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Thought for the Day: Do What You Are Able

17 years ago this week I was confined to a hospital room in reverse isolation.  It was three weeks into chemotherapy and I had (essentially) no white blood cells.  I had gone in with a 104° fever (I tried to tell my doctor it was because I had the heating blanket on too high.  He said, "Just get to the emergency room, ok?") and a non-specific infection.  I was having trouble eating and wondered if I could have dairy sooner than six hours after meat, because what I was able to get down could change at a moment's notice.  My internist said to my oncologist (both frum), "He is a choleh sh'yeish bo sakana, he can eat pork if we tell him; right?"  My oncologist agreed wholeheartedly and my wife said, "Baruch HaShem that we have to frum doctors!"  We had not been frum that long ourselves and I didn't have the heart or the energy to tell her that both doctors had just called me "deathly ill" and could die from my condition.  (I didn't, obviously.)

How do I know it was this week?  Because R' Dovid Siegel, shlita, came to visit me one morning.  He called to ask if he could come over while I was being served breakfast -- yogurt and Special K.  I tried to get it finished before he arrived, but... no way I could get it down.  R' Siegel arrived, donned mask and gown, and asked me a question.  "Why do you think Yaakov Avinu put the rocks around his head?  Rashi says to protect himself from wild animals during the night.  Do you really think that a few rocks just around his head are going to help?  His whole lower body is exposed and there is no covering!  What was the point?"  In the best of circumstances I would not have know how to answer a R' Dovid Siegel question, and this was not the best of circumstances.  R' Dovid continued, "Because of his chiyuv hishtadlus.  Had there been more rocks, Yaakov Avinu would have used them.  The fact that he didn't have enough to do the whole job did not stop him from doing what he could in his circumstances."  We all know where he was going with this one.  "You have cancer.  Your doctors are treating you and there is nothing much you can do about your situation.  There is one thing, however, that you can do.  You can eat your breakfast.  That is your chiyuv."  R' Dovid did not leave until I had finished the yogurt and the Special K.  (That's real bikur cholim, by the way.)

There wasn't much R' Dovid could do for me, but he did what he could, and I am here to tell about it.  That "vort" has had and continues to have a profound affect on my life day after day.


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