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Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 18 Adar I 5784
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The Power of L'Chaim

Shortly after his 33rd birthday, Meir Sakat of Rishon Litzion, Israel began feeling strong pain in his lower back and abdomen. At first he tried to ignore it. He figured that he had lifted something incorrectly and pulled a muscle in his back.

Time went on but the pain only intensified. His wife urged him to see a doctor.

For four months, Meir ran from one doctor to another. They all told him that the results of their tests showed nothing unusual. Finally, he came to one doctor who did not brush him off, but did a thorough examination. The results were grave: Meir had a tumor growing in his stomach. He would need two complicated surgeries to remove the growth, followed by a long, draining course of chemotherapy.

Meir's mind reeled from the all the alarming information. In a few weeks, his wife was due to give birth. Who knows, he thought with angst, whether he would live to raise his child, or even see him.

With his thoughts spinning, Meir decided to write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In his youth, Meir had studied in the Chabad Trade School in Kfar Chabad, and had learned about the greatness of the Rebbe and the power of his blessings. Meir poured out his woes in a letter and sent it by fax to the Rebbe's office. The days went by, and to his disappointment, there was no answer from the Rebbe.

Confused and upset, Meir did not know whether he should undergo the surgery. The doctors pressured him and told him that there was no time to lose.

The surgery was done and was a great success. Meir was told to rest for a few weeks to recuperate, and then the second surgery would be performed.

The date of the second surgery was set for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the day before the surgery, Meir was admitted to the hospital. He underwent a round of tests, and was told that his body was not strong enough to undergo the surgery. He was still weak from the previous surgery, and the various treatments that he was taking were not having the desired effect. The doctors decided to release Meir to his home for a week, to eat well and regain his strength.

The week passed quickly, but Meir's condition did not improve. The doctors debated whether to perform the surgery anyway. Was the risk of the tumor spreading greater than the risk of the surgery itself? Meir himself was disturbed and restless. Why had the Rebbe not answered his letters? Was he not deserving of a blessing?

After a long consultation, the doctors decided to go ahead with the surgery. Meir was hooked up to an IV and left to rest overnight in the hospital. That evening, Meir felt himself weakening. He begged his wife to bring him a glass of tea, to moisten his parched throat. In his mind, he remembered the warnings of the doctors, that the surgery was critical and he must not allow his spirits to fall. Despair on his part would spell doom for the surgery. However, Meir found it difficult to dispel the gloom that engulfed him.

As he lay there in pain, he suddenly heard the familiar voice of Rabbi Shmuel Kattan, who had been his teacher during his Yeshiva days in Kfar Chabad. Rabbi Kattan told Meir that he had recently been to the Rebbe and had received a bottle of mashke (whiskey) for a blessing. Now that he had heard of Meir's condition, he came to visit him and offer him some of the Rebbe's mashke, to say L'chaim.

Meir was hesitant - was he allowed to have even a drop of alcohol in his state? Rabbi Kattan assured him that a small drop of the Rebbe's mashke would do no harm and would only strengthen him. Meir moistened his lips with the Rebbe's mashke. Immediately, he felt a change come over him. His restlessness was gone, and a feeling of calm and confidence took its place.

The operation was done the following day and was a great success. But the story does not end here. Shortly after the surgery, Meir's wife gave birth to a son. Before the brit, the lucky parents sent the Rebbe a letter to inform him of the birth. This time, they received an answer within days. The Rebbe blessed the child that he will grow up to bring joy to his father and mother, and underlined the word father.

Meir took the marking as a special sign. "You see, the Rebbe was thinking about me the whole time, even though, for whatever reason, my letter was not answered in writing."


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