A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:
It's late Saturday night in a bar in the Jewish section of town. A man and a dog walk into a bar. The man orders a slivovitz for himself, and for his dog, a beer in a dish. He and the bartender and the guy next to them start telling shul stories and the man says, "My dog can daven." The other two don't believe him and bets are made. The man leans over to the dog and asks him for a shtikele chazzonish. The dog begins Hin'ni from Yom Kippur and he's incredible. Sounds like a combo of Yossele Rosenblatt and Moishe Oysher. The other two pay up their bets and ask, "So why isn't the dog a chazzan? The man replies, "You tell him. He wants to be a doctor."
This article is a heart-felt thank you to all in our congregation and all over the world who, though you are intelligent and disciplined and talented enough to have been successful at almost anything, decided to devote your lives to healing. Your commitment to the well-being of others, your fascination with the art and science of medicine, the rush (I'll just say it!) you get from being on the front line of confronting illness and death, and much more, gave you the determination to do a demanding job. Altruism is a big part of it. Sure you get paid, but you freely give so much extra time and energy. The pay, though important, is secondary. The rest of us, who either didn't think of becoming doctors or rejected it, have surely thought at some time, "You couldn't give me enough money to do that."
And now. Upon you - med technicians, nurses, and doctors - is a pandemic. You're burdened with an overload greater than what you might have imagined save in your most theoretical worst-case musings. COVID has brought into focus some of the hardest edged issues of medicine. There are long hours of high stress anxiety from which it takes more time to recover than you have. You need to cope with not knowing what this disease really does, a challenge for those who ideally follow a precise, science based way of life. Every day, aware that you may lose patients to death, you find in your hearts well-springs of compassion to offer to the dying and their loved ones. And all this while taking careful precautions to avoid contact with a virus that might be lethal.
To say that we are grateful seems, in comparison to what you do, very understated. Of course we say it anyway and mean it. One of my valued and trusted physician friends urges that we add action to speech. Support local hospitals with a donation. Give to world-wide charities such as Doctors without Borders. Look at the website https://disasterphilanthropy.org/cdp-fund/cdp-covid-19-response-fund/and others for guidance. (I haven't vetted this source.) Medical practitioners, I'm glad you're reading this. Send me your suggestions, and I'll publish them.
The prayer for healing we recite in the synagogue says, "May God strengthen the hands of all those who devote themselves to the needs of the ill." I'll add, "and strengthen your hearts, your compassion, your wisdom, and your courage." Amen.