The Great Miracle of the Volcano Shutdown
A universal crisis, millions of people stranded, billions of dollars lost, and one volcanic eruption in Iceland causes chaos across the European continent. Within all this tumult, one Jew merits a smile from the Creator of the World, as if G-d was whispering to him - My son, the whole world was not created except for you כל העולם לא נברא אלא בשבילי.
The story begins with a young Yeshiva student, an 18 year old Yerushalmi, who was mortally ill with fulminate hepatic failure.
With little hope of receiving a liver transplant in Israel, Rav Firer sought to send the boy on an emergency flight to Brussels, the world center of liver transplants. The only problem however, is that Brussels under no circumstances transplants non-EU patients, in order to save the scanty supply of livers for Europeans. Nevertheless, it was decided to send him to Brussels despite this knowledge.
The young student had no choice but to include his name on the long waiting list for a liver transplant. In the meantime, he tried to maintain his learning despite the illness, consciously aware that it would takes weeks, months, and even years till he will be able to be given a new liver. Many patients were on the waiting list, and his name was somewhere on the bottom... And when his turn would finally arrive, it had to completely match his blood type and other medical criteria. If not a perfect match, he'd need to continue waiting ... for a miracle.
However, רבות מחשבות בלב איש ועצת ה' היא תקום Many thoughts in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of H-Shem shall stand. H-Shem had a different plan for this young Yeshiva student and H-Shem's loyal servants produced avalanches of hot ash, rock and gas, causing Europe to completely shut down its skies into a no-fly zone. It was during this time that a young Yerushalmi was sitting in the yeshiva learning Torah in the capital of Belgium.
During the course of the shut-down airspace above Europe, a person died in the hospital in the capital of Belgium, a person who had agreed to donate his liver to anyone that might need it. Astonishingly, a liver that was perfectly parametric for our young Yeshiva student.
Health authorities in Belgium began searching the liver transplant waiting list, but ‘unfortunately’ not even one patient was able to fly into Belgium for the healthy liver due to the volcanic eruption.
As they advanced further on the waiting list, they reached the young Yeshiva student, but it was not offered to him due to his lack of citizenship. As the clock closed in on the deadline for time within which the liver would still be viable, however, no one else was able to arrive in Belgium for the transplant except this young Yerushalmi.
With clear Divine Intervention, this budding talmid chacham received the liver and is now recovering from surgery.
The enormity of this miracle was even greater after the successful transplant. The doctors said that the young student's liver was very deteriorated and diseased, and it was a matter of days before it would have stopped functioning completely. The doctors unanimously believe that if he had had to continue waiting for a transplant, he would not have survived.
Who can understand the Ways of HKB'H?
I have a real problem with these stories in general, and I guess this case really underscores why. Just imagine the other stories that are not being circulated on the internet. Young mother/child/groom/ whoever on waiting list, desperate for transplant, the right liver finally available and s/he finally on top of the list – but could not fly to Belgium due to the volcano and, r”l, passed away. I don’t know what happened to whom regarding this liver, but neither do those circulating this story know whose heart could be breaking as they read it. Hashem’s ways are indeed mysterious and above our logical comprehension systems. But let’s not pretend that the hashgacha always works out for the apparent good of everyone affected.
I happen to think we in our generation, and especially from an educational standpoint our young people, are more in need of examples of tziduk hadin and moving forward in life despite disappointment, loss and suffering, than we are in need of further gushes of chicken soup for our already entitlement-ridden souls. Because this genre has become so ubiquitous, and we are encouraging people to identify (as if they could!) ‘hashgacha pratis’ in their lives, I fear we are weakening rather than strengthening the kind of emuna needed to make it through the real lives most of us lead, the ones in which people die, illness hurts, and hopes are dashed, at least sometimes. I find these kinds of stories dangerous, not only because they promote magical thinking and reinforce theological beliefs of dubious basis in authoritative Jewish sources, but because they reinforce some sort of fantasy that we can ignore the gemara about kesheim shemevarchin al hatov etc. When young people raised on this intellectual diet of gruel actually encounter challenges in life, will they have the keilim, and the examples, to integrate them into their mindset and avodas Hashem? Will they conclude, consciously or unconsciously, that they are unworthy because miracles didn’t happen for them? Will they feel cheated out of the hashgacha protis they have been guaranteed and end up angry at their religion r”l?
I don’t know, I just feel sometimes we in the frum community live in a haze of wishful thinking we have allowed and sometimes even encouraged. I don’t mean to be a downer but to say, let’s recognize and fix our problems rather than distracting ourselves from them. For every heartwarming story circulated I’d like to see at least one story that calls us to action, and I mean action to take responsibility for our dysfunctionalities. If only the energy put into the campaign to save Shalom Rubashkin from being overly punished for his crimes could be equally put into a campaign to rid ourselves of corruption and fraud and teach the importance of transparency, integrity, and accountability. I am seriously considering contacting the guy who started the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation and encouraging him to start a new prong of the movement aimed towards Emes and Yashrus.