High Way to Heaven - A Toronto Russian Immigrant offers a little help from above - November 1, 2010
You need a husband, a wife, or perhaps a new baby? Your first cousin needs a job or your grandmother has cancer and you are hoping you can do something to relieve their suffering.
Batya Burd is on the other end of the phone, or rather, the computer screen, helping to transform these life problems into personal prayer requests which she then arranges to have personally taken to the place where all prayers go up - the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
"What's important, is that the prayers are personally said at the Kotel for 40 days. If a day is accidentally missed, our prayer agents (shaliachs) have to start again. They (her team of Rabbis and Jerusalem Torah scholars), change their whole lives to make it to this special place to pray for this person. It becomes one of their main priorities, and their mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) gives it even more power."
Burd, 36, who gave up a future as a Toronto corporate lawyer for a pious existence just steps from the Western Wall, came up with the idea together with her husband Gershon Burd, 36, after he made a similar trek to the Wall for 40 days to meet his beloved.
"I had been dating religiously for over 5 years and it just wasn't happening for me. I met great girls, but something was always missing so I felt I had to do something big." says Gershon, who met his future wife within weeks of finishing his 40 days.
What pushed Burd from idea to action in developing www.westernwallprayers.org was the poverty she saw around her in Jerusalem. "It is difficult to see so many people, really living hand-to-mouth. They are spiritually blessed, but they need a lot of material help. At the same time, there are so many people abroad with more than enough materially, but who are really struggling spiritually and in life. We're trying to match those needs to each other so that everyone wins."
And so far, hundreds of people have 'won' based on the raft of success stories the site proudly displays. From 'Michael', 32, finding his favorite job, to 'Nancy', 45, who overcame a debilitating disease. Burd says donors often become friends with her family or assistants, even after their problems are resolved. She also notes that the process is not guaranteed, because G-d has the "final say".