36. Mishpatim II - NO-CURE

A CHASSIDIC REBBE noticed that one of his disciples was very downcast. Since the Rebbe always counseled against atzvut, against melancholia, he rebuked the Chassid for permitting himself to get into a state of mental depression. The Chassid then told his Rebbe the cause for his bad mood. tie had been ill for some time and the doctor had told him that there was no cure for his illness. The Rebbe was deeply moved by his disciple's plight, and after a few moments of reflection said, "Pay no attention to your doctor, for he has overstepped his bounds. The doctor's authority is derived from the Torah where it is said verapo yerape, 'And cure he shall cure' (Exod. 21:19). Our sagas say mikan shenitnah reshut le'rofeh lerapot 'From this we derive that a doctor is permitted to heal' (Baba Kama 85a). His assignment is limited to healing a patient. He has no permission from God to say whether one shall live or die."

There are many physicians who do not realize that the purpose of medical diagnosis is to find a cure for disease, or at lease to ameliorate the pain and suffering of the sick. A no-cure verdict is not a prerogative of mortal man, not even of the great physician.

Unfortunately the no-cure attitude affects many areas of life. A friend related the following story. After years of study, a nephew was admitted to medical school. From early childhood, the young man's ambition was to help the sick and to save lives. By the end of the first lecture, however, his noble resolves were shaken. A prominent heart specialist opened his first lecture to the freshman class with something like this: "I know that many of you are here today because of high ideals. I advise that you get that out of your minds. Don't be sentimental about medicine. Treat your patients as a grocer handles cabbages, for medicine is a business like any other business. If you will be over-idealistic, you will only hurt yourself in the end. Statistically each one of you will kill twenty-five of your patients during the years of your practice. And if you will take the losses to heart, you will spoil your enjoyment of life and lose your clientele."

Such callous talk by a professor of medicine is outrageous. No wonder that it is so difficult to obtain the services of a physician at night or on weekends!

This attitude is also responsible for the no-cure approach in medicine in many areas of illness. While it is true that not every disease can be cured, the fact is that there is greater effort made in the fields of weaponry and machines of destruction than in administering to the needs of the ill.

Parents are also guilty of a no-cure philosophy in the rearing of children. The so-called realistic parents, in their desire to spare the feelings of frustration and defeat on the part of their offspring, will say, "We do not want you to be an Einstein and get A's in college. We will be satisfied with B's and C's." So the young man or young woman enters college without "drive," and works for B's and Cs and ends up with D's and F's.

Is this a healthy approach? Will this kind of talk save the son or daughter from frustration? May not this no-cure attitude wreck a child's self-confidence and ambition?

The no-cure philosophy has especially been plaguing the institution of marriage for the past several decade. I have attended many marriage ceremonies and wedding feasts, and have overheard jokes and jests about the state of matrimony which, while intended to be humorous, expressed cynicism and a total lack of faith in its viability and survival. Many people no longer consider marriage as the most significant and fulfilling incident in life, but as a gamble and a throw of the dice. When "kidded" about marriage, brides and grooms will often respond, "There are always the divorce courts, you know!"

I have heard friends of the groom warn him before the ceremony, "Once you put this ring around her finger, you'll be getting another ring through your nose." Or a married man will say to the bridegroom, "Boy, am I glad you're getring married! Why should I be the only sucker in misery!" Every engaged couple is advised not to expect too much from marriage. The successful play, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off deals with the complaints of a man against marriage.These statements and sour humor are a reflection of the "sick" and no-cure attitude towards a major institution in society.

In a number of Yeshivot today there is a great reluctance on the part of the students to enter the active rabbinate. Young men want to be ordained in order to possess the title of rabbi for the glory and honor that it may bring them. There are Roshei Yeshiva who discourage their best talmidim from entering the profession. I myself have heard a prominent Rosh Yeshiva say that there is little or nothing that a rabbi can do for Yiddishkeit in America. The baalei-batim are hardheaded people and will not be taught. Chances are that the rabbis themselves will become kalye --spoiled. So what's the sense?

This is a dreadful no-cure doctrine for a Rosh Yeshiva to preach. On the contrary, the best students should be encouraged to enter the rabbinate. A great deal has been done by dedicated men in the rabbinate, and even more can and will be achieved in the future. The attitude must be as the sainted hofetz Chayim put it. Meer darfen tohn, oon dehr Ribono Shel Olom vet oiftohn. "It is for us to do, and for the Almighty to accomplish."

Friends, I am not preaching fatuous optimism. I am merely urging that we exhibit faith. As Leo Tolstoi once put it, "Faith is the true force of life." Only true faith can bring a refuah shlemah to the ills and aberrations of life.

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