Let Go and Let G-d
In my private conversations with my members, they often share with me their medical concerns, anxieties, and fears. When facing illness, it’s easy to become terrified. If your doctor tells you that your days are numbered, it seems obvious that you’re in deep trouble.
But our Torah inspires us to replace fear with faith because the mindset is the most important medicine. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the choice that there is something more powerful than fear.
Though doctors are some of the most admired people in society, the Talmud (Kiddushin 82a) makes a shocking statement: “The best of the doctors will go to hell (gehinom).” (Torah doesn’t believe in hell as a place of eternal damnation but rather as a place of temporary soul cleansing and therapy. Even so, it’s not that flattering for doctors).
This bizarre statement actually carries within it profound wisdom to help us face our pharmaceutical fears.
In Hebrew, every letter has a mathematical value. The value of the words “the best of (tov)” in Hebrew is 17. A deeper reading of this text thus reads “the 17 of doctors will go to hell.” This number hints at the daily prayer we recite thrice daily—the Shmona Esreh—covering 18 of the most important human needs for which we turn to G-d daily— ranging from our livelihood and prosperity to our consciousness and redemption. One of the blessings we pray for is G-d’s healing. A doctor who prays only seventeen blessings is a doctor whose hubris precludes his need to turn to G-d for healing because he feels that he is the determinant of life and death. Such a doctor, who fails to grasp his role merely as G-d’s agent for healing, is indeed destined to go to hell.
Here the Torah lays out for us our approach to medicine and doctors. Like the illness comes from G-d, so does the healing. The role of the doctor is to serve as the conduit for G-d’s healing blessings. Indeed, the Torah (Exodus 21:19) explicitly gives doctors the instruction to serve as healers. For a doctor to tell someone that they are going to succumb to illness or die is an abuse of their power, violating their G-d given gifts. A doctor who is filled with faith, humbling serving as G-d’s ambassador, is truly the paradigm of blessing!
Mrs. Rhoda Friedland was having fertility problems in the late 1940s and asked the Previous Chabad Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn— for a blessing. She told him that she could not conceive. The Rebbe laughed and said that she and her husband will have children. This was the last private audience of the Previous Rebbe, as he passed away less than 48 hours later.
She continued to try to conceive against doctors’ orders who wanted her to have an emergency hysterectomy. The new Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson— assured her that the Previous Rebbe’s blessing would certainly come true, notwithstanding her doctor’s ominous prognosis.
At one point, the Rebbe sent her to his own wife’s doctor. But that doctor told her the same gloomy prediction. Once again the Rebbe sent her to a third doctor. She went to what she describes as a ‘very big doctor in Park Avenue’ who, upon seeing her, promptly booked her for emergency surgery. Resigning to her fate of infertility, she then thanked the Rebbe for caring but informed him that she had decided to proceed with the surgery that would eliminate her ability to conceive ever again.
The Rebbe urged her to try one final doctor. It was only at this point that the doctor discovered that she was already pregnant with her son Binyomin Mendel!
Enlightenment is when a wave realizes that it’s the ocean. The Torah is teaching us that we are never, ever alone. G-d is directing every detail of our lives behind the scenes. You are driven by the power of Almighty G-d, Creator of Heaven and Earth!
It is precisely this truth that we affirm each time we declare “Shma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad (Hear o Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One)”. We are affirming our belief not only in “One G-d”, but in a “G-d who is One.” We’re not stating the obvious that G-d is the only G-d—we’re saying that G-d is the only true power in our lives. Nothing else—no disease nor doctor—has any power over us. Only Hashem.
Healing comes through doctors, not from them. And in case this sounds a little too religious, it’s actually printed on our money too!
Those who leave everything in G-d’s hand will eventually see G-d’s hand in everything.
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
JewishGardens.com | 561.624.2223