Thursday, November 23, 2006

Dr Weiss on Rosh Chodesh Kislev

Portrait by Stephen Bennett

Although I am posting this a little late, I was impressed with the letter -publicised by Shmais - from Dr Ira Weiss, the Rebbe's cardiologist. According to Shmais this letter was written for the Rosh Chodesh Seudas Hoadaah held in Chicago. Dr Weiss, who lives in Chicago, was one of the specialists called in after the Rebbe had his heart attack on Shmini Atzeres in 5748 (1977). Over the years he was regularly seen in Crown Heights when he would come to see the Rebbe - and the Rebbetzin - for medical check-ups.

I have reproduced the letter below as I believe it gives an insight into the seriousness of the situation which the chassidim were not aware of at the time. Also, I have highlighted a section in which, to my mind, the Rebbe indicates an important way relate to our spouse.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Kislev!

Although the stories of our joy on being able to "release" the Rebbe from his "medical confinement" on Rosh Chodesh Kislev 29 years ago have often been retold, they still are able to freshly rekindle the spark and spirit of that miraculous moment. At the time this miracle occurred, we, the doctors, could not possibly have divulged the magnitude of the miracle. In doing so, we would have revealed to the public how very extensive was the Rebbe's heart attack and how many doctors on the team felt that the victim of such a heart attack could not realistically be expected to have much of a future, both in terms of longevity and functionality. In making such pronouncements at that time, as "realistic" as they seemed to many of us, we would have stymied the Rebbe's leadership and contact with his followers. Not one of his Chassidim would have thought to burden the Rebbe with personal problems or community matters if we had announced how limited was the Rebbe's cardiac reserve or how precarious was the stability of his heart rhythm. (Indeed, this was clearly demonstrated on his first post-recovery Farbrengen, Yud-Tes Kislev, when Dr. Larry Resnick and I watched in private horror as a hidden heart rhythm monitor demonstrated some very threatening cardiac arrhythmia's during each of the Sichos but not during the Ma'amar.) Fortunately, the doctors kept their "pronouncements" and "predictions" to themselves on Yud-Tes Kislev, and HaShem granted the Rebbe a most miraculous and unanticipated 15 years of Full-Throttle worldwide leadership, teaching, and inspiration - and with complete contact with all his following.

A under emphasized perspective of Rosh Chodesh Kislev is the perspective of Rebbetzin Schneerson, who joyously saw the "return home" of her dear husband. To the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, their limited but very precious moments together constituted the high point of their day. As the Rebbe explained to me, setting aside time for a daily tea with his wife was as important to him as setting aside time to observe the Mitzvah of T'fillin.

I hope you might be able to relate these comments to your students. In these words are lessons that pessimism, even "realisitic" pessimism, should not always hold sway. Also included is the idea that human relationships, especially the relationship of a husband and wife, should be on a level of elevation and holiness as high as that of any of the other Mitzvot.

A Lichtige Chodesh Kislev!

Ira Weiss