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The Right Doctor

Rabbi Dr. Avraham (Allan) Kaye was a clinical psychologist and Chabad chassid, who, with the Rebbe’s blessings, settled in the Chassidic village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Only a few days after the family had moved into their new home, there was a knock on the door. A couple was standing there with their son. The parents explained that they were descendants of a famous Chassidic dynasty, and they were here to seek treatment for their son.

Years earlier the parents had been married in an elaborate Chassidic wedding and were overjoyed to welcome their firstborn son. However, over the years the parents began to notice some peculiar conduct. They took the boy for evaluation with various specialists, and the results showed that he was suffering from significant emotional disturbance. At the time, research and understanding of autistic spectrum disorder was still in its infancy. The parents went through several doctors and therapists, but the boy’s behavior continued to deteriorate and became a source of embarrassment to the family.

At one point the parents despaired, and it seemed their only option was to place their son in an institution. However, since they were a well-regarded family, they struggled with the public impact of this decision. The father had already resigned himself to this option, but the mother was stubbornly determined to try other treatment approaches; maybe something might help.

One day the mother was pouring out her heart to a friend, who suggested that she write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “What do you have to lose?” she urged.

She decided to give it a try, although her husband remained adamant in his refusal. “We belong to a different branch of chassidim. Why are we going to the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”

Yet, despite her husband’s inflexibility, the mother went ahead and wrote to the Rebbe. The answer was not long in coming. “Follow the advice of a doctor acquaintance in Kfar Chabad.”

The mother was puzzled, as they did not know anyone in Kfar Chabad, certainly not anyone who was a medical professional. The Rebbe’s answer remained a mystery for some time, until the mother decided that she could wait no longer. She traveled to Kfar Chabad with her husband, and they decided to ask the local rav, Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, for his advice.

The rav listened to their dilemma but he himself was puzzled, as he did not know where to send them. At the time there was one doctor in Kfar Chabad, Dr. Mordechai Dobkin, but he was a family practitioner, and the rabbi did not see how he would be able to help a child with such complex emotional difficulties.

He promised to make some inquiries, and found out that a clinical psychologist, Dr. Kaye, had recently moved to Kfar Chabad with his family. Rabbi Ashkenazi felt certain that this was whom the Rebbe had in mind, and referred the parents to him.

Dr. Kaye was excited to find out that the Rebbe had referred a patient directly to him. When he heard that no doctor’s approach had been successful to that point, he dug out his old psychology textbooks, hoping  that he would hit upon an approach that the other doctors had overlooked, which would be the key to this boy’s recovery.

When the parents brought their child to his first appointment with Dr. Kaye, the doctor found that while the mother was hopeful of her son’s eventual recovery, the father was completely distraught and did not believe that there were any treatments that would do his son any good. Dr. Kaye took the boy in himself and spoke to him at length. His conclusion was that the boy had a good chance to make a complete recovery. The mother was overjoyed to hear this, but the father remained cold and skeptical. Dr. Kaye asked to see the boy again in a month, but the father refused.

After some discussion, another appointment was finally set. Dr. Kaye asked the boy to draw him some pictures, and from the boy’s drawings Dr. Kaye could see that his relationship with his father was the big obstacle in his treatment. In addition, the father’s ongoing resistance to treatment bothered Dr. Kaye to no end. In the father’s view, the boy was a “black sheep” to be distanced from the family as much as possible.

Dr. Kaye could no longer maintain his professional image; shedding all accepted standards, he uncharacteristically began to berate the father in a very harsh manner. “You are a descendant of a family of holy Chassidic rebbes. You received a Chassidic education, and you were taught to believe in the holiness of every Jewish soul. And you maltreat your son in this way?”

Dr. Kaye’s rebuke touched the man’s heart. He lowered his head onto the table and began to sob. His wife was shocked; she had never before seen her husband cry.

After he had calmed down a bit, he looked up and said, “Dr. Kaye, I place my son in your hands. I’m prepared to make every effort to assist you.”

Over the next six months, the boy made bi-weekly visits to Dr. Kaye. Soon Dr. Kaye succeeded in curbing the boy’s outbursts; he returned to school with his peers and was soon behaving like a normal child.

At the end of the treatment, amazed and deeply grateful, the parents wanted to thank Dr. Kaye, but he refused. “If you have anyone to thank, it’s the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” he told them. “He sent you to me in Kfar Chabad even before I knew we would be moving here. And any other psychologist would have sent you away when you showed such resistance to accepting treatment; it is against medical ethics to force treatment on a patient against his or his parents’ wishes. But the Rebbe knew that I would not give up on this child; he is the one you need to thank.”


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