My Personal Purim Story 5777 and the Ribbono Shel Olam’s Amazing Hashgacha Pratis Revealed
On February 22, 2017, I boarded my El Al fl ight to JFK on a fundraising trip on behalf of Yeshivas Ohr Yehoshua Nesivos Hatorah a premier yeshiva gedola in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
My second Shabbos in Flatbush was a very cold day and as I stepped out into the below freezing air I felt my body and chest momentarily tighten as I proceeded to shul for shacharis. I felt good (and in fact enjoyed the cold as it reminds me of skiing) walking the five blocks to Rabbi Shimon Alster’s shul on Bedford at L.
I actually planned to return to Rabbi Alster’s shul for mincha, however my Shabbos shluf was five minutes longer than planned so I opted instead to daven across the street at Rabbi Weinfeld’s shul. Following mincha, I stayed in shul with my host, Avrohom Pinter, for seudas shlishis. After taking a few bites of challah, I felt a very subtle strange sensation—a single gentle trickling pulse migrate from the interior of my left elbow to my wrist, and then it disappeared. I thought to myself “that was weird.” I have no idea what compelled me, but I asked Avrohom, “Hypothetically, if someone is having a heart attack, is it the right or left arm that people feel a shooting pain?”
My friend replied, “I don’t know, but one of the top cardiologists in the city, Dr. Yanky Schachter, a real mumche (expert), is sitting at the next table. Why?” I told him about the odd sensation, but said it was probably nothing. Avrohom was insistent that I speak to Dr. Schachter. Dr. Schachter took me by the arm and asked me to walk with him to the other side of the shul.
As we slowly walked, he asked me a series of questions: Did I feel any tightness in my chest? “When I first stepped out into the freezing air this morning”; did I feel any tightness in my neck? “No”; tightness in my jaw? “No”; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing? “No”; dizziness? “No”; faint? “No”; nausea? “No”; sweaty? “No.”
He set up a few chairs in a row and said, “Everything will be okay, but you’re having a heart attack.”
“What!! Are you kidding me? I can’t be. I’m not feeling any pain.”
He looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re having the onset of a heart attack. I have been holding your arm and you don’t have a pulse, but you’ll be okay. Just do what I tell you and lay down here across these chairs and elevate your legs.”
That’s when I felt faint and my legs buckled under me. Hatzalah arrived within minutes and one of the three hatzalah responders was even a doctor (Dr. Chaim Gitelis), and a cardiologist at that! They performed an EKG in the shul which revealed that I had a blocked artery, and it was caught just in time. My doctors told me later that shooting pain or a subtle trickling sensation in the arm, which is only one of many potential symptoms of a heart attack, could happen in either the right or left arm, although the left is more common. The whole experience was surreal: the entire time, until I was admitted to the hospital and about to be wheeled off to the operating room, I was in denial that this was happening to me. It couldn’t be – I’m only 56 years old, I never smoked, I eat healthily, I exercise regularly, and I wasn’t in pain. I thought heart attacks are painful.
As an additional chessed, this all happened in the early evening in New York which was the middle of the night in Eretz Yisrael while my family was sound asleep. So when my procedure was done and I was resting in my room, I was able to call my wife and tell her what had happened and let her know that everything, baruch Hashem, was all right.
I thought I traveled to New York to help our local yeshiva, but in reality, the Ribbono Shel Olam had me come to America to get my “plumbing” fixed. He put me in the right place, with the right people at the right time… AMAZING!!!
After settling into my seat on my return flight two and half weeks later, I opened my Mesillas Yesharim to learn the chapter which instructs the way to acquire the middah of zerizus. The Ramchal says that a person will be moved and inspired to live his life and perform mitzvos with zerizus when he has a love and an appreciation of all the good that Hakodesh Baruch Hu does for us. The Ramchal then says that through this understanding and recognition that there is a Ribbono Shel Olam that does all this good for us, one will be then moved and inspired to act with zerizus. I closed the sefer and said to myself “WOW!!!”
Of course I know that I need to thank Hashem for everything, but I now realize firsthand that I need to thank Hashem especially for those things that appear to me as “not going my way.” What Hashem did for me, He does for all of us every day and at every moment. This entire experience was and continues to be a tremendous chizuk for me and an aliyah in my emunah; and my hope is that this extraordinary event will continue to give me and others chizuk and increase our emunah.
Note to readers: Visit your doctor regularly, ask to have cholesterol, triglycerides and other risk factors checked, follow doctor’s orders regarding medications, diet and exercise, and, of course, daven.