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The World Has Not Come to an End

Aharon Granevich-Granot

“I do not get involved with Divine calculations. Hashem does whatever is necessary, and I accept His decrees with love.” As Rav Yaakov Yosef battles an illness that has a 5 percent survival rate, he spoke candidly about his prognosis, his commitment not to deviate from his intense Torah schedule, and his belief in the goodness of Divine decrees. He’s not embarrassed to beseech the public for their prayers, yet refuses to buckle under the burden of his fate.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

rav yaakovIt’s four o’clock in the morning and daybreak has yet to arrive, but Mearas HaMachpeilah in Chevron is filled with people. Dozens of people, regular visitors and others, await the monthly shiur delivered by Rav Yaakov Yosef.

Speculation is in the air at the kollel vasikin in Mearas HaMachpeilah. Will Rav Yosef even show up? After last week’s dire announcement that the Rav, the firstborn son of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, is battling for his life with pancreatic cancer, the regulars — and the first-timers who came especially to hear him — are not sure.

Rav Yaakov Yosef appears at his usual spot — walking with confidence and exuding strength — and begins to deliver his shiur on hilchos mamzeirus. A glance at his face reveals neither the days of difficulty he has experienced nor the intense treatments he has undergone. The shiur is presented in his trademark clear, flowing language.

 “I Am an Optimist”

The Rav is brutally honest with himself, and doesn’t shy away from difficult questions. As soon as Shacharis is over, he consents to an interview, patiently answering even the most personal questions.

“I had been walking around with intense stomach pains for the past two months already,” the Rav tells his story as if it were almost incidental. “I wasn’t able to eat solid food, and no one knew why. Finally I had a CT scan of my stomach and the doctors found a growth. The next step was to perform a biopsy, to take out a portion of the growth and send it for tests. The test was positive. Two weeks ago, the doctor gave me the official notice: yes, I am suffering from the dreaded disease.”

Such sudden, unexpected (or even suspected) news would make most people’s world fall apart, but Rav Yosef, 65, says that for him, “the world cannot fall apart for a believing person who knows he can’t question Hashem. Hashem knows what He’s doing; I don’t need to get involved with His calculations. I need only to strengthen myself in Torah and yiras Shamayim and to daven to Hashem to help us, if not for myself then for the sake of my family, for my students, and for anyone else who needs me.

“The truth,” he adds after a brief pause, “is that the world has not come to an end. I sat with a professor who explained the slim odds of surviving this disease. We’re in an advanced stage already, and the chances of recovery are between 3 and 5 percent.” The Rav recites these facts without a trace of distress in his voice.

“The professor looked at me after all of that and said the most important words, which were a lesson in mussar even though he is not religious. ‘In the Torah-observant community,’ he told me, ‘the statistics are completely different. These numbers have no effect on you. You have your faith and your prayers, and your chances of recovery are different. We see more miracles in your sector of the population than with any other patients.’ I won’t get into Hashem’s cheshbonos; everything He does is good, and I accept His decree with love. I am very optimistic,” the Rav declares.

 

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