Saturday, April 24, 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Yesterday evening between Kabbalas Shabbos and maariv Harav Yitzchak Mordechai HaCohen Rubin, Shlita spoke about the volcanic eruption in Iceland. He took note of how we tend to get overly complacent about the perpetual motion of the industrialized world as if the man-made forces of communication, commerce and transportation are immutable forces of nature themselves. Never in recent history has a purely natural event brought such a large part of the industrialized world to a virtual standstill.

He characterized it that HKBH felt the need to remind the world that it has a Supreme Manhig - Operator - and, in this case, He chose to show us that he leads us with an Amud Ha'annan - a pillar of cloud.

And he went on to tell us a fascinating story which illustrates how his Amud Ha'annan can be midas harachimim for his "followers" at the same time as it is a midas hadin for the non-believers. The story was as follows:

There is an observant Jew who lives in Kiryat Matersdorf here in Jerusalem who was suddenly stricken with acute liver failure. The doctors here knew that he would require a liver transplant. The leading hospital for liver diseases in the Eastern hemisphere, where virtually all liver transplants in Europe are performed, is located in Belgium. And so, the Matersdorf patient was rushed to Belgium for treatment. This must have occurred a few days prior to the mid-April volcanic eruption.

In Belgium it was confirmed that the patient requires a new liver. However, the prevailing policy was that citizens of the European Union have priority for all transplants in this hospital. Israel is not a member of the Euroean Union so our Israeli patient was not so accredited. This meant that even if a compatible liver should become available, as long as there are EU citizens in need who are likewise compatible, he is automatically at the bottom of the list. At the moment there were four other EU citizens with his blood profile awaiting liver transplants. Beside that, it wasn't too relevant because the hospital's butcher shop was out of liver.

As to be expected, this fellow tried to see what local connections and persuasions can be brought to play to neutralize his last place status. Whoever could be called was called and whoever might be bought was solicited and nothing could be accomplished not for love or money. He was still in last place and time was short.

Then, the volcano hiccupped and sent the Amud Ha'annan to northern Europe.

You can guess the rest of the story. Some fellow from Germany checked himself into the morgue (careful on that Autobahn) and was all too happy to yield a compatible liver. The liver would only be viable for a very limited time so it was rushed to Belgium by rail. The four people on the waiting list were all contacted and none of them were located in a place where they could get to Belgium within the critical time. The only patient on hand who could be a recipient for the life saving liver was our last place Israeli patient from Kiryat Matersdorf.

Shlomo HaMelech writes (Koheles 9:11): כי לא לקלים המרוץ ולא לגבורים המלחמה

...for the swiftest do not win all the races and the mightiest do not win all the battles...

HKBH leads the world. Usually behind a veil of "nature". But sometimes it is with a pillar of fire and sometimes it is with a pillar of cloud.

And every cloud has a silver lining.


Anonymous said...

Did he mention anything about this as well

We should hear good news

Yechezkel said...

He sure did.

That was the second half of his speech - every silver lining has a cloud!

Malka said...

Why is it that some of us get it, and others don't? I felt like HaSh-m had a sense of humor with this latest trick of His!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us about the 2nd half of the drosha?

Yechezkel said...

I didn't actually call it a drasha but, come to think of it, it actually was. One of his more riveting ones, at that.

In true rabbinic style it was a drasha in Hilchisa and Agadita. The hilchasa part dealt with whether an account holder is liable if another person used their checks without their knowledge. The agadita part was a fascinating up-to-date adaptation of the pasuk in Breishis 42:36.

Go look it up.

NCO Chassid said...

How would you respond to this [a comment from someone on another version of this story]:
My response: [unknown author]

I have a real problem with these stories in general, and I guess this case really underscores why. Just imagine the other stories that are not being circulated on the internet. Young mother/child/groom/ whoever on waiting list, desperate for transplant, the right liver finally available and s/he finally on top of the list - but could not fly to Belgium due to the volcano and, r"l, passed away. I don't know what happened to whom regarding this liver, but neither do those circulating this story know whose heart could be breaking as they read it. Hashem's ways are indeed mysterious and above our logical comprehension systems. But let's not pretend that the hashgacha always works out for the apparent good of everyone affected.

