Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Sivan 5761 - May 30, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Life Marches On
Reflections by Joseph B. Liebman M.D.

Director Emergency Services, Maayanei HaYehusa Hospital, Bnei Brak

Lessons to be learned about human stamina. "Who is a brave one?"

A different kind of a winner...

Close your eyes and remember the Summer of '76. Warm, humid air surrounds my body for a second as I begin to dive into the lake at summer camp. Few people in camp can swim to the dam and back, but I am one of them. Today I am out to set an unprecedented world's record: I am going to swim to the dam and back twice without stopping. This, after skipping breakfast, playing hard for two hours on the courts and running my usual mile and a half. I succeed, I feel great. True, until now, no one knew of this tremendous feat, but that is immaterial to a sixteen-year-old. I pushed my limits and came out a winner -- that is the celebration of youth.

Scenes change. I am 27 years old. I worked hard in kollel that zman. I treat myself to a trip up to Canada and the northern USA. Our challenge today is Katahdin, at 5240 feet, the tallest mountain in all of the state of Maine. Having hiked up many mountains of similar height, this didn't seem to present much difficulty. We choose the Abol trail -- it is the shortest route. Signing in at the empty ranger cabin, there is a sign reporting 5 deaths on the Abol trail this year from hikers who strayed from the trail. We aren't crazy; we'll stay on the trail. We start walking, despite the coolness of the morning, and the fog that encompasses the mountain. In this weather, water won't be necessary. It isn't unusual for Maine to have summer days where the temperature doesn't rise about 10 Celcius.

The trail starts up a rock face requiring some rock climbing. No big deal. But then it turns into a big deal. There is no trail up in the fog, there is no more hiking -- this is rock climbing, up 100, 200, 1000 feet. But I'm young. There are no limitations. There is no turning back. We forge on. Rocks fall, I break my toe. But we make it up. At the top is a windswept plateau. Due to the fog, this difficult climb is rewarded with no pretty view. We start down. Not down Abol -- we aren't crazy. We take the "Knife's Edge" trail instead. The sun breaks up the clouds. No water. Our throats are burning. More rocks; you have to lower yourself on your back, steady yourself on ropes. We make it. It feels great. We pushed beyond limitations and came out winners.

Scenes change. It's Chol Hamoed Pesach 5760 and we arrive at our trailhead in the Golan. Wow, is the air different here from Bnei Brak -- fresh and invigorating. We gain elevation above the gorge, but I notice that we are above the treeline -- the vegetation is wild oats and wheat. The trail narrow. If one slips, there are no branches to hold on to, only a long fall into the canyon. I turn around to look at my three boys and the other family with us.

"We're turning around." Some quiet sighs but in essence, they know I'm right.

Pushing limitations feels great. It also kills. We come down. I've learned a hard lesson, but thank G-d, not the hard way. This time I am a different kind of a winner.


The applause died down after the flattering introduction by the man in the long black robe and flat hat with a tassel. A sea of men in top hats, spectacles and handlebar mustaches sat on leather padded antique chairs, patiently awaiting his speech. He strode up to the lectern to a hushed crowd, and nervously cleared his throat. Almost as one, the men bent forward in anticipation. But though there would not be any stories of high country heroism; there would be no words of wisdom to direct their lives. Deep in his heart, he knew things had changed. And he felt it his duty to make this known.

"Gentlemen," he started, pausing to observe the crowd.

"Gentlemen," he repeated more confidently, "I have turned forty."

With that, he stepped down from the stage and returned to his place to enjoy the rest of the evening's festivities.


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