Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I am overflowing with praise and gratitude to the Ribono shel Olam. But I had a week in Gehenom.
I had spine surgery on Friday, August 6, the 28th Day of Menachem Av in the year 5781, the Year before Shmittah. This was the day before Rosh Chodesh Elul, the month which leads into Rosh Hashanah.
I think Hashem had a big message for me.
The surgery went “extremely well,” according to the surgeon. “Beautiful! Perfect” were the words he used. The only trouble was that I was in … I don’t know what words to use because I was never there before and I am not sure where I was.
Was it Gehenom? Was it the World After This? Was I alive? Was I dead?
All I knew was that it was unrelenting pain, without one second of relief, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second.
Can you imagine the hours at night when you have no one with you? They make your wife go home. Yes, you have a call button, and the nurse will come, and they give you the most high-tech pain killers, but they seem to do nothing, absolutely nothing!
So you are there, alone, with your unending pain, and you ring the call button for the nurse who cannot help you.
And by the way, you are not sleeping. Sleep is healing but you cannot sleep for one second because of the pain, and so, for three nights I slept a few minutes at the most. And so, there was no healing. I was a walking zombie, except I was not really walking. I was in some world that I do not comprehend.
You think that is all? There is a diabolical device in modern hospitals which you don’t know about unless you have been there. If they are worried you are going to fall, they program your electronic bed to keep you there. There was only one position which gave me a few seconds of relief until the pain kicked in again, and that was standing on the floor. But as soon as your feet touch the floor, a siren goes off which is so loud that you are sure every patient in the entire hospital just jumped out of bed from fright!
Can you imagine this bed from hell?
This is the world we live in, a world gone insane, in which some technocrat, who studied for a few years in college, designs your world for you and tells you how you are to live. He figures out what’s good for you and you become a prisoner in the world that he designed. You see it all over the place, in the insane policies designed by a computer or by a scientist without a heart or soul. Now they have robots who apply for citizenship. Why not?
I felt as if I were in prison with a never-ending death sentence. No hope, no respite, no sleep and no one to speak to. The doctor looks at you and says, “The surgery was perfect!” and you are in agony on another planet.
It got so that I could not think straight. I saw weird and frightening images. I would try to read a book to get my mind off the pain and the most strange thing would happen: first the page would be normal, with black letters on a white background, and then it would suddenly flip and I would be looking at white letters on a black background.
I had no appetite. I could not think.
And then, from the heart of friendship, a friend, a holy Yid contacted me.
He told me that he had been through a similar procedure, where the super-high-tech pain medication did nothing. He needed to sleep and he could not sleep. He was able to obtain medication which helped him sleep and this began to break the cycle of pain and exhaustion. With his encouragement, I was able to find a doctor who prescribed this medication and the cycle began to move toward healing.
Today, after Shabbos, I am able to write and tell you these things.
Why am I telling you?
I said at the outset that I am not complaining. A great rabbi reminded me last week, “Yissurin m’markin … yissurin, troubles, tzouris … purge the sin.” They release from the effects of our sin. (Yoma 86a, with thanks to Rabbis Binyomin Forst and Aharon Yaakov Neuberger)
This all happened to me on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the month of Teshuva. I know that Hashem is telling me how deeply I need to do teshuva. If it is possible that my suffering can in any way relieve the burdens of the world, if the cycle of tzouris and tuma can be relieved, then I dedicate all this pain to the coming of Moshiach and the Building of the Bais Hamikdosh.
Just before I went into surgery, I told the Ribono shel Olam, “This is for the Bais Hamikdosh.” I meant that I knew I have to be healthy to serve Hashem and to help bring about the Geula Shelemah. I did not know what was coming, but I am dedicating all this tzouris to the Bais Hamikdosh and the relief of our pain. I want this to take away all tzouris in the world. I want us to live in a world filled with Torah in which the Shechina once more dwells in its Makom on Har Ha Bayis. If Hashem will grant my wish then I will feel that my pain was worth it.
And … if not … I still know Hashem is Perfect and all His judgments are good.
May Peace be upon the Holy Nation of Israel forever and ever! May the Month of Elul and the Year of Shmittah usher in the Geula Shelema with complete healing for all our tzouris.
Har ha Bayis: Temple Mount
Makom: A place, specifically the Place of the Holy Temple
Shmittah: Every seventh year agricultural activities cease and the Land of Israel rests