BeHar Sinai- weekly Torah portion
It is with great sense of pride that I am devoting the week’s Dvar Torah to my daughter Limor on the occasion of receiving her MD degree. Limor has served as an office with the Israel Airforce, now at the rank of Major in reserves. In the past two years she studies at the Sheba Hospital in Tel HaShomer. In her honor I would like to discuss this time three sentence from the portion of BeHar Sinai which we read this Shabbat; “Now in case a brother of yours becomes impoverished and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, may he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not give him your money at interest, nor your food for gain.”
There are some fundamental truths in these few sentences. Firstly, when someone is in need we must be there for them, we should give a landing hand to sustain them. We must make it easier for them when they are in such situations, for example by not charging them higher interest rates at their time of need so that they can continue to live. There is also a demand that they will be able to live amongst us, with us, and therefore despite their negative financial conditions we may not brush them aside and out of our lives. This law clearly applies to every one equally, “a stranger or a sojourner”. Even in those bygone era there was an assumption in the law that there will be an attempt to try and prevent those of lesser means from part taking in society while those who are or seem to be well to do, will remain part of society’s fabric. The use of the term “brother” is of importance here as it signifies that both the stranger and the sojourner are a brother and should be treated as such.
Rashi suggests an explanation to the commandment “to sustain him”, in Hebrew “וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ” – “Do not let him go down until he falls and then it will be difficult to help him up, rather give a landing hand when he just loses his balance. It is like a donkey carrying a heavy load – while it is on the donkey’s back one person can help it stop from falling. Once it falls down, even five people cannot put it back again.” Too many times we wait for too long, we direct resources not to those who really need it and could benefit of it, but rather to those who take advantage to the fact that they have access to resources. As a result those of real need are unable to receive it and not before long social gaps appear and societal strains develop. Once a person falls the resources needed to fix the situation are great, or as Rashi puts it, even five are not enough to repair the wrong that a single person could have if timely provided.
The medical profession deals most of the time with people in need. Some are about to fall others have fallen. The physicians and their staff are there to help, land a caring hand, fix and mend, without differentiating between the stranger and the sojourner, all get the same medical care. Especially in these days when the costs of medical treatment are skyrocketing it seems that the commandment regarding the case of “a brother of yours becomes impoverished” on the need to allow for meaningful medical care to anyone in need, especially when at times of difficulty and distress. Over the past few years I found myself twice in hospitals, once at the Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer for an emergency surgery to fix a torn retina, and once at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem to fix heart valves. In both cases I experienced high quality care and a personal and human caring.
Unfortunately we do read, this week too, about a case of an assault on medical staff in a hospital. We ought to raise our voice against this violent occurrence that should be eradicated. The medical staff is there to provide cure and help to ailing persons, to make sure that a patient is taken care of before they fall. Physically attacking personnel of the medical staff, even in the case of legitimate grievances, defeats this purposes. It delays the time by which they are able to provide their services to people in need. The State of Israel must find ways to allow medical doctors to provide their services without being exposed in an environment that lands to such occurrences.
To my dear daughter I am taking this public opportunity to wish her all the best in her new capacity as a medical doctor. To know when and how to reach out to a patient with care, love and on time. To be there for people, everyone, without fear, with no discrimination, and while delivering a second to none quality of medicine. To remember that even if this can improve her financial status it should never be at the expense of those who are the weakest in our society, and who are begging and yearning to find that hand which will pull them back in with us, their extended family. Best wishes to you, Limor, and all your friends and colleagues of this wonderful profession and labor of love.
Reuven Marko, 4 may 2018, 20 Eyar, 5778