A highly potent cocktail of drugs slowly drips from the IV into the back of Rav Yechiel Michel Stern’s right hand. Rav Stern will be spending the next two hours here in a medical clinic near Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital, as his doctors administer a regular dose of chemotherapy. But the grueling regimen doesn’t affect his upbeat spirit in the least. “Hodu laHashem, Give thanks to Hashem,” he says as we begin to speak. It’s a refrain I will hear throughout our conversation.
A year ago, before the fifteenth yahrtzeit of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztz”l, I sought to speak with Rav Yechiel Michel Stern, a ben bayis in Rav Shlomo Zalman’s household and nephew by marriage, who authored the biography HaMaor HaGadol on the gadol. But the conversation was short and painful. “I’m very sick. I have to undergo a serious surgery and I’m not sure how it will end. I’m too busy right now for an interview,” he refused me regretfully, but firmly.
I was deeply disappointed. Rav Stern, who has served as the rav of the Ezras Torah neighborhood in Jerusalem for over forty years, is renowned in the Torah world for the seforim he has authored on Torah and halachah. To date, he has published eighty-four such seforim! His works are clear and elucidating, and he brings vivid examples of the cases he describes. The news that he was seriously ill was very troubling for me. Over the subsequent few weeks, I kept tabs on his medical condition through friends and neighbors, who told me he was consulting with senior specialists. With the passage of time, though, the whole matter slipped my mind.
Almost a year went by. Two weeks ago, I needed one of the seforim that he authored and I remembered the Rav’s illness. A friend told me that his condition had improved dramatically. “He experienced a tremendous miracle because of some dream. He promised to publicize what he had been through, but he hasn’t yet found the time for it,” the friend told me. I called Rav Stern. He sounded vibrant, energetic, and very busy.
“Interview?” he queried. “When will I have time?”
“I heard that you promised to publicize the miracle,” I said.
“That’s true,” he said and then immediately instructed me: “Come on Thursday evening to the clinic. I have to spend two hours there for treatment, during which I can tell you the story.”
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