HARAV Y. REUVEN RUBIN SHLITA
Firstly, thank you all. As per a post script to my articles these last few weeks there has been a request that readers should have one Yitzchok Reuven ben Esther in mind in their tefillos. As I am said Yitzchok Reuven, I owe you all a debt of gratitude for your tefillos on my behalf and perhaps a bit of an explanation.
Some weeks ago, in fact it was the Thursday before the start of Selichos I was stricken with a tremendous searing pain in my stomach, one that had Hatzolah driving with all their lights flashing to the hospital. I’ll not bore you with the details, suffice to say that the hospital became my home for over a week. True, spending Rosh Hashonah there tethered to a tall skinny pole on wheels that was silently dispensing lifesaving medicines was certainly a different sort of Yom Tov I had planned for. As with everything in life, my health situation was complicated, with stones, septicemia, kidneys and other bits and pieces having a walk on role. Suffice to say, I was extremely unwell, (strange thing is you don’t really understand how sick you are till they explain what all those numbers mean, another tipoff is when your GP tells you ‘I’ve read your notes, and you know you were a very ill man) The Eibishter is a Gutta Tata and although I am still a bit shvach, I am home, relishing all the good Hashem has showered me with throughout these past weeks. I am astounded at the tremendous Siyata Dishmayo that followed my every step. When I was rushed into the emergency department, I was accompanied by my grandson, in the throes of all my discomfort I heard him whisper under his breath, ‘this is the same room they brought Bubby A’H into when she passed away.’ At the time I couldn’t dwell on this particular chilling aspect, but soon after I realised that even in this difficult place, my Rebbetzin was there offering me the strength to rise above the challenges and bring some sort of tikun for us all. As things began to settle and initial tests taken, it emerged that the lead consultant just happened to be the son of one of my closest friends, a member of the South Manchester Shul where I was Rav for twenty five years. Being in Hospital, on Rosh Hashonah opens one’s eyes to a myriad of insights that one can easily ignore in the normal run of things. I had wonderful care, and had the zechus to talk to many Yiddisha neshomahs that having somehow heard there is a ‘Rabbi in the House’, somehow migrated to my room. I had some lovely and enlightening schmoozes with caring souls who just barely know they are Jewish. When I learned I had to be in Hospital for Rosh Hashonah, (I was on my way home Erev Yom Tov when I received a call on my mobile telling me I must return immediately as the latest bloods showed a problem caused by what is quaintly named ‘AKI…acute kidney injury,’ which proved to be anything but cute) Once I realised that this Rosh Hashonah would indeed be drastically different I tried to settle my nerves and find some focus. Just before Yom Tov came in I had a call from a close friend who is a doctor and knows the hospital that had become my temporary home. He could tell I was floundering a bit and told me:
‘You should know there are untold numbers of Jewish doctors and staff working in the hospital, most of whom have very little idea what being Jewish means nor what Rosh Hashonah signifies. Maybe you should focus in your tefillos on all those unique neshomahs, that help save lives but have no idea about the core of their own.’
Having this information, I now had renewed focus, I wasn’t alone, instead I would share this Rosh Hashonah with sweet Yidden who could do with some spiritual energy. I won’t pretend that my tefillos are anything more than pedestrian, but for a wounded Rov who has led a congregation in one place or another for over forty years, I was strengthened to find I had a fresh opportunity, one only the Eibishter could have engineered.
As soon as Yom Tov came in strange stuff started, a young junior doctor joins a senior professor (a special Neshomah whom I learnt was a Cohen) on rounds and hears I am a Rabbi who was meant to be home with his congregation. Half an hour later she comes into my room with a bag of apples, shyly she says, ‘I have some Jewish blood and heard from my mom that on the New Year you are meant to eat apples, so here.’ Next day, after I finished davening mussaf, a nice Jewish doctor strolled in, I immediately told him, “Good Yom Tov I just finished praying that you have a good year”. He smiled with a trace of bemusement and thanked me. This was the pattern of my stay, Yiddisha Neshomalech coming by and just hinting about who they are. Words shared, thoughts felt, Yidden connecting. There is this silent understanding we all share, often unspoken but never forlorn. Rosh Hashonah afternoon, two Chabad Bochurim came, and again, despite all the rules, they were allowed into my room to blow shofar in privacy. They must have been taken aback as the tears flowed from my eyes, two sweet youngsters who had walked almost an hour to give a stranger the gift of Shomayim’s call.
So yes, I thank you all who spared a thought for the Yied in those post scripts, and for the tefillos expended for me. I am on the mend although the doctors tell me it will take a few months for me to get my strength back. There are still a few bits and pieces that need monitoring, but I am with my loved ones and even able to get to our beloved Shtieble most times.
Hashem always gives us new tasks driven by where we find ourselves. In Parshas Noach we find the passage, “And Noach opened up a window in the Teiva” The Yismach Yisroel of Alexander Ztl explained this to mean that Noach, with all that he had gone through, was given the merit to open up a window in Shomayim which would eternally break through all the obstacles that seek to hold our tefillos back. This window beckons us all to shed our insecurities and turn with humbled hearts to Kaveuchal our Father in Shomayim. We all need Rachamim now, the world is crying out for our tefillos. Yes, I certainly would have wanted my Rosh Hashonah to have been “normal” this year, but then again, we are all sharing difficult situations during the era of COVID, and “normal” has lost all its meaning. However, I thank the Eibishter for opening my eyes to what I could do with what I was given. May we all find strength in these challenging times, and seek the tikun we were born to fulfil davka now.