How Many People Can One Person Feed?

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By: Frieda Schweky

On February 2, 2019, Shabbat day, our community lost a very special and valued member.Edmond Bassoul was born Syria in 1951 with Down syndrome. His mother passed away when he was very young, and soon after his stepmother stepped up to the plate to raise him,for over 56 years. Edmond exceeded everyone's expectations when it came to what he was capable of doing. Not only was he surprisingly self-sufficient, he was able to do for others and was known for doing hesed with a smile.

Edmond loved to be in shul. He typically frequented Bnai Yosef (also known as The Sitt Shul) more than anywhere else. Some would say it was his second home. He would pray, learn Torah, and even collect tzedakadaily, during the hours he spent in the synagogue. Next to the rabbi, of course, Edmond was the main guy in the synagogue, and people looked forward to seeing his warm smile.

Beloved Member
of His Family and Community

Although he never married, when you asked Edmond what he wanted to do with his life, he said he wanted to get married.
He understood that building a family is important for Am Yisrael.
He did contribute to his family however, in a big way. He helped raise his siblings. One might expect that Edmond needed extra attention from his siblings, but the opposite was true.He always looked after and took care of his family. He kindly babysat for his nieces and nephews, and did many other things to help his siblings, who loved and cherished him dearly.

Edmond was beloved by everyone who knew him, and it’s clear that Gd was always watching over him. As far as his Down syndrome disorder, suffice it to say he was very high functioning. He also was blessed to live to the ripe old age of 68, which is far beyond the life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome.
It was also somewhat of a miracle that Edmond lived a healthy life right up until just a few months before he passed away.

Edmond’s Joyous Performance of Mitzvot

With a neshamaof gold, all Edmond did on this earth was collect mitzvot. He was an inspiration to many because he did it all with simha, joy. It’s been brought down by many rabbis that the act of doing a mitzvah provides one with only partial credit, and to do a good deed with love and a smile makes it complete. This was Edmond’s hallmark trait, if you had topick just one. We can all take a lesson from this man’s love and devotion to the Torah and all of its precious mitzvot.

His respect for his parents was tremendous. Edmond took care of his father and respected him more than anyone else. When his father gotsick, Edmond would get him dressed, take him to shul, offer him tea, and everything else in between. He would be at his father’s side for hours on end, caring for him. If his father ever got upset, Edmond would rush to play him music. He would tell his father to relax and enjoy the music. This is the man he was.

To his friends and family Edmond was a shining star, but his popularity expanded far beyond his inner circle. He was known to many in the community as the kind soul who collected money for Bnai Yosef day in and day out. The shul hosts hundreds of men for minyanimevery day, and Edmond managed to raise close to one thousand dollars for the synagogue each day he collected.

Billy Schweky, a community member who frequents the Bnai Yosef, described Edmond as such, “When he comes up to you to collect tzedaka, he doesn’t say a word, and he doesn’t need to. It’s all facial expressions and body language, and somehow, he manages to get you to WANT to give. Although I did not know his name until now, through my brief interactions with him I must say, I really liked him. You can’t help but like him! I could only imagine the amount of money this man raised for tzedakawithout even saying a word.”

Edmond’s Commitment
to Pray Despite Illness

Edmond became very sick eight months before he passed away. The first two weeks in the hospital Edmond was very distressed that he wasn’t able to attend shul and pray each day. His brother, Rabbi Jack Bassoul, brought him a siddurand he was so relieved. Finally, Edmond was able to pray to his Creator again. No matter what, the siddurstayed with him. Edmond made sure that even as he was being transferred to the ICU, that siddurcame too.

His family did their best to visit him every single day whether he was in the hospital or a nursing home. The family members quickly found a common thread: the nurses, doctors, and orderlies loved him. They would assure Edmond’s family not to worry, to go home, he was in good hands. They were happy to care for this man who offered his warm smile through all his suffering.

Edmond was such a special a soul, who has never breathed a word of lashon hara in his life, and never hurt anyone. He lifted people up with his joy, and helped out them along the way.
He was a true tzadikin our time. Although he did not have children, his legacy will live on through his family, whom he inspired, and continues to inspire, every day.

Valuable Lesson

With Pesach just ahead of us, we think about our redemption from slavery. Here we can take home a special lesson from Edmond. He was, in a way, enslaved by the challenge of Down syndrome. But, Gd redeemed him by helping him to overcome his limitations in a significant way. This, combined with his own histadlut(hard work) enabled Edmond to be zocheto become a treasured member of his community. Yihyeh zichro baruch.