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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Just a Meal

Professor Eran Saar is well-known in his profession as an automotive engineer. Many international companies, such as Volkswagen, have benefited from his expertise. The following story took place in 1984, when Professor Saar was spending a sabbatical year in the University of Manchester in England.

Towards the end of the year, he completed an important research project, and his colleagues arranged a party in his honor. The problem was that on the evening of the party he began to experience a severe headache. His headache grew so bad that he was forced to cut the party short.

Professor Saar decided that the next day he would go see a doctor. However, the following morning he found himself unable to take more than a few steps. He collapsed and lost consciousness, and paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital.

When the professor opened his eyes he found himself lying in a hospital bed, attached to multiple machines. His family explained that he had a highly elevated white blood cell count, and the doctors were trying to discover the reason why. In the meantime they had ordered him hospitalized for rest and observation.

One evening, while lying in his hospital room, the professor was surprised to receive a visit from a group of yeshivah students. "Happy Chanukah," they chorused. "Perhaps you'd be interested in lighting the menorah tonight?"

Professor Saar tried to put them off. Although he admired the fact that these young students cared enough to visit Jews who were hospitalized, he was not interested in lighting Chanukah candles. He explained to the students that it was against hospital rules to light a flame in the room.

However, the students explained that they had arranged it with the hospital and had permission. Somewhat nonplused, Saar agreed, with mixed feelings, to light the Chanukah menorah.

The following evening the students visited again. When they came Professor Saar was eating his dinner. They waited patiently for him to finish and then lit candles with him. One of the students explained gently that the food in the hospital was not kosher. Professor Saar replied sharply, "Maybe you are bothered by such foods, but not me! I have no problem eating non-kosher food."

The following evening, the students prepared a surprise for the professor. They called a local kosher caterer, who supplied kosher meals to hospitalized patients, and arranged that Professor Saar would receive kosher meals daily, which would be paid for by the hospital.

However, the food turned out to be cold and tasteless. Professor Saar was upset. He could not believe the audacity of the students to mix into his personal life and prevent him from receiving a normal hot meal like all the other patients. However, out of politeness he kept quiet. He ate only some fruits and vegetables, and inwardly rued the day that the students had appeared on the scene.

The following morning, a nurse came to draw blood, a routine that was followed since Professor Saar had been admitted to the hospital. An hour later, a doctor came into his room to review the test results. He explained that there had been a substantial improvement in the professor's condition. The doctor was cautiously optimistic, but Saar was ecstatic.

The only thing to mar his happiness at that point was when his lunch arrived; once again, it was cold and had no flavor. Saar felt uncomfortable telling the nurse that the food had been ordered for him against his will. Once again, he declined the meal and sufficed with fruits and vegetables.

On the following day, there was even more improvement in Saar's health. The doctors had no explanation for the sudden drop in his white blood cell count, just as they did not know what caused it to rise to begin with.

After a few days, Saar was released from the hospital. The headaches had ceased and his energy returned. However, after a few days at home he began to feel ill once more. The headaches started up again and he did not know what to do with himself. While he was deliberating on the matter the phone rang. On the other end was the head of the division where he had been hospitalized, asking him to come in for an appointment. "We have found the source of the problem."

At the appointment, all the chief medical staff of the hospital were gathered. Recent tests had shown that the professor had developed an allergy to a bacteria found in meat products.

Saar listened to their report and suddenly the pieces fit together: During the days that he had eaten only fruits and vegetables, his condition improved. But when he went back home and resumed his normal diet, which included meat products, the problems began again.

"Thanks to those 'pesky' yeshivah students who ordered kosher meals and forced me to subsist on fruits and vegetables, the problem was discovered," thought Saar to himself.


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