Parsha Mitzvot: Shofetim: Mitzvah 498 – Concept 317
I recently had a talk with a different sort of doctor. As he described his frustration dealing with other doctors and insurance companies he spoke of how he deal with patients: “I always call my patients a day or two after I see them to make sure that they are feeling better.” Wow! I have been seen by hundreds of doctors and have never received such a call.
“I always call a patient after he has seen a specialist to whom I sent him to make sure that all went well.” Never happened to me!
“I always sit down with a patient before examination to talk and get a feel for their general sense of well-being.” I can’t even imagine that happening. I wait and wait, go to the examination room, change into a gown, wait again until the doctor comes, and then, one, two, three, he is finished.
“I spend hours researching symptoms I cannot diagnose. I call more experienced doctors. I search for new articles. I will do all I can so I can help my patients.” Nope, never experienced that either.
I carefully listened to this doctor and realized that I had to improve as a Rabbi. I began calling people a day or two after a meeting or conversation to see how they are doing. I now call a student after they have gone to another Rabbi to whom I sent him for a consultation. I have also tried to spend a few extra minutes with someone who calls or visits to get a better sense of their general well-being. I will also spend more time considering ways to help each person, especially those for whom I do not have answers or advice.
Someone recently called me to thank me for the extra attention, “It made a big difference. Thank you.” It was this doctor! “I learned this practice from you,” I said, but he refused to accept my compliment.
This doctor helped me understand something else: I have always wondered why we need the Rosh Hashana Judgment if we are judged every night while we sleep. I understand that they are different sorts of judgments, but I didn’t have peace with that explanation.
Perhaps, Rosh Hashana is the doctor’s appointment, and the daily judgment is God’s way of following up with us every day, as if to say, “I’m thinking about you. How are you doing?”
We find a similar concept in this week’s portion: “And if a Levite come from any of your gates out of all Israel, where he sojourns, and come with all the desire of his soul to the place which God shall choose; then he shall minister in the name of God, his Lord, as all his brethren the Levites do, who stand there before the God.They shall have like portions to eat, beside that which is his due according to the fathers’ houses.” (Deuteronomy 18:6-8) The Kohanim shall work in the Beit Hamikdash according to their shifts, and on the festivals, they shall all serve. (Sefer HaChinuch #498) The Kohanic work shifts must be equal during the Holidays. (Rambam, Hilchot Klei Hamikdash v’HaOvdim Bo – The Laws of The Temple Vessels and Those Who Serve in It)
The semi-annual shifts are the doctor’s appointment. They are the time when the Kohanim come to directly face God, be inspired, and restart their Spiritual missions. They carry their new heights with them as they return home to guide and teach. Their holiday shifts are the follow-up phone calls, when they can report on their progress.
It seems that my doctor-friend’s approach is thematic to a life dedicated to Spiritual Growth: We can learn from him and from these and other commandments, to focus on certain times and experiences as the “Big” appointment, and other times as follow up phone calls.
We can look at Shabbat as the appointment, and the Psalm of the Day at the conclusion of the morning prayers as the follow up phone call.
We can listen to the Elul Shofar as the phone call asking us how effective was last year’s Rosh Hashana meeting with the Shofar.
Perhaps we can dedicate each day of Elul as a different follow up phone call; each day focusing on one issue we addressed in last year’s Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur appointment.
I thank this doctor for teaching me a lesson that has enriched my life. He has changed me. I hope he can, despite his great humility, accept these words, and rejoice in his helping me become a better Spiritual Healer.