fischer immediately put a call through to the medical center
in Brussels. After a few minutes he was connected to its head
physician, with whom he had spoken on a number of previous
occasions. Fischer convinced the physician to accept Rabbi
Gutterman despite his critical condition and to make the
necessary preparations to treat him upon his arrival.
As soon as Fischer hung up the phone, his staff began
frantically searching for a flight that would take Rabbi
Gutterman to Brussels. Because it was Friday, there were no
El Al flights to Belgium, and try as they might, they
couldn't find a single available seat on any of the other
airline. They realized their only option was to hire a
private plane to take Rabbi Gutterman to Brussels.
Finally, at one o'clock on Friday afternoon, the Magen
Lacholeh team located a private plane. Then the next stage of
the operation was set into motion: A Magen Lacholeh
ambulance, filled with sophisticated life-support equipment,
picked up Rabbi Gutterman from the hospital and drove him to
Meanwhile, at the airport, a separate Magen Lacholeh team was
working feverishly to transform the plane into a flying
ambulance. They completed the job minutes before the
ambulance carrying Rabbi Gutterman arrived.
After receiving the go-ahead, the ambulance driver sped onto
the runway, where he met the private plane.
All seemed to being going well -- almost too well -- until a
staff member realized the oxygen tanks on hand couldn't be
fitted to the plane. He placed an emergency call to Fischer,
who initiated a desperate search for an appropriate oxygen
Fischer called one medical equipment company after another,
but no one seemed to have the type of oxygen tank he was
looking for. He found some that did, but they didn't have it
in stock. Then he found a small company that had the tank he
needed and even had it in stock. There was only one glitch --
the owner, who had the only key to the warehouse, had already
gone home for the weekend.
Fischer, not one to give up easily, called the owner at home,
apologized for having disturbed him and explained the
situation. Within minutes the owner was in his car and on the
way to the warehouse. He grabbed the oxygen tank and sped off
to the airport, where Fischer was waiting for him. Fischer
thanked him, took the tank, and raced down the tarmac to the
By then it was 3 p.m. and Fischer, feeling he couldn't risk a
further delay, contacted the airport's control tower and
requested special permission for the plane to lift off
immediately, despite the fact that a long line of commercial
carriers were taxiing on the runway. The private plane was
given priority one, and it lifted off minutes after the Magen
Lacholeh staff put the unconscious Rabbi Gutterman inside.
The Magen Lacholeh staff watched Rabbi Gutterman's private
plane take off, and then the ambulance sped back to
Yerushalayim. It reached the organization's headquarters just
minutes before Shabbos, much to the relief of the Magen
Lacholeh's rabbinical advisors, including HaRav Ezriel
Auerbach who, as with every Magen Lacholeh project, had been
consulted every step of the way.
Four hours later, Rabbi Gutterman's private plane touched
down at Brussels Airport. An intensive care unit was waiting
for him and it rushed him to the medical center. There Rabbi
Gutterman was examined by the medical center's top liver
failure specialists, with whom Fischer had been in contact
during the flight.
After examining Rabbi Gutterman, the doctors decided to
transport him to the hospital to stabilize his condition.
Once there, they planned to hook him up to an advanced life
Within hours, the liver began functioning and Rabbi
Gutterman's prognosis improved.
The doctors, gratified that they were able to help Rabbi
Gutterman, said that had it not been for Fischer's appraisal
of the situation, they would never have agreed to accept a
patient in such critical condition. But Fischer, it seemed,
had been right about the move. Without it, Rabbi Gutterman
may not have survived.
In addition, thanks to Fischer's intervention, Kupat Cholim
agreed to underwrite the costs of the flight, as well as the
medical treatment in both Israel and Belgium. Had it not been
for Fischer, Rabbi Gutterman's family would still paying off
thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.
Binyamin Fischer pauses for a moment while the
Kupat Cholim director recovers from the shock of hearing that
Rabbi Gutterman had, in fact, survived his bout with
Fischer, not missing a beat, continues, "Now remember that 18-
month old girl I told you about last week, the one who needs
that transplant abroad? Well, this morning you sent me a fax
turning down my request for an emergency flight."
Silence from the other end of the line.
"Will you reconsider? Now will you agree to pay for the
operation? If you say yes, I promise to call you from her
seudas hoda'ah as well!"
Not wanting to be proven wrong again, the stunned director
has only one thing to say: "Yes." His answer is echoed by the
hall's audio system. The people in the audience, who have
been sitting on the edge of their seats, stand up and cheer.
Fischer raises the phone over his head so the director can
hear the crowd's standing ovation. He then hangs up the phone
and makes his way down from the podium.
The applause continues for some time, but Fischer isn't
around to hear it. He is already in a taxi to the airport.
With his cell phone to his ear and a worried expression on
his face, his fingers deftly click through an electronic
organizer containing lists of specialists.
He is already on his next case.
Do you have a story of how Binyamin Fischer and Magen
Lacholeh have made a difference in your life? If so, please
send a summary of what happened, along with your contact
information to: Friends of Magen Lacholeh, 26 Rechov Strauss,
Jerusalem 95142. Or send it by fax at 02-642-5914, or email