It could start with a bad cold, or even the flu. You feel sick, shivering and aching. You go to the doctor; he may give you some antibiotics, and then again, he may not. You may just need an aspirin every four hours and lots of fluids. The days drag on, you feel worse, your head is banging away, your throat feels like sandpaper, and the shivers are still shivering. Finally the doctor says, “Let’s do some blood tests.” Here it all really gets busy, the blood is taken and you wait for the results. The phone rings and the doctor clears his throat and says that the tests show something, and he wants you to take some more tests.
You are now a bit concerned. What is going on in that vast planet called your body? Why doesn’t it just get better like it always does? You go in for the tests, this time it’s an ultra sound – a new kind of thing where they can see in you without opening you up. You lay in this cold room with strangers all around you, the doctor smears your stomach with something cold and then he rubs it with this scanning device. You look at his face for any indication of what he sees; he is well practiced and doesn’t show anything. The scan ends and he says that he found a “shadow” and will send the results to your doctor. “Now please get dressed and go home.”
Gevald!! I was just told me that I have something suspicious in my body and I should just get dressed and be on my way? I am frightened! Scared! Help! You go home and by the time you open the door you are sure you are desperately ill. The family looks at you, you cannot hide your fears, so you tell them what the doctor said.
“What does he mean, a shadow?’ ”
“Don’t ask me, what do I know.”
Now at this point, or probably even earlier, you start to say Tehillim in a big way. You and those around you fear the worst and everyone is calling his Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva asking for a bracha.
The doctor calls, and tells you the results are takkeh not so good. You ask all sorts of questions, and in the midst of his answers he says the one thing you never wanted to hear. “Well I must tell you it’s very likely you have cancer.” Rachmana letzlan, not that! You are now booked in for a complete scan, where they will take thousands of pictures of that place called your body and discover what the “shadow” is all about.
I often say that the holiest place in the world is in the little room where one lays just before he is wheeled in for surgery. It is full of the most ardent prayers and one can feel how close Hashem is. Well in this world of scans and scares, the holiest place is on that table with that huge x-ray tube all around you. You feel so lost, only Hashem can understand your fear and pain. The tube envelops you, a hidden voice tells you to hold your breath, the Tehillim runs through your head, the lights spin around you, and you pray that there is nothing there. They finish all the x-rays and tell you to go inside and await the results. You get dressed, all the time asking Hashem to have rachmanus on you and your loved ones. You know that whatever is there won’t go away just with your asking, but you ask for a reprieve all the same.
You sit in the waiting room; others sit there as well. You wonder if they are also as fearful as you are. Do they feel that dip in the stomach that you do? The doctor calls you in. You look to see if his face will tell you anything. You sit down, awaiting the verdict, “Well it seems that shadow has shrunk, it’s most likely just an abscess from some kind of virus. This is a rare thing, but it will go away in time.”
Oy! Baruch Hashem! You want to jump up and kiss the world with thanks. You wipe tears from your eyes, and the doctor looks on in mild bemusement. You will live, Hashem has answered all your tefillos; and your family will share with you simchas for many years to come! Your heart dances with thanks to Hashem.
This little scenario has been played out for many, it’s the price we pay for the medical knowledge we have today. Not long ago they had no way of knowing what was going on in the body, so you just went along with the odd kretz or two. Now they can look, and find. Obviously if it is Hashem’s will that they find something – the earlier the better in terms of treatment – however, most times all is well and we kim uhn mit dem shreck, “we pay with the scare.”
This little episode happened to one of my congregants; no matter it is something we all can relate to. What is most uplifting in this tale is how at each point the Yiddishe neshama turns to Hashem. Whether in the valley of fear or the mountain top of relief, the Yid knows Hashem is with him.
In this world where so much in our lives appears to be given over to others, the neshama seeks and finds the ability to survive through its connection with Hashem.
This kapitel is hugely uplifting; it speaks of the highs and lows of life and how Hashem is the one constant we have.
Lamenatzei’ach… Hashem Chakartani… “Hashem, you have scrutinized me and You know.” Hashem knows our every thought and need.
Atta Yadata Shivti… “You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought from afar.”
Our lives are in flux, we have times of elation, times of despair. Even when we think Hashem is far, he is actually drawing us near with his astounding love. This psalm speaks to the bases of our experience. We are so vulnerable, but if we allow our lives to be centered by Hashem we are never lost.
Im Esak Shamayim… “If I would ascend to heaven, You are there; and if I were to make my bed in the grave, You are there.”
Reb Nachman of Breslav explains that this means one should repent and connect with Hashem when he has ascended to a high state of spirituality, or even when in a low state of uncleanness. No matter where we are spiritually, Hashem is there with us. Our entirety is with Him, and we must use every sort of occasion to realize this in our reality.
Gam Choshech Lo Yachshich… “Even the darkness conceals nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness is as the light.” The Kotzker read this verse as, “Darkness is not dark when it comes from You.” When we feel the darkness drawing in on us, and we are frightened, we must understand that even this is from Hashem. When this fact becomes real to us, then we can overcome anything.
We may lie on a hospital cart, not knowing what the next moment will bring. If we trust in Hashem’s infinite Goodness, we will feel hope and comfort. Those who lose sight of this are bound to find their suffering unbearable. This is what the Rebbe meant. Even darkness is not dark when we know it comes from Hashem.
We all suffer moments of fear, and times of heightened joy. They are given to us as opportunities to be more sensitized to Hashem’s all-consuming favor. We should always grasp onto our full trust in His being, and know that this is the one truth that is eternal.