Harav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Orchos Torah, which was started in Bnei Brak by Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, once related a fascinating story.
A Jew in Bnei Brak was diagnosed with cancer, R”l. They didn’t discover it until it was well advanced and there was little chance of saving his life. The doctors did say, however, that they could, with the help of chemotherapy, extend his life a number of months.
The man considered it and decided that the pain and side effects — which were more severe a number of years ago when this took place — were not worth it. He had led a good life. He had, baruch Hashem, a nice family, and if the Ribbono shel Olam wanted to take him, he didn’t feel that he should prolong the agony.
His wife and children were very unhappy with his decision. To them, each and every day that they had a husband and father was precious. They pleaded with him to reconsider, but it was to no avail. He had made up his mind.
One of his very close friends decided to try his luck at changing his mind, but when he saw he was getting nowhere, he asked if they could go together to discuss it with the Ponevezer Rosh Yeshivah, Maran Harav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, zt”l.
“My mind is made up and I will not change it,” said the sick man. “If you want me to go to Rav Shach to get a brachah, of course I will go. If he begins to talk about chemotherapy, however, I’ll walk right out.” With that understanding, the friend made an appointment with Rav Shach, who was briefed of the circumstances and of the ground rules for the visit.
When they entered Rav Shach’s room, the Rosh Yeshivah looked the choleh squarely in the eye and said, “Are you ready to face the Ribbono shel Olam? Did you do everything possible for your final trial — the trial that will decide your eternal fate? Wouldn’t you like another few months? Aren’t you interested in some more time to be able to do teshuvah for all that you did during your lifetime? Perhaps during that time you could say a few more amens and Yehei Shmei Rabbas. Perhaps you could do a little more chessed or learn some Torah in order to make the outcome of your final trial come out a little better.” Rav Schach did not mention one word about chemotherapy, but the man left and told the doctors that he had changed his mind.
In just a few days we will be facing our Creator Who will judge our actions of this past year. He will be deciding what kind of a year 5778 will be. Will we have the nachas and simchah that we crave? Will we have parnassah this year? How about health for ourselves and our dear ones? What will be the fate of Klal Yisrael this coming year?
What are we doing to prepare for this court appearance? Are we like those my Rebbi, Harav Dovid Kronglas, zt”l, used to decry, who prepare for Rosh Hashanah by buying a new suit? I would hope that all of us have begun to check our davening and our mitzvos. I would hope that we would already be reviewing our relationships with friends and family and see whom we might have wronged.
Among the pieces of advice that Reb Dovid used to give us as we prepared for the Yom Hadin was this: “A smart lawyer,” he used to say, “understands how to use the law to his advantage.” Hakadosh Baruch Hu has a rule, for instance, that machshavah tovah Hakadosh Baruch Hu mitztarfo l’maaseh — If one wants to do a mitzvah and he was prevented from accomplishing it for reasons beyond his control, he is rewarded as if he had completed the mitzvah. This is especially true if he started to act to try to accomplish the mitzvah.
During these days of Elul, he would suggest taking on positive things that you personally feel you can accomplish, or even things that you already are doing and commit to continue to do. Indeed, accept upon yourself to do it for many years. How many years? Don’t be stingy! Accept upon yourself to do these mitzvos or hanhagos tovos for hundreds or even thousands of years. As long as Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives you life and the strength, you commit to continue. If Hakadosh Baruch Hu cuts your life shorter, you still have in this Rosh Hashanah din the credit for all you would like to do. It is a powerful thought.
This is just one of the many eitzos we were taught in order to be matzdik the din. The important thing is to realize and understand that we are facing din. That in itself is a tremendous zechus.
To you, the readers, I want to extend my birchas Kohen from Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh for a year of good health, parnassah and nachas. May this be the year that we all personally greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimheirah biyameinu.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org