As he continues to battle a severe illness, Toronto Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Akiva Wagner has a heartful request for his students, alumni, and chassidim around the world.
By Rabbi Akiva Wagner – Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto
I am currently still in NY, in כאן צוה ה’ את הברכה, where I am dealing with my medical issues. Overall, BH, all of my scans are continuing to show very significant shrinkage in my disease, which is very promising. However, my roller coaster journey of the past to years has consistently been one of two steps forward and one step backward, of repeated setbacks that then had to be dealt with.
About 2 months ago, I started experiencing increased back pain, that was gradually becoming more severe, until it started affecting my functionality (which led to my decision to transfer, temporarily, my medical care to the United States). The scans showed that, despite the very significant shrinkage in most places הודו לה’ כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו, there was some spreading of the disease in the bones of the spine. This made my last treatment be no longer a viable option (besides the fact that my last treatment was causing me very severe side effects ל”ע ול”ע), and was immediately stopped.
A bit over 2 weeks ago I had radiation to my spine, to address that specific problem. BH, the severe back pain has now been eliminated (and I managed BH on my own to get off all of my very strong pain meds, that were bringing their own negative side effects). But my back was still affected by all of the abuse, and I am now experiencing difficulty standing and walking, and next week I will be starting physical therapy to bring everything back to normal (very quickly, IYH and BEH).
I also met with my primary doctor this week (besides all of the other doctors and nurses etc. that I am always spending so much time with), and he outlined his plans for my next treatment, which should start in about 2 weeks, and he continues to be very positive and very optimistic.
I am learning, these days, about the frailness and fragility of the human being. We are nothing more than a pathetic sack of blood and bones. As soon as a few small things stop functioning properly, we can lose ourselves completely and become incompetent..
And I am learning Brochos.
No, I am not learning gemoro brochos, nor even mishnayos brochos, unfortunately. But I am learning to better appreciate certain brochos. And, there are two specific ones that I would like to share with you:
Practically the very first brocho that we make every single day, is the brocho of Asher Yotzar. And, we then recite it – at least – another few times throughout the day. But, how much attention do we give to it, how much do we actually focus on what we are saying? In this brocho we are thanking Hashem for some of our most crucial bodily functions. But how much do we take them for granted?
When, chas veshalom ל”ע ול”ע, there are challenges to these functions (and, unfortunately, many people have experienced it at various levels and in various ways), then we learn better how vital they are to our existence. And when the challenges are more serious, they can be debilitating r”l. As we say in the brocho – אי אפשר להתקיים אפילו שעה אחת, – it can be, ch”v r”l, not survivable.
[Just this week, I heard of a wealthy individual who was suffering severe constipation. He called emergency, and told them that anyone who could bring him relief could have his house (which was valued at 6 million dollars)! He later shared the story to illustrate how, in such a state r”l nothing else matters!].
And yet, when they function normally BH, we tend to take them for granted, and fail to appreciate them properly. We breeze through the brocho, each time we say it, without giving a second thought to what we are saying. [In fact, sometimes we may even feel annoyed, that we have to spend even more time, after using the restroom, before getting back to our football game or to our hot air balloon].
And, then, the last brocho we make in the day is the brocho of Hamapil. It’s a tremendous brocho and kindness of the Eibishter that He is מפיל חבלי שינה על עיני ותנומה על עפעפי, – that he enables us to fall asleep at night, and renew and refresh our kochos, and begin the new day fresh. But, again, sometimes it takes experiencing a challenge in this area to properly appreciate it. [In fact, some times, some of us, can have such a brocho, such an easy time falling asleep, that we fall asleep before we manage to even say Hamapil, without realizing that that itself is the strongest reason to say an even more heartfelt and sincere brocho of thankfulness and appreciation!].
I want to, therefore make a suggestion. Bu, it is more than a suggestion. It is a personal request, for a personal favor. It is a bakosho nafshis, a heartfelt request, that I am begging each and every one of you to consider:
Let us each resolve to give a bit more attention and focus, at least to these two brochos. I am not speaking about a lot of time. But, 3 to 5 seconds before making these brochos, stop, pause first, and consider what you are about to say, and express appreciation for. And spend an additional (at least) 3 to 5 seconds saying the brochos, enunciating each word clearly and actually focussing on what you are saying.
If each brocho gets an increased 10 seconds, it will still amount to less than 5 minutes throughout the day. In fact, it shouldn’t be more than 2 minutes. And, as busy as each of you are (and I know that each and every one of you are busy 24/7, doing good and positive things and changing the world for the better), I think everyone can still afford an additional 2-5 minutes a day to express our appreciation to the Eibishter for the amazing brochos that He bestows upon us.
Undoubtedly, since almost all of the brochos of the day are sandwiched between these two, this will also enhance our recital of all of the brochos, throughout the day.
And this should be for the zechus of every single Yid who needs a yeshua, and especially in any of these areas, that the asher yotzar and the hamapil should function properly and flawlessly. I want to also add another heartfelt request, that I haven’t made before (IIRC): Please, please, spread this, share this, promote this, to as many people as you can reach, and especially to community leaders, teachers, educators and those who can influence others. Let’s get this going!
I truly and sincerely believe that the power of these brochos will be more potent than any medicines and any laxatives and any melatonin’s, and can truly bring a yeshuah to all who need it (and, sadly, there are so many). In any case, this is my prescription, and it won’t cost anyone a penny (except for the 2-5 minutes that everyone can readily afford).
Let every Yid be spared of any type of pain and suffering altogether. And, may every Yid be spared, specifically the agony of constipation, or the challenge of insomnia. For that matter, let the Eibishter, let G-d Al-mighty be the one to suffer some sleeplessness instead! It’s time for us to see some עורה למה תישן ה’! It’s time for us to see some בלילה ההוא נדדה שנת המלך – זה מלכו של עולם!
Let the insomnia, instead, replace the אני ישנה בגלותא, the היינו כחולמים. The state of golus, of slumber, is what should end, and we should all march together, in complete health ad the greatest joy the rebuilt beis hamikdash with Moshiach NOW!!!
L’chaim! Let us each give a bit more attention and focus to our brochos, and especially the first and last brochos of the day, and may we very speedily and imminently be able to make – with utmost concentration, focus and joy – the brocho n the geulah ho’amitis vehashleima with the immediate hisgalus of Melech haMoshiach TUMYM!!!