Everybody’s Mother

January 5, 2023

A tribute to Mrs. Tzippy Hess A”H

Elisheva Braun

Tzippy Hess’s brokenhearted friends and relatives all used the same descriptions to define her. It’s almost as if they were reading from a synchronized script.

They all spoke of her modesty, humility, and selflessness; her love of Shabbos and Yom Tov, her passion for cooking delicious food, her delight in hosting and helping and giving. Completely uninterested in materialism, Tzippy had an unquenchable desire for growth and was never complacent with her spiritual status quo.

Her devotion, love, and loyalty to her husband and children knew no bounds. But Tzippy’s heart stretched further than her family. Relatives, neighbors, patients at the doctor’s office, even strangers, were all drawn to her quiet magnetism. Innumerable people were warmed and ignited by the glowing sun that was Tzippy Hess.

Soft, warm, caring, and humble, she was the true role model of a frum woman, the quintessential eishes chayil.

Young aspirations

“I shared my life with Tzippy,” says Chaya,* whose lifelong friendship with her started when they were little girls, continued during their school years in Yeshiva of Brooklyn and stayed strong throughout adulthood.

“In school, Tzippy knew how to be friends with anyone, no matter who they were or what they were struggling with. She just knew how to make people feel good. She respected them for who they were. Her inner derech eretz and sensitivity also didn’t allow her to misbehave in class, even when everyone else did.”

Tzippy’s compassion for others went beyond her years. “When she took babysitting jobs, Tzippy didn’t sit on the couch and schmooze on the phone. She’d clean up, wash the dishes, scrub the counter… She felt bad for the poor, overworked mother. ‘I can’t leave the house this way. The mother is exhausted. She can’t come home to this mess.’ Tzippy would say.

“Tzippy was always hungry for ruchniyus. She was constantly listening to shiurim and reading sefarim, always improving in bitachon, shemiras halashon, tefillah, and more.”

The nurturer

Tzippy was everyone’s mother. As a young girl, she was so kind to her younger siblings, always making them feel good about themselves. Later, her own children became her entire world; every moment of her life revolved around their happiness and success.

“It didn’t matter the cost, time, or effort involved. Tzippy stopped at nothing to give her kids what they needed,” a friend says.

Her superhuman patience and affection for her children was unmistakable; Tzippy’s kids say their mother almost never raised her voice. Indeed, her incredible parenting is evident in the uniquely special people her children are today.

It didn’t end with her children. Tzippy was the Mommy of the neighborhood.

“She derived real joy from making children happy. She loved them all so much,” a neighbor shares. “One hot, humid Shabbos afternoon, the neighborhood kids were all hot and hyper. When it started to rain, Tzippy invited everyone into her house and served the kids popcorn and freeze pops. The children’s happiness gave her such joy.” 

Extended family

Tzippy Montag was just 12 years old when her mother passed away. She spoke about her mother all the time and never forgot the searing, crushing loss she endured. Perhaps it was this pain that granted Tzippy her profound empathy. She saw people—really saw them, not for their outer trappings and struggles but for the holy neshamos hidden underneath. Her bond with others was deep and unbreakable.

“Somehow, Tzippy always had an ‘extra’ cake to give me around my mother’s yahrtzeit,” a friend shared.

As Chaya says, “She treasured her friends and went out of her way to keep in touch with them. Once you were in her life, Tzippy didn’t forget you.”

“Tzippy had a huge heart. She was so happy to share anything she had, whether it was a pot of soup, medical knowledge, extra bedrooms, a trip to Costco, or simply a piece of her heart,” says her sister.

A close friend and past neighbor of Tzippy remembers her first impression of her. “I saw a real tzanua; a refined woman with an unshakeably calm manner. Another friend who lived in one of the eight apartments her husband managed says, “She never let us tenants call her the landlady. She was a friend, a confidante, the place to go for a good schmooze, a listening ear, or a piece of hot, fresh potato kugel.”