I happen to think we in our generation, and especially from an educational standpoint our young people, are more in need of examples of tziduk hadin and moving forward in life despite disappointment, loss and suffering, than we are in need of further gushes of chicken soup for our already entitlement-ridden souls. Because this genre has become so ubiquitous, and we are encouraging people to identify (as if they could!) `hashgacha pratis' in their lives, I fear we are weakening rather than strengthening the kind of emuna needed to make it through the real lives most of us lead, the ones in which people die, illness hurts, and hopes are dashed, at least sometimes. I find these kinds of stories dangerous, not only because they promote magical thinking and reinforce theological beliefs of dubious basis in authoritative Jewish sources, but because they reinforce some sort of fantasy that we can ignore the gemara about kesheim shemevarchin al hatov etc. When young people raised on this intellectual diet of gruel actually encounter challenges in life, will they have the keilim, and the examples, to integrate them into their mindset and avodas Hashem? Will they conclude, consciously or unconsciously, that they are unworthy because miracles didn't happen for them? Will they feel cheated out of the hashgacha protis they have been guaranteed and end up angry at their religion r"l?

I don't know, I just feel sometimes we in the frum community live in a haze of wishful thinking we have allowed and sometimes even encouraged. I don't mean to be a downer but to say, let's recognize and fix our problems rather than distracting ourselves from them. For every heartwarming story circulated I'd like to see at least one story that calls us to action, and I mean action to take responsibility for our dysfunctionalities. If only the energy put into the campaign to save Shalom Rubashkin from being overly punished for his crimes could be equally put into a campaign to rid ourselves of corruption and fraud and teach the importance of transparency, integrity, and accountability. I am seriously considering contacting the guy who started the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation and encouraging him to start a new prong of the movement aimed towards Emes and Yashrus.

Yechezkel said...

To NCO Chassid:

I am confused if you are the author of this comment or if somebody else authored it and you are just reprinting it here asking how I would respond.

In any case, a story such as this one has (at the least) three very important messages; two of wich I expressly emphasized in my post.

1) It shows the gevurah of HKBH that He runs the world and He decides who lives and who dies. And it doesn't matter what policies or lists are set by the Humans down here, it is His list that counts.

2) HKBH treats some of his children with Midas Hadin and others with Midas HaRachamim. And, what's more amazing, the very same instrument that will be Midas Hadin for those of His choosing will be Midas HaRachamim for those of His choosing.

3) As the Gemara in Berachos (10a) says: Even if a sharp sword is laying upon one's throat, one should not abdicate himself from Rachamim.

Tziduk hadin stories are also very worthwhile. That is why we say Eilah Ezkerah on Yom Kippur. Besides that, we have libraries full of holocaust books (which include both Tziduk hadin and Al tityaesh messages). The kvetching of the first two paragraphs of your(?) comment is saying: instead of reading all those inspiring Holocaust stories of survival and emunah and mesiras nefesh, we should focus more on the fact that this Midas HaRachamim and Hashgacha pratis didn't work for the other 6 million.

I dunno. My father (AMV"Sh) is a holocaust survivor who lost bost parents and the bulk of his extended family. He has given numerous talks about it and he always says the same thing: let's not focus on how the Jews of Europe died. Let's focus on how they lived.

>>If only the energy put into the campaign to save Shalom Rubashkin from being overly punished for his crimes could be equally put into a campaign to rid ourselves of corruption and fraud and teach the importance of transparency, integrity, and accountability.

What do you think my book and my blog are? It's a campaign for truth that I have been running for 2 1/2 years (after 3 years of writing). Much longer than the Rubashkin fiasco. But the problem is that it points out things that most people prefer not to know. Just like examples of tziduk hadin and moving forward in life despite disappointment, loss and suffering...

Y. Ben-David said...

I am afraid I don't understand what the point of all this is. While there is no doubt that the fellow from Mattersdorf should be and will be grateful to G-d for his being saved, the "big picture" is far more murky and I don't know what those of us who observe this incident from the side should conclude, if we assume that the lesson being taught is that G-d arranged all this in order to save that one fellow. After all, your flippant description of how the donor appeared doesn't provide enough information. For example, was he the driver of the car on the autobahn (and therefore responsible for the acciedent? Or was he a passenger in the car (and therefore not responsible), or perhaps he was in another car that the reckless driver hit? Perhaps, if we was not the driver, he was a member of a German-Israeli friendship society and had volunteered in Israel to try to make amends for the Holocaust (there are Germans who have done these things). What about his family that was no doubt devastated by the accident?

Or how about the waiting potential recipients who lost out...the same questions could be asked about them if they should die as a result of what happened. Maybe they were Jews, or maybe they were Tzadikei Umot HaOlam (Righteous gentiles), and how about their families? How are they supposed to feel?

I think using stories like this in order to increase the yirat shamayim of the intended audience is very problematic.

Yechezkel said...

To Mr. Ben David

I composed a response to your comment and incorporated it into a formal blog post. Please see the post entitled Deja Vu in the Clouds.