Printer-friendly version


Harav Y. Reuven Rubin

It started with a mild cough, nothing alarming for a winter’s morning. Then things all went wrong, the cough didn’t stop, my head ached, the nose was running, and I just felt weak. I started to shiver, then the penny dropped, could I have joined the ranks of the covid afflicted? I wanted to refuse to think of such a situation, after two years of steady fears about this illness, (and three vaccinations) I just didn’t want it to be that which was taking up lodgings in my body. I know that this new variant is not as harmful as the first round, but still, just the name scares you. By now I was ensconced on my bed with three blankets, shivering and davening. What else does a Yied do in such circumstances? I won’t bore the reader with any more details, I tested positive, and was told to isolate (as if I could go anywhere) and I accepted whatever the Eibishter had in store for me. At times it feels as if every past bruise and stiffness I ever experienced has been recalled as covid tap dances over my body. As I write these words, I am still fending off this new intruder. Perhaps I can share a vort I learned regarding Parshas Yisro that will bring some chizuk to all my fellow sufferers:

“You have seen what I have done to the Egyptian’s, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.” (19:4)

The Berditchever Rebbe Ztl taught that why was the eagle highlighted? Because it is the one bird that loses all its feathers regularly and grows back new ones. The Rebbe tells us that the Eibishter took out this broken nation, filled with challenges and manifold sins, He took them out so they, like eagles can jettison the old sullied feathers and grow new strengths, a new attachment to Hashem.

As so many are going through difficult health problems, let each of us Daven for new feathers, so as to facilitate our path towards greater connection with the Eibishter.

Years ago, I authored a set of seforim on Tehillim. I enclose here the piece on shir hama’alous (130) that is often said when we face health challenges may we all be gezunt.

Shir Hama’alous mimaamakim kirasicha Hashem…, “A song of ascents. Out of the depths I have called to You, Hashem.” A Gutte Yid once explained that the word “depths” indicates various levels of despair we may fall into. Each of us can find ourselves in the depths of despair, yet we must believe that no matter how low we have sunk, Hashem will hear us. The Sfas Emes tells us that “each person will realize the truth according to the level of his faith. Even the most righteous tzaddik in the world will have some point of doubt where he must have faith; even he will not reach the truth unless he has faith.” We are all prone to fall at some time, but if we have faith, and from those depths we call out, then Hashem will be there.

Hashem, shima bekoli…, “My Master, hear my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” We ask Hashem to hear the manner of our voice; to sense how stricken we are, how afraid.

Im avonos tishmor Kah…, “If G-d should take account of iniquities, my Master, who could survive?” We are but human, and thus plagued by human faults. We survive; we are here to pray, only because Hashem understands us more than we do.

Ki imecha haselicha lemaan tivarei…, “For with You is forgiveness, in order that You be feared.” Hashem forgives us so that we can come even closer and realize His enormity and care.

Kivisi Hashem kivesa nafshi…, “I hope for Hashem, my soul hopes; and for His word, I wait.” Even in my depths I understand that true hope lies only with Hashem. I may not be able to comprehend His word, His truth, but at least I wait for it with this hope. Nafshi laHashem mishomrim laboker…, “My soul waits for my Master more than the watchman waits for the morning, more than the watchman waits for the morning. ” There are those who, like watchmen, look toward the good times. They discount the evening, thinking there can be nothing positive in its veil of darkness. We stand in our gloom and see it as an opportunity to find Hashem even while we suffer. Unlike the paid watchers of this world, we find comfort within the detail that is our experience. No matter where we find ourselves now, we know that the morning will come, and its first rays will disperse the evil.

Yacheil Yisrael el Hashem…, “Wait, Israel, upon Hashem, for with Hashem there is loving-kindness, and with Him there is much redemption.” Lingering is no easy thing. Mankind expects instant answers and rapid understanding. But if we choose to “wait upon Hashem,” we will find real loving-kindness. Hashem’s love is not formulated by anything as transient as human feelings or notions. His love is infinite and has no self-serving motive. This brings its own redemption, even in the midst of our despair. “Much redemption” implies a redemption that spills over from one realm to the others, with no borders or boundaries.

Vehu yifdeh es Yisrael mikol avonosav…, “And He will redeem Israel from all its inequities.” These final words sum it all up. We will be redeemed. Hashem is faithful to His word. Whatever iniquity we find ourselves in, no matter how far into the depths we have slid, we will be redeemed.

Our only task now is to accept this truth and never allow our focus to wander. All may be chaos, and our enemies may seem to be beyond all control. This is the nature of the night, yet we must seek, trust and wait for the morning. It will come, just as surely as the sun rises after every evening. The main thing is that we keep warm in its coldness by remaining wrapped within the comforter of Hashem’s love.