It was toward the end of Minchah when the aveilim gather around the bimah to say Kaddish. The cutest 4 1/2-year-old, wearing a bright blue yarmulke, tzitzis hanging from under his T-shirt, shorts and colored sneakers, was among them. And he was standing on a chair.
He was too young to know the entire alef-beis and he needed help reciting Kaddish. And help him they did. The adults recited the tefillah word for word — very slowly — to allow the little boy to repeat after them:
I tried to answer Yehei Shmei Rabbah out loud but couldn’t get the words out, so overcome was I with emotion — and so ashamed. Until I looked around the small shul and saw there was not a dry eye in the house.
This is not the way it is supposed to be, is it? Parents who get sick are supposed to recover, aren’t they?
I guess not always.
After witnessing such a scene, the excuses we make for not davening fervently every day for us and our families to remain healthy seem ridiculous. For it only takes one wayward cell, commanded by the Ribbono shel Olam, to wreak havoc with the other few billion cells in the body. And that’s when the dreaded disease rears its ugly head.
So how does one have the strength to work in this field, to even contemplate the tragedies that this disease spawns?
A few years ago I penned a short article entitled “Three Little Miracles” that described the odyssey and, with the help of Hashem, the ultimate victory of three young cancer patients. This past month I was informed by RCCS patient advocates of three “big” miracles that recently occurred.
Miracle number 1: Almost a year ago, a young man, engaged to be married, arrived from overseas to be treated at a hospital in the Midwest that specializes in cancer treatment. The top surgeon there, after an intense examination, told the young man that there was nothing left for him to do but return home to die. Accompanied by an insurance policy subsidized by RCCS, wonderful askanim helped this young man obtain non-conventional treatment from a different hospital up north. After several months of treatment, lab reports showed that the tumor had disappeared. Exploratory surgery was performed and when the pathology reports showed him to be 100% clear of the disease, he exclaimed, “I want to have the wedding now, in the hospital!”
Miracle number 2: A young lady who was not feeling well went for tests at a local hospital. Upon initial examination, she was told quite forcefully that she had cancer and that it had spread throughout her body. Armed with an RCCS-sponsored insurance policy, she went to a different hospital, recommended by RCCS, to undergo further MRI testing. After a week of mental anguish and agony, she was just as forcefully told that she did not have cancer, but rather an infection that could successfully be treated in just a few days!
Miracle number 3: A former hemangioma patient began to experience all the signs of recurrence. She began bumping into things, her vision was blurred, and her speech was slurred — the same symptoms she had experienced seven years before when the original tumor was discovered. There was also an obvious mass on her head. The dreaded MRI was scheduled. In the interim, the family celebrated the bris of a newborn boy. As a merit for a refuah sheleimah, family members undertook various takanos as a zechus for the cholah. When the day for the MRI came, the bump on the head had totally disappeared. Her symptoms were gone. The MRI showed nothing but normal brain tissue!
It is well known that Harav Shach, zt”l, spent an inordinate amount of time helping a mentally deficient young man. The Rav explained that the young man needed a miracle and he hoped that his extra effort would perhaps serve as a merit to enable the miracle to occur.
The Kli Yakar, in Parashas Ki Savo, explains that a private act of kindness, such as giving maaser to the poor, in turn enables the entire world to receive kindness from Hashem.
I humbly suggest that we all take this to heart and perform as many acts of chessed as we can to serve as a catalyst for the Ribbono shel Olam to perform the miracles we so desperately need down here. And to pray to Hashem for many more “big” miracles.
Rabbi Golding serves as Executive Director of the Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS) which provides an array of services for cancer-stricken patients in need; primary among them is the subsidizing of health insurance premiums, enabling them to obtain the best possible medical care.