FROM ADVERSITY TO OPPORTUNITY
Listen out for the extra section in the Prayer for the King this Shabbat wishing His Majesty well. We pray that King Charles has a Refua Shlema, a speedy recovery from his cancer diagnosis.
The King’s openness about his condition has heightened discussion about provision for cancer care in general in this country. His situation had added poignancy as this past week, on the 6th February, it was the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, George VI, who succumbed to lung cancer.
King George had been an inveterate smoker – as many were in those days. Now we appreciate the dangers of smoking, not only to the smoker himself but also to others in his environment.
Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, a prominent halachic authority in Israel in the field of medical ethics was asked the following question by a heavy smoker who had given up the habit after many years. “I hadn’t realised all those years I was smoking, that I was harming not only my own life but the lives of others as well. Is there a form of repentance for having been a possible cause of danger to the lives of so many people in whose presence I was smoking?”
Rabbi Zilbertein replied that, going forward, he should try to be the best possible example to others in all aspects of his life. In the past, they saw a smoker. Let them now see a positive role model that they can emulate.
Additionally, Rabbi Zilberstein saw a financial component to this repentance, drawn from the laws of damages discussed in this week’s parasha and in the Talmud Bava Kama 94b (part of this week’s Daf Yomi cycle.) We read there about those who have caused damage to the public over a period of time, and are not able to identify individual victims who can be compensated. The Talmud says, as a remedy, – ya’ase bahen tzorchei rabim – they should support communal causes. Their funds should be expended to support the institutions of the community. Similarly, said Rabbi Zilberstein, our repentant smoker should use his financial resources to support communal institutions, hospitals, and, in particular, cancer treatment and research. (Chashukei Chemed Bava Kama 94b)
Turning our personal challenges into opportunities that can help others, goes to the heart of Jewish teaching. King Charles has understood that instinctively. In being open about his medical conditions, he is encouraging many others to seek the help they need. May the Almight-y grant him a complete and quick return to good health.