She had already been battling metastasized cancer for a couple agonizing years.
credit: Joan Roth The Machlises’ chesed was not restricted to Shabbat.Her joyful smile conveyed not just her stoic acceptance, but her happy acquiescence with the way God was running His world. Hers was to share the beauty and joy of Shabbos with the whole world.A mutual friend told me after Henny’s death, “When I was with her, I felt embraced by God.” The question – indeed the challenge – of Henny’s life is: How did an ordinary Jew born to a regular middleclass family in Brooklyn in 1957 become so great? Like most of us, “reality” intruded in the actualization of the ideal.“At 3 o’clock in the morning, you need to remember how to make whole-wheat pizza? For me personally, the sign of Henny Machlis’s greatness was the radiant joy she emanated all the time.Whenever I ran into her, her wide smile and the joyful light she radiated conveyed that seeing me was the best thing that had happened to her all day.For the Machlises, the tremendous scale of their success cost them over 00 every Shabbat, a financial load that defied Rabbi Machlis’s modest salary as a teacher supplemented by donations from well-wishers.But unlike most of us, their adamantine faith in God and love for the Jewish people kept them from compromising on their ideal.For those who gauge greatness by the level of selflessness a person attains, Henny also scored off the charts.At her funeral her oldest son Moshe recalled how, after he got married and moved away to start Kollel (full-time Torah learning), his mother encouraged him: “If you ever aren’t making it financially, tell me and I’ll sell my jewelry.” “Ima,” Moshe called out in a tearful voice, “you forgot that you didn’t have any jewelry.One night several days later, at 3 AM, there was a knock on the door. Alarmed at what must be an emergency, Rabbi Machlis went to the door and asked, “Who’s there?” When the man identified himself, Rabbi Machlis asked, “What’s wrong?