Rabbi Israel Meir Lau once delivered a sermon on end-of-life support. He emphasized that “the role of a doctor is to give life and not to take life. Human beings must not take lightly the question of which life is worthy and which is not. There are even “enlightened” states today that allow shortening of life for patients with severe depression and other mental illnesses, with the attitude that it is best for them to die!"
The rabbi finished his remarks and noticed some participants looking at him with cynicism, wondering what a rabbi understands about medical issues.
Suddenly an elderly doctor stood up and asked for permission to speak: "I heard the rabbi, I saw the mockery that came over some of you, and I want to tell a story I personally experienced.
I was a young doctor during my internship. The emergency room was quiet and I waited impatiently for the shift to end.
Suddenly, paramedics rushed in with a stretcher carrying a serious medical case, one that no doctor would want to see. An elderly farmer had chopped wood and pounded the ax on his head. He arrived in critical condition. Senior doctors were called in, the operating room was quickly prepared, and I was tasked with calling the family members.
Three young men came in and introduced themselves as his children. They pulled back the curtain and saw their father's condition. They huddled for a few moments and then called the medical staff. The eldest of them said: "You can stop caring for Dad, we have come to the conclusion that Dad has already lived enough..."
The doctor finished his story and there was silence in the hall. One story made the message personal to everyone sitting in the hall, something which could not have happened with ten powerful speeches.
In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Tzav, we learn about the thanksgiving offering. The Torah brings four categories that would warrant this offering: one who crossed the ocean or desert, one who recovered from a serious illness and one who was released from prison. The Torah brings down examples that are real to us, so that thankfulness can become a truly meaningful experience and aspect of our lives.
Candle lighting time: 6:48 PM