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The Legacy of Dr. Chaim David Masson

Friday, 17 September, 2010 - 11:15 am

Dear Friends, 

As we prepare for Yom Kippur and Yizkor services, a memory of a special person in our community comes to my mind. I would like to share with you today, Erev Yom Kippur, a very precious story about Dr. Chaim David Masson, who's second Yhartzit was this week.

It was Chanukah almost six years ago, a wonderful Chanukah celebration at the JCC. At the end of the event we raffled a Mezuzah. On the winner's note it said the name David and a phone number. David wasn't there, so when I called to inform him, he was very excited. "That's the most amazing gift" he said, "Noemi and myself just moved to Victoria and we will be moving to our new home next week."

When I came to the house, David wanted Mezuzahs on each door; in addition he wanted to Kosher his kitchen and learn how to keep it Kosher. And so we did. Sitting in the living room and having a nice chat, David's face became very sad as he told me this story: "You know Rabbi, I never had a Bar Mitzvah, my father past away when I was twelve, in the middle of my Bar Mitzvah lessons, and so the celebration was canceled".

"It's not too late," I told him and we started planning the Bar Mitzvah. We found his original Bar Mizvah Parsha, which would occur ten months later, so we had a plenty of time to study. He choose the section he would like to read and we scheduled time for classes.

David left the room for a moment and came back holding a notebook. "This is where I left off 50 years ago with my teacher in Edmonton" he said, and he placed the book on the table. Reading the notebook, I noticed that the teacher was teaching sentences in Hebrew. In each example he would use the same name, again and again: "Mr. Kaplan" or "Mrs. Kaplan" - Mr. Kaplan praying, Mr. Kaplan going to Shul, etc. David was shocked to find it, we both felt that it was a message from his previous teacher for me to carry on...  

A few days later I have received a phone call from a member of the community: "I heard of your Bar Mitzvah plans for David, which is wonderful. But I'm telling you as a nurse that David is very ill; you are taking a chance by having it so late, chances are he won't make it..."

I gently consulted David and he suggested that we leave the plans as they were, especially because the end of his reading states "and I will remove sickness from your midst." The following few months, David came to services in our home every Shabbat that we had a Minyan, and we always remembered to pray for him with the Mi Shebeirach blessings.

By Jewish tradition adding a name could bring life to a very ill person, so days before the following Rosh Hashanah I asked David if he would like to add the name "Chaim", which means life. David agreed immediately. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah I got a chill when reading the special prayer for adding a name - it had that same verse from his Bar Mitzvah Torah reading...

Three months later David was very emotional when he read the Torah. His face was filled with joy and satisfaction, just like a Bar Mitzvah boy. At the Kiddush following the service, he set up pictures of his parents and grandparents on the table, while welcoming everyone to his Simcha... Then he delivered the most beautiful Dvar Torah, which I still remember...

Against all odds, David lived close to three more years.  He led a very full life, was the pillar of his family and very instrumental in the community, attended numerous events and created an amazing group of friends. He was also able to see two beautiful new grandchildren, and even managed to be a Sandak for the first time, for his own grandchild.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, exactly three years after "Chaim" was added to his Name, Chaim David lay in a bed in the hospital. I visited him with my son Leibel (then 3 years old), and because we knew that David was very sad about being unable to attend Shul, we brought a Shofar along. I blew the Shofar, then Leibel did. David was very moved, he tried to kiss Leibel, and in a very low voice thanked me for our visit. He took the apple dipped in honey which we brought, licked the honey, and looked very satisfied. 

Two days later, after his children from out-of-town arrived, he called them all to the room, requested a Kippah to be put on his head, and with his last bit of energy, he said the Shma. A few short hours later his soul departed... 

All who knew David in those few years, including myself, will remember him for his determination and his love of Yiddishkeit. May we be inspired to continue his legacy.

Comments on: The Legacy of Dr. Chaim David Masson

Lindy Shortt wrote...

Rabbi Kaplan,

Thank you for sharing this moving story about this very special man, Chaim David Masson. We were all touched by him and his courage.

We are blessed to have his family in our midst.

May his memory be for a blessing.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life this Yom Kippur.

G'mar Chatimah Tova to you and your entire meshpuchah.

Lindy Shortt

Noemi Hadassah Masson wrote...

Rabbi Kaplan,

Thank you for the beautiful words you wrote about my beloved husband Chaim David.

I will be going tp the Yiskor service with my family in Toronto. I will be thinking of all my friends in the community on Vancouver Island.

I wish you all an easy fast and a healthy and joyous New Year.

All the best in 5771 - Noemi

Susan and Alan Kendal wrote...

Rabbi, thank you for the memories of our dear friend David. Your relationship with him after he and Noemi moved to Victoria meant much to him, especially of course in his final days among us.

We too cherish his memory at this time.

Susan and Alan

Gerry Stanford Gershom ben Abba wrote...

I remember Chaim David as being a Mensch who fought against all odds to continue life to the fullest, and as joined our Schul and I sat in their pew with him and Noemi of being so welcoming and making me "at home". My last memory of him as Sandak for his Grandson is of him holding him on his knees with a glow of love and pride on his face which I caught on my camera, a wonderful memory.Thankyou for your story of this of this Mensch, the epitome of that title.

Rebecca wrote...

I just finished eaidrng Lessons From Jacob. It was the most moving book I have ever read in my entire 57 years. There will be no more down days for me. When I think life is hard, I'll just think of Jacob and his family and that will get me thru. Jacob you are a trooper and an inspiration to everyone. This book is going to my children to read so they will also be encouraged. Thank you Ellen for sharing your world with us. You are truly blessed and have a beautiful family. God Bless!