On Rosh HaShanah, the Yom HaDin, when we daven, the key is for us to ask Hashem to shower us with all that we need – not for our good, not for our comfort, but because we wish to be able to serve Him better. Hashem wants us to reach out to Him, but we must remember to beg and beseech Him so that we can be more complete ovdei Hashem, using our every day to serve and bring honor to His name. There will be no greater z’chus.
The following story was related first-hand to Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger, who masterfully put it into words. Chaim is currently a talmid at Mesivta Bais Shraga in Monsey, who for years had experienced pain in his feet; but over a year and a half ago, around Pesach time, the aching and throbbing worsened. He went to several podiatrists, who told him that it is likely due to juvenile arthritis. They prescribed special insoles to alleviate his discomfort.
As time passed, the pain got worse, not better, and it spread to his toes and other parts of his body – even his eyes. Chaim visited doctors and specialists, who ruled out arthritis but couldn’t identify the cause of the pain.
This continued for months. By the time summer arrived, Chaim found it difficult to even stand. He was experiencing excruciating pain, and his search for an answer or cure continued. Chaim was put in touch with more doctors, and then he was referred to a specific physician, one of the best in the country. This expert prescribed therapy and conducted blood tests to determine the cause of Chaim’s pain. With each test and visit, the doctor ruled out another ailment, but he could not say for certain what was going on. This doctor, who works in a prominent Manhattan hospital, gave Chaim a special antibiotic, hoping that if there was an infection of some sort, he would feel relief. But he did not, as the pain continued unabated.
Still not knowing what was attacking his body, Chaim went on a family trip to Eretz Yisrael during the summer. He was in agony the entire time, barely functioning and even with medicine, he admitted, “I was falling apart.” The pain persisted upon his return to the United States and additional tests, X-rays, and scans were administered. Still nothing.
With the start of Elul z’man, Chaim felt weak and tired. He experienced severe headaches when he tried to use his brain. He was told by some that he was a hypochondriac and that the pain he claimed to be feeling was in his mind more than anywhere else. “Get a grip,” was the unspoken message. His doctor still couldn’t identify the cause of his ailments, but he listed several illnesses with no known cure that he suspected might be the cause. After two additional tests on his heart and other parts of his body, the respected physician threw his hands up in despair, telling Chaim, “I don’t know what to do with you.”
As the Yamim Nora’im approached, Chaim was apprehensive about the long davening. Chaim recalled hearing what the Zohar writes that on the Yom HaDin, when one senses a particularly strong feeling of his’or’rus and stimulation, that is the moment when one’s individual judgment in Heaven is taking place. On the first day of Rosh HaShanah, right before t’kias shofar, Chaim suddenly experienced a rush of emotion and inspiration. He felt like something had hit him. Overtaken by the moment, he began to pour out his heart to Hashem. With great intent, he prayed: “Asei l’maan Sh’mecha. Asei l’maan y’minecha,” etc., which we recite each day in Elokai N’tzor, asking Hashem to act for His sake, not for ours.
Chaim broke down, sobbing. As his body shook, the experiences of the last half-year filled his mind. The pain, the frustration, the distress, the uncertainty overtook him. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he cried out, “Hashem, I can’t be an oveid Hashem like this. I can’t learn Torah like this. I can’t do what I am supposed to do. You put me in this world to serve You. Please, give me back my kochos and my abilities, and let me be normal again so that I can serve You properly!” As Chaim concluded the most powerful prayer of his life, t’kias shofar began. Chaim regained his composure and prepared himself for Musaf.
And that was when he noticed that he felt different. Something had happened. He felt like a new person. He was able to stand, something that had been so arduous before. Incredibly, he stood for the entire Sh’moneh Esrei of Musaf, which he had thought was going to be an impossibility. It was extraordinary. It was simply remarkable.
After Yom Tov, Chaim told his rav what had happened. “I can’t explain it, but I am feeling stronger and more like myself.” Although he wasn’t sure if he could fast on Tzom Gedaliah, indeed, Chaim tried. And he fasted quite well.
With his newfound strength, Chaim, who hadn’t worn regular shoes for almost six or seven months, put on his Shabbos shoes for Shabbas Shuvah. They felt comfortable. He felt normal. No pain. No discomfort. No aching or soreness.
On Yom Kippur, Chaim fasted once again. Bizarre as it might have been, but Chaim felt strong. In fact, he didn’t find the fast to be tiring at all. With each passing day, Chaim awoke to find that his health had been restored. He was a new person. The gift of healthy living – something many take for granted – had somehow been returned to him.
It all led back to that surreal moment on Rosh HaShanah. Hashem heard his impassioned pleas and had mercy.
As the winter z’man began, Chaim went back to the beis midrash of Bais Shraga as a bachur who had been given a new lease on life. He wants others to know his story. He wants fellow Yidden to know that the judgment of Rosh HaShanah is so real. “Last year is last year and this year is this year,” he says. “We are able to leave the past behind and be zocheh to a future filled with brachah, good health, parnasah, and whatever else we need.”