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Torah-Box & You

Ten Recommendations on Health by Rabbi Steinman z”l

Published on Tuesday April 17th, 2018

1.    A young Bahur (yeshiva student) having to undergo difficult and life-threatening surgery, addressed a question to Rav Aharon Leib Steinman: "How could he strengthen himself? "Rav Steinman answered:  "Keep in mind that the world has a Master". The young man recalls that he internalized this principle in his heart and mind and pondered upon it continuously. He fully absorbed the fact that his and all human life are under the supervision of the Master of the World, not in the hands of doctors. He entered the operating room feeling totally calm and confident. The serenity mirrored by this young man took the doctors by surprise. At some point, they felt so confused that they even thought they were performing the surgery on a different patient. (Mizkenim Etbonen).

2.    A man confessed to Rav Steinman that anything related to medical issues, doctors, therapy, injections, and vaccinations utterly terrified him. He had come to seek advice from the Rav. The latter answered: "You ought to know that this fear is being sent to you by the Master of the World. The man admitted he feared the Master of the World, but that he was also panic stricken before doctors and surgeons. The Rav then retorted: "You are indeed afraid of the Master of the World, but you are much more afraid of doctors ... know that this fear comes only from the Master of the World.  (Mizkenim Etbonen).

3.    Rav Steinman comments on the final words of the blessing "Asher Yatzar", ending with the words "Rofe Kol Bassar - who heals all flesh". Why is the word "Kol" used here? Does this imply that everyone is sick? Rav Steinman explains that the human body is an intricate system of cavities and orifices that self-heal continuously, so at any given moment, perhaps at every moment, man benefits from a cure and thus, knowingly or not, experiences healing. "The human body's mechanics are truly amazing! Man is truly great! So is all creation, a system so wise, it renews itself continuously, wisely and efficiently, making everything work! When something ceases to work, when one of the cavities or orifices opens or clogs, it means one of the cells among a myriad of them is damaged; then we know there is a problem... In fact, all pregnancies and deliveries are miraculous! Man thinks this is natural, but every one of them is a miracle of miracles! "

4.    Rav Steinman once commented: "It is unfortunate to find that many sick people don't heal, God forbid! And it is astonishing. "Why does Hashem do this?", we question. But, according to the words of our Sages, "Whoever despises a Torah scholar cannot find a remedy to cure his illness." And if our Sages claim that we cannot find a remedy to cure the disease, we must accept that literally, God forbid, there is no cure for their disease. "

5.    When Rav Steinman visited Rabbi Avraham Ravitz on his death bed, three days before his passing, Rav Ravitz, who was very ill, asked him: "I would like to ask the Rosh Yeshiva to what extent does a man need to pray for his own life? "Rav Steinman replied: "We cannot fathom the worth of a moment in life.  Aspiring to do good and observing mitzvot are worth more than all the wealth in the world. Man is recommended to seize the practice of mitzvot while he is still alive. Man must appreciate every moment he can still do good and perform mitzvot.  In the next world, man is denied that possibility. May God help restore your health, and make you worthy of finding a cure to your illness! "

When one of the visitors described the unbearable sufferings endured by Rav Ravitz, Rav Steinman replied, "Sufferings are purifying and absolve a person's faults; they are the best avenue to cleanse a man's sins. May the Almighty alleviate your pain and grant you good health. "

6.    In one of his letters, Rav Steinman says: "Every man is commanded to take care of his health and never give up on it.  And may God have pity on the sick among the Jewish people."

7.    Rav Steinman was asked a tricky question at one time. It often appears that righteous people suffer substantially more than wicked individuals. On this subject, he replied: "Suffering purifies and atones for their faults, so they may gain a place in the future world. He then went on to mention a quote from Tana Debbe Eliyahu Rabba, as follows: "The generation's wise scholars suffer for the faults of their contemporaries."

8.    A few years ago, Rav Steinman fell sick and was hospitalized; his health was very fragile. During his stay in the hospital, he doubled and tripled his words on Emuna (faith) and Mussar (Morality). Once he held one of his relative's hands and squeezed it tightly; then he stroke it warmly and said: "I am an old man already, and I know that "man's life is like a breath, but you are still young, so please repeat after me: "A man's life is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." They repeated this sentence several times in a tone that awakens a Jew to do Tshuvah. They let their emotions run wild and hot tears flowed from the eyes of the Rav. The student also cried profusely. It was a moment of great elevation!

9.    Rav Steinman explains that any man can be righteous and perform thousands of positive mitzvot in just one day. How? "For example, a grocery store owner, selling one hundred items a day is doing an act of Chessed," says Rav Steinman. Although he is essentially working for his livelihood, serving customers with kind intentions is a way of doing many mitzvot in a day. It all depends on his intentions.

10. The Rav also mentioned taxi drivers. "A taxi driver, driving passengers from one location to another is also doing an act of chessed which can be considered a mitzvah. But how can one verify whether the cab driver is really working for the sake of heaven? When, for example, a passenger lacks the fare to pay for the ride but must get to a destination urgently and the driver takes him to his destination nonetheless. "

11.The Rav brings another example related to the medical field. "While a nurse receives a salary for her services, she is also helping the sick; and if she feels it is her purpose in life, she is definitely doing a mitzvah. The same goes for a doctor. How can one judge if a doctor is acting with pure intentions for the sake of benefitting his patient? If a patient offends the doctor's honor and the latter immediately ceases to care for the patient, it is a clear sign that he is acting on purely ulterior motives and not for the sake of a mitzvah."

12.Rav Steinman quotes the introduction to "Nefesh HaChaim" on the subject of the blessing for healing in the Amida, ending with the words "Rofe 'Holei Amo Israel", i.e. who heals the sick among the Jewish people and not "who heals all flesh". The Nefesh HaChaim quotes: "All prayers addressed to the Almighty praise the name of God. When a misfortune befalls on the collective or on an individual, the pain is felt on high. Therefore, the words of the prayer are formulated as "heal the sick among the Jewish people" because their pain is felt in Heaven. "

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