Rabbis and Doctors in Life and Death

It’s been quite a Nissan for me. My son came home for Pesach from Eretz Yisroel, my father passed away after a long bout with cancer, we spent a wonderful Pesach with all our children by us for the seder, and my daughter gave birth to our first grandson. Besides the emotional whirlwind, the experience gave me a deeper appreciation of the importance of good Rabbis and good doctors.

During my father’s illness, we had to battle the medical system which wanted to brand my father a no-more-treatment hospice patient, while his wishes were to have any relatively benign treatments that would prolong his life. While lamenting about my battles during the shiva, a good doctor friend explained that there are many treatment and non-treatment options available, but you need a good personal doctor to apply the right treatment for each patients particular needs and situation. It’s usually not a simple decision, despite the apparent confidence of the medical staff.

My daughter’s 48 hour birthing experience highlighted the variety of medical intervention available at many stages in the birthing process. The mother with the help of her support people has to navigate decisions balancing pain, comfort, risk and the dictates of medical procedures. Although medicine strives for repeatable “successful” processes, the reality is that each birth presents a unique situation for this mother, with this baby and the particulars of this birth.

My Rabbi had by far the hardest role during these events. The life and death treatment decisions are agonizing and it’s usually not a case of clear cut halacha, but rather hadracha. Burials and shivas are filled with almost daily questions. Birthing over Shabbos has its own set of issues. And a good Rabbi is there for advice, support, comfort and friendship 24 hours a day.

It’s important to find yourself a good primary care physician. It’s even more important to find a good Rabbi who is there for you when you need him.

One thought on “Rabbis and Doctors in Life and Death”

  1. BS”D

    Mazal Tov on the birth of your first grandson.
    ( I only learned of it from this website. )

    And I’m sorry about your loss of your father.
    ( I was restricted by Halacha from expressing this to you
    when you told me of his passing –
    when I asked you during Yom Tov
    ( when I had “just got off the plane” ).

    You are one thousand percent correct about the importance of having a good Rabbi who is there for you when you need him:
    Your Rabbi is my Rebbi and my primary Posaik,
    and even though I follow the required procedure of going to the back of the line
    ( to wait before speaking with him –
    because I can’t afford to pay dues in your Shul and I don’t want special consideration )
    I knew when I left a message on his home answering machine stating that one of my family members was dangerously ill – that I would receive a very prompt response from your Rabbi inviting me to meet with him immediately with my questions.
    And in fact I had 3 private meetings with him during the short duration before I left New York to assist in the care for my relative.
    You are one thousand percent correct about how important this is –
    and we are so fortunate:
    We and so many others who benefit from your Rabbi’s guidance are also fortunate that he cares enough to take time off for us from his busy schedule when needed – and also that lends to us his emotional support as well.

    – M.

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