Several masked faces surrounded her. Some of them belonged to scrub nurses and the others belonged to residents in neurosurgery. Just as two doctors moved away to reexamine the X-rays which lined the back wall, Dr. Tauber walked in. "Shalom!" he said cheerfully to Naomi. "Naomi, you are going to be my assistant. So be strong and be a big girl, and with your help, God will help us both." Naomi grinned.
The pace in the OR quickened. A scrub nurse already gowned and gloved appeared with a steaming stray of instruments which she placed atop a nearby table. Another nurse reached into the jumble of instruments and began to arrange them on a tray. Dr. Shastri wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Naomi's upper right arm. A nurse exposed Naomi's chest and taped on EKG leads and instantly sonar-like beeps could be heard.
Dr. Tauber studied the CAT scans and X-rays and then positioned Naomi's shaven head. Placing his pinky on her nose and his thumb on top of her head, he drew two lines with a marking pen: the first line from ear to ear over the top of her head, the second line bisecting the first, starting at the middle of the forehead and extending back to the occipital area.
"Turn your head to the left, honey," the surgeon instructed. Naomi felt a finger palpate the ridge of bone that ran back from her right eye toward her right ear. Then she felt the marking pen trace a looping line that began at her right temple and arched upward and backward, ending behind her left ear. The line defined a horseshoe-shaped area with Naomi's ear at its base.
As soon as Dr. Tauber had finished his illustration, Dr. Shastri took over once again. Holding a syringe in his hand he informed Naomi that the hypodermic contained a substance that would make her relax and not feel the work performed on her head.
Time became discontinuous; sounds drifted in and out. Naomi felt herself being turned half on her side with her right shoulder elevated and supported by a pillow. Both of her wrists were bound to a board that jutted out perpendicular to the operating table. Her arms felt very heavy and weren't twitching as they usually did. A leather cinch went around her waist, securing her body.
Naomi felt her head scrubbed and painted again. There were several sharp needles accompanied by fleeting pain before her head was clamped in some sort of vise.
A blue-eyed nurse held Naomi's hand tightly, but that didn't offer any relief from the sudden acute pain she felt above her right ear. It occurred again. "Everything is fine," Dr. Shastri said. "I am injecting a local anesthetic. You'll only feel it for a moment."
The pain stopped as suddenly as it had begun and Naomi heard Dr. Tauber breathing directly over her right ear.
"Scalpel," the surgeon said.
Naomi felt pressure like a finger being pressed against her scalp and rotated around the line drawn by the marking pen. She could feel warm fluid on her neck through the layers of surgical drapes all around her head.
"Hemostat," said Dr. Tauber. Naomi could hear sharp metallic snaps. "Raney clips." With each brisk order, Naomi heard the instrument being slapped into the doctor's gloved palm.
The surgeon then made a thumbnail-size semi-circular incision near the top of her head. He stopped the bleeding around the flap with a bipolar cautery, which works like a soldering iron. Dr. Tauber lifted the tiny tongue of scalp and tissue with a little retractor that held it out of the way. Then, using a drill the size of a fountain pen, he penetrated the skull. The drill stopped automatically when it reached the dura, the brain's semi-transparent protective covering.
Naomi heard the high-pitched whine of a gas-powered motor and felt a sense of pressure and vibration on her head, something like the feeling of a dentist drill on an anesthetized tooth. But the noise was far more frightening. Naomi knew what it meant; her skull was being opened with a surgical saw, and the smell of scorched bone permeated the gauze drapes over her face. The sound of the saw died and the rhythmic beeping of the cardiac monitor emerged from the sudden stillness.
"Bone forceps," said Dr. Tauber. Naomi heard and felt bone crunching. It sounded very close to her right ear.
"Dural hook and scalpel." With the knife he made a small opening. A pinkish gray mound of naked, pulsating brain could be seen through the hole. "Elevators," said Dr. Tauber.
Naomi felt several more twinges, followed by what sounded like a loud snap. She knew her brain was exposed....