“I used her washing machine for two weeks when my old one broke,” one neighbor remembers. “A tenant who didn’t own a milchig oven would make pizza every Thursday night. The woman would pass the pizza tray over the porch, and Tzippy would bake it and pass it back. For a third family, Tzippy had a tradition of making them their Erev Pesach meal, since they didn’t own kosher-for-Pesach dishes and always went to their hosts for Yom Tov at the last minute.”

On another plane

Materialism didn’t mean anything to Tzippy. When the family built their house, Tzippy wasn’t involved in picking tiles and paint colors; she simply didn’t care. In fact, just before the Hesses moved into their new home, they allowed a neighbor to host a Shabbos bris in it. “We’re not using it now,” she said simply. “Why shouldn’t you enjoy it?”

In the Hess home,Fridays were relaxing days. Tzippy set the table and cooked the food on Thursdays. She was dressed and reading books to her children on Erev Shabbos. During her last weeks on earth, Tzippy anticipated Shabbos all week long. It was this passion for Shabbos that inspired her friends to take on kabbalos in Shabbos preparation in her zechus.

Medical advice

Tzippy manned Dr. Shanik’s question desk for 20 years. She amassed tremendous medical knowledge, which she shared with anyone who needed it. Tzippy got medical calls at home, morning and night. She gave guidance with grace and humility, making each caller feel heard and helped.

Late one Friday night, a neighbor’s child had an allergic reaction. Tzippy stayed with him until 3 a.m. when she felt comfortable that the child was okay.

“If you told Tzippy about your kid’s ear infection, she asked about it the next time you spoke on the phone. She had everyone on her mind all the time,” says a patient.

In hard times

People felt a magnetic pull to Tzippy’s sickroom. “Anyone who visited was drawn to come back again and again. Even when she could barely talk, Tzippy made you feel so good, so appreciated, that you just wanted to be there,” shares her sister-in-law. “The children who visited were given lollipops, and Tzippy would notice and motion if someone didn’t get one.”

“I had a baby when Tzippy was sick. She was so excited for me! Together with her nurse, she cooked supper for me and had a gift and two books sent over to my house,” says her friend.

“All her life, Tzippy was praising Hashem. She answered ‘How are you’ with ‘Hodu l’Hashem ki tov.’

Tzippy kept losing faculties: first the ability to walk, then to swallow, then to talk. She grappled with the worst of yissurim, but she never complained, never asked questions, never doubted Hashem’s kindness. With her last breaths, the name of Hashem was on Tzippy’s lips. When asked how she was feeling, Tzippy would gather the strength to whisper ‘Baruch Hashem.’”

As her sickness progressed, Tzippy’s sister asked her, “How do you keep smiling and saying baruch Hashem? After a few seconds of thought, Tzippy answered, “I’ll tell you three things: First, I listen to the emunah and bitachon hotline, which gives me a lot of chizuk. Second, when I have a challenging day I pick up the phone and call Rabbi Yehuda Mandel. And last, I love Hashem. When I have these three things, everything else falls into place.”

Saying goodbye  

Tzippy’s levayah took place last Thursday night. A sister-in-law noted, “The levayah was exactly in Tzippy’s style. It was Erev Shabbos, which she loved, and it took place in the dark, where the men could not see the women.” Hundreds of people streamed to pay regard to the woman who loved, valued, and inspired them. The Lakewood Chapel was packed to overflowing, and people spilled out onto the grounds.

Rabbi Apter, the family rav, was maspid, as well asRav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Yeruchem Olshin, the Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, and Rav Henoch Shachar.

Tzippy’s brothers-in-law spoke: R’ Kalman Rothstein, R’ Chesky Slomowitz, and R’ Yisroel Meir Hess, followed by her brothers R’ Moishy and R’ Yitzy Montag and her sons Shimmy, Dovi, Boruch, and Aryeh. Rabbi Yoni Hess, Tzippy’s husband, gave the final hesped.

It was well past midnight when the kevurah was over and the grieving crowd finally dispersed.

*name has been changed