The Ezra LeMarpeh Association, founded by Rabbi A. E. Firer, provides assistance to the sick and needy.

Words from Rabbi E. Firer for 5773

Words from Rabbi E. Firer for 5773

On the patients’ path towards recovery, there is more than one intersection, and it would seem that I stand at the other intersection, the one that the Israeli medical community passes over, usually without knowing of its existence.

On the patients’ path towards recovery, there is more than one intersection, and it would seem that I stand at the other intersection, the one that the Israeli medical community passes over, usually without knowing of its existence.
From the moment an Israeli doctor begins his studies, he learns to recognize the patient in front of him and to attempt to provide him with the best treatment possible, making the best use of the knowledge he has acquired in his studies, of the technological means available to him, and of the experience he has gained over the years of working with patients.
He has daily contact with a public that trusts him implicitly, whether through choice or bureaucratic coincidence.
The intersection I stand at, with the rest of Ezra Lemarpeh’s volunteers, is a different one. Our contact with the patients and their families is made through their initiative, following a previous encounter with the health system. This initiative often testifies to their lack of self confidence, otherwise they would not have gone to the trouble of doing so, as they are busy with other, greater, troubles.
People do not come to us to receive a cure to their disease. They come to us for encouragement and advice, come to find strength for the rest of their struggle, to find out if the path of treatment suggested to them is the correct one, or whether, perhaps, they should seek it elsewhere, with a different doctor, a different medical center, or a different method of treatment.
Our great efforts on their behalf are well paid. We can see the signs of worry and despair on the faces of some of our supplicants, and then see how our work for them has lit a sliver of hope in their hearts, accompanied by a relaxed smile. We can see how patients gain new strength to continue their struggle for life, strength that is necessary for them on their path to recovery. All these, with the help of G-d, fill us with strength of our own, to carry on the difficult task we have taken upon ourselves.
Despite my personal acquaintance with many doctors, among them the leading professionals of Israeli medicine, I cannot say that I know what is in their hearts as they face their patients, who so badly need their experience and skills. This type of understanding would require me to penetrate their most delicate emotions, which are no doubt composed of the many events from their past that make up their extensive life.
Were I to be asked this question, I would be unable to answer it, certainly not in these few lines I am writing here, but I would still like to seize the opportunity of shedding some light on some of the components of the answer, as I see them from my point of view.
“Patient” is a bad definition. A patient is a person like me or you, a human being like all human beings of this world. It is a human being whose life has been abruptly interrupted, who has been reduced in a split second to be dependent upon others, upon doctors and medications. Whether this human being is an intellectual, a businessperson with a family, or a complete loner, this person is a human being who is worthy of the title, and those around this human being must do their utmost to preserve their dignity.
During the High Holidays, the days of judgment and mercy, we stand with the entire People of Israel and pour our hearts out in the hope that the judgment made shall be indeed merciful, even if the human mind finds these two mutually exclusive, for mercy is viewed as the withholding of judgment.
In these hours of greatness, we believe that a man’s fate is decided, “who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by fire, who by the sword, who by upheaval, who by plague… who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer.” These words enclose everything, all the events in a person’s life in the coming year, and all events in the life of humanity, “concerning the nations it shall be said then: “Which for the sword and which for peace.”
From now on, all we can do is watch as our lives unfold like a film whose script has been written, and see judgment being carried out. The patient before us is like a soldier in the great battle, a soldier doomed to suffer. Our duty as soldiers on the same battlefield is to stand at their side, try to reduce their suffering, and give them confidence for their future while maintaining their dignity.
We do not know the mind of the Creator of the Universe, and cannot conclude that the sufferer before us is being punished. Sometimes, suffering is but one stage in a road still unclear to the human eye, and sometimes it is a melting pot to prepare a person for the good yet to come, but in other cases, suffering can be a sign for someone to right their ways and straighten their path.
Illness and suffering are an important point in a person’s life, and especially for this reason, it is our duty to give them all the support they require, and the duty of the medical establishment to give them access to the best it can provide.
In my thirty-four years with Ezra Lemarpeh I have accompanied many patients, and have heard them praise or condemn the medical establishment. In my many days on the hospital wards as an observer, I saw the many sides of the Israeli medical establishment – that which is good, and that which needs improvement. I saw staff regard patients as human beings foremost, and giving them and their families the best they had, but I have also encountered, to my great sorrow, patients who are regarded only as patients, the human being within them forgotten. The patients souls, in times of illness, become more sensitive and more prone to injury by those they entrust their health with. Even though in most cases the hurt was done unknowingly, it is etched deep into the patients’ hearts, and without a doubt damage the implicit faith they must have in order for the medical treatment to succeed.
I do not intend to preach to you, but only to carry the sentiments of those who apply for our help, those who seek the other intersection, which is not always marked upon the Israeli medical map.