In his three-volume “soul series,” Hanoch Teller has revitalized the all-but-lost art of storytelling and skillfully updated it for Anglo-Jewish consumption. Storytelling has long been a most effective tool for teaching values and ethics, with the characters depicted serving as role models and touching a responsive chord in the heart of the reader. But not since the maggidim of old has an author employed this tool so creatively, turning it into a musical instrument played with soul-stirring virtuosity.
By choosing the short story as his vehicle, Teller has produced a new genre of Jewish literature that appeals to the broadest audience, transcending all boundaries to encompass young and old, deeply religious and newly observant, and everyone in between. The story settings vary from contemporary/local to timeless/remote; the tone runs the entire gamut of hilarious to heart-rending; and the style is consistently elegant and engrossing.
‘Souled!’ the most recent addition to Teller’s glittering array of literary gems, is divided into two primary sections. Book I is comprised of stories based on real-life experiences and historically accurate – in some cases – little-known-events, and is subdivided into five three-story chapters: Altruism – on communal sacrifice and endeavor on behalf of the individual; Salvation – on Providence and Divine Intervention; Serendipity – about the rescue and resettlement of post-Holocaust refugees in Israel; Encounters – about families and friends reunited after lengthy, painful separations; and Nobility – rare stories about the noblest Jew of our time, Harav Hagaon Reb Moshe Feinstien, zt”l.
In Serendipity, Teller introduces Goldie Sokolow, a combination Miss Marple and Mrs. Malaprop, a grandmotherly type with a twinkle in her eye whose unerring knack for being in the right place at the right time leads to riotous misadventures. With the aid of her faithful feathered friend, Faigeleh (“a warbler of some note”), she solves the mystery of “The Red Rope Riddle” and turns a minor traffic accident trial into a “Providential Prosecution,” all the while, spouting fractured English and translated Yiddishisms that will have the reader in stitches from beginning to end.
Little Naomi Spira, the heroine of “Footprints,” bravely endures a horrible ailment and confronts the prospect of death with such unshakable faith that one cannot help but be awed. Although her story is intended as a tribute to the community which came to her aid in her time of greatest need, Naomi’s fortitude and meaningful expressions of devotion and confidence in the Almighty are both incredibly moving and deeply inspiring.
In Book II (Legends, Allegiance and Leadership), the author addresses the “young reader” with unique Jewish legends and lore, stories selected specifically for their educational value. Here the settings become exotic and picturesque and the tone often dreamy, but as in Book I, the theme of virtue rewarded and Torah study as a way of life, play prominent roles. Despite the target audience of this section, Teller does not compromise his prodigious language facility and image-evoking talents. These stories make for entertaining, enjoyable reading as much for adults as for their offspring.
Day School educators will be interested to know that both Once Upon a Soul and Soul Survivors, the previous volumes in this series, are already being used successfully in several reputable Jewish high schools and seminaries, both here and abroad, as an excellent “kosher” substitute for, or adjunct to, secular curriculum short-story texts. 'Souled!’ will enable educators to inculcate Jewish values while teaching correct grammar, new vocabulary and proper word usage. The students, in turn, are likely to avidly accept and even rejoice over reading assignments.
Reviewed in The Jewish Press
Words of Praise
|“Your books provide an invaluable service enjoining the hearts of many of our brethren to their Father in Heaven. All of your works glorify the Torah, and this book is no exception.”|
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l
|“In his spare time Hanoch Teller tells stories. He is doing for our generation something similar to what Rav Marcus Lehmann, of blessed memory, did for his one hundred years ago. All Hanoch Teller’s stories breathe the warm breath of ahavas Torah v’yir’as Shamayim. These stories are most fascinating, full of humor or full of sadness, or full of both. Like the words of the Maggidim of old, they combine Mussar and entertainment in one package. All of them are literary masterpieces with an inspiring message. May they penetrate the Jewish soul for which they were targeted.”|
Rabbi Shimon Schwab
|“King of Storytellers, Hanoch Teller delivers again in his new collection of stories, ‘SOULED!’ There’s a story for every reader, a chapter for every mood, a message for every situation. Readers will be gratified that Teller’s well of inspiration is still overflowing.”|
Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, Editor
|“Adventure, fact, fantasy – all woven together by a superb storyteller, to stimulate the spirit and elevate aspiration to a life of spirituality and devotion to God and man.”|
Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, best selling author,