The excellent opinion piece “It’s ALL in HIS Hands,” by Dr. Joel Rosenshein (Hamodia Prime, May 20, 2020), commenting on the equally excellent article by Mrs. Esti Dishon (“Emphasize Your Positive Emotions,” 28 Nisan 5780/April 22, 2020), impels me to respond from a different perspective and offer some additional thoughts, based on my experience.
Dr. Rosenshein writes how he was asked by the directorship of the Israeli division of Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS) to give chizuk (emotional support) to their staff, in light of the angst and depression caused by the recent passing of several clients.
A similar scenario unfolded in the USA offices of RCCS, some 10 years ago. Many of the staff members were getting very depressed upon hearing of several deaths of RCCS patients in the States, and I felt we needed to do something to help them.
I reached out to my close friend, Dr. Michael Zelefsky, from the upper West Side, a fellow mispallel in the Boyaner Shtiebel (when I was still living in Manhattan), and asked him how he handles such pressures in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Zelefsky is a world-renowned radiation oncology specialist, and had certainly seen his share of disappointing cases.
In response, he agreed to travel from the hospital, mid-day, to address the staff of RCCS in their Williamsburg headquarters. And this is the gist of what he said:
“We all know that when it comes to saving a life on Shabbos, we are taught to be mechallel Shabbos to try and save the patient’s life, even if it only prolongs the life of the patient by a mere ‘shaah [a short time span]’
“There is another use in Chazal of the term shaah that we are all familiar with; that of ‘Yesh koneh olamo b’shaah achas — One can acquire his portion in the World to Come in one hour’ (Gemara, Avodah Zarah 10b). I proffer that these two sha’os are one and the same.
“Your job,” said Dr. Zelefsky, “is to do the best you can for the patient, even if it only prolongs a life for an hour. For in THAT hour, he or she could be koneh Olam Haba!”
This idea is not limited to cancer care; it can be applied to all medical professions, and probably to other aspects of our lives, as well.
May we merit to see the day, soon, when all sickness will be banished from our midst.
Rabbi Yosef C. Golding, Former Executive Director, RCCS
President, GDG Group