The Ezra LeMarpeh Association, founded by Rabbi A. E. Firer, provides assistance to the sick and needy.
Rabbi Firer describes his work
In order to understand Rav Firer's doctrine and the driving force that pushes him in his work for the public, we wish to present some words that he wrote, as per the request of the directors of the Rabin Medical Center publication. This work was published prior to the High Holy Days:
The numerous ways on the path to helping "Ezra" to cure "Lemarpeh"
By Rabbi A.E. Firer - Chairman of Ezra Lemarpeh Organization
The road map that guides the sick while they are coping with their illness has more than one intersection. I'm probably standing at the other intersection, which the medical community in Israel passes by, sometimes without being aware of its existence.
From the moment when he stands on the threshold of the Faculty of Medicine, the Israeli doctor is being taught to get to know the patient that stands before him; to try and give him the best that is possible, while making maximal use of the medical knowledge that he has absorbed during his studies, using technology that is available to medical science and, naturally, his accumulated experience, gleaned during his years of work with patients.
The doctor comes into daily contact with a public that trusts him, sometimes as a result of private choice, and sometimes by force of beauraucracy that brings them together.
The junction where I find myself, along with the rest of Ezra Lemarpeh volunteers, is different. Our encounter with the patients and their families comes about due to their own initiative, following a prior encounter with the Health Services System. Sometimes, this initiative testifies of a lack in their self-confidence, since otherwise they would not have made the effort, at a time which is already full of worry and problems.
People come to us not in order to find cure for a disease or to get a prescription; people come to us to find encouragement and advice, to strengthen their feeling of trust and confidence for further management of an illness. They wish to know whether the road that is being offered to them is indeed the right one, or whether they should look elsewhere, by a different doctor, at another center, or using a different method of treatment.
The efforts that we invest are great, but our reward is even greater: Seeing the signs of worry and near despair on the faces of some of those who turn to us for help, and then seeing how our efforts on their behalf has ignited a spark of hope, accompanied by a somewhat calmer smile; seeing how the patients gather strength for further coping, which is an integral part of their march on the road to recovery - all of these empower us, with Divine Help, to continue with the formidable task that we took upon ourselves.
I must say that I feel very close to many doctors, some of them among the leaders in Israeli medicine, each in his own field. In spite of this, it would be hard for me to say that I know what they are feeling as they face patients who depend on their expertise and knowhow, since such an understanding requires penetrating their finer emotions which are composed of their past experiences and numerous events that make up their extensive life story.
Even if I were asked this question, I would not have been able to answer it, and certainly not in the few lines at my disposal in the framework of this essay. Nevertheless, I will try to shed some light on one aspect of the answer, the way it seems to me from my own personal perspective.
"A patient" is not an accurate definition. A patient is a person, just like you and me; he's a human being, who in one instant becomes dependent on others - depending on doctors, on medications. He could be an intellectual, a businessman, a husband and father or a lonely man. He's a human being, who must be referred to as such, and it's the duty of those around him to maintain his dignity.
In the Days of Awe, days of justice and mercy, we stand together with the whole of Klal Yisrael, pouring our hearts in prayer, imploring Merciful G-d to pass judgement with mercy, although the human mind sees these two as opposites.
At such lofty times, we believe that the destiny of each man is being decided: "Who will live, and who will die, who in his time, and who before his time, who by sword, who by fire, who by earth quake and who by plague... who will be tranquil and who will be tormented..." These words imply everything, all the incidents and events that the individual will go through during the coming year, as well as all the world events that will affect society in general: "And it will be said of the countries, which [is destined] to the sword, and which to peace..."
And now, all that is left for us to do is to watch, as in a film where the script has been pre-determined, and see how the judgment is carried out. Again, the patient in front of us is likened to a soldier in the great war. As a soldier, he must carry the burden of pain and suffering, and our duty as soldiers in the same war, is to gird up our loins and stand to his right, try to minimize the intensity of suffering and instill in him confidence in his future, while maintaing his dignity as best as we can.
We cannot fathom the reckoning of the Creator, King of the world; therefore, we cannot conclude that whoever suffers is being punished for this or that matter. Sometimes, suffering is a step towards a stage as yet hidden from us. Other times, suffering is a melting pot, preparing a man and his personality for the good that awaits him. Still, sometimes suffering serves as a signal to a person, to change direction in life and improve his way of life.
Illness and suffering are reference points in the life of a person, and precisely because of this, we are dutybound to give him the full support that he needs. The medical establishment is obliged to access to him the best that it can offer.
During my twenty years of work at Ezra Lemarpeh, I accompanied many patients. I heard them praise the medical establishment, but I also heard things to the contrary. I find myself often walking the corridors of hospitals, as an onlooker whose eye catches the numerous facets that make up what can be called "The Israeli Medical Establishment": Both the good and that which needs improving. I see patients whose care-givers see in them first the human being, giving him and those around him their very best. But, regretfully, I also encounter cases where the care-givers see only a patient, having seemingly forgotten the human being in him, the patient's soul that especially during his illness becomes more sensitive, more vulnerable to being hurt by those that he put his trust in their hands. Even if in most cases the hurt is done unintentionally, it leaves its mark engraved deep in the patient's heart, doubtlessly fracturing the wall of trust that is so essential to the success of any treatment.
Heaven forbid, I'm not trying to preach, but rather I wish to express some of the feelings of those who turn to us for help, those seeking the other junction that is not always marked on the Israeli medicine road map...