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Thought for the Day: This World Is Nothing But An Entryway To Olam HaBa

I worked at Fermi Lab about 23 years ago.  At that time, the lab was completely open to the public.  Still, we were a national lab, so there were times we had to practice security in case of who knows what.  On those rare occasions, all outside communication was disabled and no traffic was allowed to enter nor leave the site.  Theses drills could last a couple of hours or more; no big deal.  One time, thought, my boss came to my office and told me, "Don't worry, we've gotten you special clearance so you can go home to take your son to the hospital."  I didn't worry, I panicked; I had no clue what he was talking about.  This was pre-cell phone days, so I just jumped in my car and headed home.  It turns out that my son, who was just a couple of weeks old, had developed a staph infection in his belly button.  My wife had called the lab, gotten the security office, explained the situation, they called my boss, and... you know the rest.

I got home, the doctor (who was also a close friend) was there with an uncharacteristically worried look on his face.  Apparently, infections in the belly button of an infant is very bad news; very bad.  Dr. Dan told us that he needed IV antibiotics right away; so off we rushed to the hospital.  Dr. Dan told everyone that my son was his god son and we got the VIP treatment.  Once we got the room, however, Dr. Dan told my wife and I to go to the leave and to to the other end of the hall while he got the IV started.  An infant has very tiny and fragile veins; starting and IV is tedious and very painful for the infant.  My wife and I spent the next half hour listening to him scream in excruciating pain and knowing we could do nothing.  It was horrible and I have trouble talking about it even to this day.

We allowed that, of course, because he was two weeks old and had a whole life ahead of him.  It changed him, it changed my wife, it changed me; but there was no choice, not even a fleeting thought to do anything different.  We would do exactly the same today.

The shulchan aruch paskens that a person should accustom himself to say, "kol mah d'avad rachmana, l'tav avad" -- all that HaShem does is done for the good.  It doesn't mean that it's fun or pleasant.  Chazal were precise: it's for good; ie, it will result in good, not that it is good right now.  And it doesn't matter if that decision needs to be made when the person has only entered this world a few days before or is likely to leave this world in only a few days time.  What's the point of inflicting painful, sometimes excruciatingly painful, on a patient who may have only days, hours, or even minutes left in this world?  The same reason to inflict painful, even excruciatingly painful, treatments on a two week old infant; he has a whole life ahead of him.

Chazal, characteristically blunt and precise, often use the word "rechem" (womb) and "kever" (grave) interchangeably.  If you know that this world is nothing but a preparation for the next world, then the kever is a rechem.  If you think that this world is all there is, then the rechem is a kever.


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