Thursday, February 05, 2009

Parshas B'Shalach

Rabbi Frand on Parshas B'Shalach

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #623 - Kiddush or Netilas Yadayim – Which Comes First? Good Shabbos!


Hashem Is My Doctor


The pasuk in this week's parsha says: "If you will listen diligently to the voice of Hashem your G-d, and you will do what is just in His eyes, and you will give ear to His commandments and observe all His statutes, then any of the diseases that I placed upon Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am Hashem, your Healer." [Shmos 15:26] The expression "for I am Hashem your Healer" is quite likely the source of the text we recite thrice daily in the Amidah blessing: "Rofeh cholei amo Yisrael" [Who heals the sick of His nation Israel].


The Sefer Tiferes Torah asks why this blessing is expressed in such parochial terms. In fact, we know that G-d is "Rofeh CHOL BASAR u'maflee l'assos" [He heals ALL FLESH and acts wondrously]. G-d provides healing to all of humanity, not just to the Jewish people.


We do indeed say blessings that pertain particularly to Klal Yisrael, for example – Oter Yisrael b'Sifara [who crowns Israel with glory] or Ozer Yisrael b'Gevurah [who girds Israel with strength]. However, regarding dispensing healing, the appropriate praise of G-d does not seem to be that He heals the sick of Israel. On the contrary, that seems to understate His role in serving as the healer of humanity in general.


The Tiferes Torah answers as follows: There are two approaches to healing. When a person gets a cold, he can take medicine to control the symptoms, but as we all know there is no cure for the common cold. How then do we ever recover from the common cold? The body has a natural immune system that fights illnesses. For a good part of the history of the world, that is in fact how people recovered. Similarly, the body has a capacity to fight off infection. The first approach in healing, then, is to do nothing and "let nature take its course".


The second approach is to intervene medically. According to Jewish Law, the Torah gave doctors permission to practice medicine. Going to a doctor, taking medicine, or having surgery, are all legitimate forms of seeking a cure.


The concept of "I am Hashem who cures you" is that the Almighty is saying "I am your doctor." We are His patients and He is our doctor. This is the unique relationship that Klal Yisrael has with the Master of the Universe. Yes, there are natural cures and yes, G-d gives wisdom to medical practitioners to cure illnesses, but regarding the Jewish people, the Almighty says: "I am Hashem who cures you," meaning, "I am your doctor." The meaning of the blessing "Rofeh cholei AMO YISRAEL" is "He is our doctor."


Rav Matisyahu Solomon went to visit a sick person who was suffering pain. The person turned to Rav Solomon and said, "Nu, G-d will help." Rav Solomon looked at him and said: "No, He won't!" The patient was taken aback and asked for an explanation. Rav Solomon told him: "You think that the doctor will cure you and Hashem will help, as if the main cure comes from the medical professional and G-d merely puts in a good word. This is the wrong attitude. You will get well because G-d will cure you. The doctor will help!"


Our attitude must be putting our faith in "Ani Hashem Rofecha" and not in our doctors or surgeons. G-d is the one who will bring us a cure. The doctors and surgeons will merely help as His agents.


This very concept is evident in another pasuk in our parsha: "Israel saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt; and the people revered Hashem, and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant." [Shmos 14:31]. Klal Yisrael had just seen open miracles. They saw that the sea split on their behalf. They saw the sea returned and destroyed the Egyptians. At that moment, there was such clear belief, that according to Chazal, the simplest handmaiden saw Heavenly visions that were greater than those seen by Yechezkel who saw the Divine Throne. Prior to the splitting of the sea, their belief had been such that even though they had been witnessing Moshe Rabbeinu perform miracle after miracle after miracle these many months, they could have believed that it was Moshe Rabbeinu performing the miracles. After all, we as human beings, relate to other human beings. Nevertheless, the experience at Yam Suf resulted in true correct belief. They believed in Hashem and viewed Moshe as merely His servant.


Rabbi Yisrael Salanter once gave a lecture about Emunah [belief] and said that if one has perfect Emunah in G-d, G-d will take care of every one of the person's physical needs. One who has perfect faith does not need to rely on anything else. A student approached Rav Salanter after the lecture and asked: "Does that mean that if I have perfect faith, I do not need to worry about earning a living and that I can devote all my time to learning?" Rav Yisrael responded, "Yes, if you have perfect Emunah all your needs will be taken care of."


The student said, "Fine. That's it. I'll quit my job and just learn. I need 20,000 rubles a year. G-d will provide them. I have faith." He quit his job and just learned. He did this for a week. He had no income that week. There was no way he could buy the necessities of life. The student came to Rav Salanter and said: "I fully believe, but a week has gone by, I do not have a penny and my house is bare."


Rav Yisrael said: "Okay. I'll make you a deal. I'll give you 8,000 rubles now, and when you get the 20000 rubles from the Almighty, you give them to me. Trade me the 8000 rubles now for the 20000 you will get from Hashem in the future." The student agreed to the deal, whereupon his teacher chastised him for not being a true believer. "If you truly believed Hashem was going to provide you with 20000 rubles, you would never trade away the 20000 for 8000!"


At Yam Suf it was not like that. There, their Emunah was in fact so great that they believed primarily in G-d, and viewed Moshe as only his servant. This must be our approach to the concept of "I am Hashem your healer." My doctor is really the Ribono shel Olam. The MD who sees me is merely His agent. Someone who truly achieves that level of Emunah is truly experiencing the idea of "Rofeh Cholei AMO YISRAEL" [who cures the sick of HIS NATION ISRAEL].




This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas B'Shalach are provided below:


Tape # 041 – Israel's Wars: 1948-1973, A Halachic Perspective

Tape # 084 – The Mitzvah of Krias HaTorah

Tape # 132 – Standing for Krias HaTorah

Tape # 179 – Female Vocalists: The Problem of Kol Isha

Tape # 225 – Music in Halacha

Tape # 269 – Lechem Mishnah

Tape # 315 – The Prohibition of Living in Egypt

Tape # 359 – Making Ice on Shabbos

Tape # 403 – Three Slices of Pizza – Must You Bench?

Tape # 447 - Hidur Mitzvah

Tape # 491 - The Three Seudos of Shabbos

Tape # 535 - Using P'sukim for Nigunim?

Tape # 579 – Being Motzi Others in Lechem Mishnah and Other Brachos

Tape # 623 – Kiddush or Netilas Yadayim – Which Comes First?

Tape # 667 – The Supernatural and the "Mun" dane

Tape # 711 – Shlishi or Sshishi? And Other Aliyah Issues

Tape # 755 – Techum Shabbos: Wearing Your Hat to the Hospital

Tape # 799 – Kibud Av – Can A Father Be Mochel?

Tape # 887 – Rejoicing At The Death of Reshoim – Recommended or Not?