This is a translation of some of the remarks made by Maran HaRav Aharon Shteinman shlita almost 40 years ago, on 11 Adar II, 5778, to Kollel Ponovezh just before HaRav Shmuel Rozovsky zt"l was to undergo a very serious operation. The original remarks were in Yiddish.
There is something strange in the conduct of mankind. When a person doesn't feel well, if it is slight malaise, he initially ignores it and tries to carry on as if nothing is amiss. If the ailment continues, he looks for and takes a medicine to alleviate the discomfort and pain and then resumes his usual routine.
Why doesn't he contemplate what Hashem actually wants from him? Don't Chazal in Chulin 7 say, `No person stubs his finger on earth without it [the pain] being decreed upon him from Above'? It does not refer to especially harsh suffering but even to a simple blow to his finger etc. Even this slight pain is decreed from Heaven. Heaven sent us this suffering and it is reasonable to expect that it was sent for a definite purpose.
Could it be that Hashem sent us an ailment so that we should take pills? Is it possible that the Ribono Shel Olom wants and is interested to see that we keep a supply of pills in our homes? Could this be the purpose? Is this His aim for us?
This photo shows HaRav Shteinman shlita with HaRav Shmuel Rozovsky zt"l
When in one's daily life a person applies an ointment or visits his doctor and the pain disappears — and thank G-d that it disappears — he is happy. However, I never understood why we don't think about the purpose behind HaKodosh Boruch He's visiting upon us this discomfort. Could it be that He is wants us buy salves and take pills?
The conclusion that should be drawn is that we are being given some kind of reminder and that the purpose of the pain is to arouse us. But in practice we usually ignore this aspect and just carry on. And after a while, we are again attacked with pain and try to alleviate it by different medical means which one hopes will help. But the prime purpose for his suffering is forgotten and ignored and the purpose for which the sickness was sent is not reached.
This applies to all people under normal conditions. However, if the situation becomes more severe and the ailment is deeper, it is already not so simple at all! But even under these circumstances, many people carry on and just become more involved in conventional medicine. But we must not react in this manner.
When we stand before Hashem in prayer, the prayer of the community is very powerful, and yet, we are still obligated individually to think why this is happening.
Now, with a figure like this, someone who is a man of the public who produces thousands of Torah students spread all over the world and whose approach to Torah study is uniquely his, we must conclude that the suffering is not that alone of Rabbenu but rather is a strong message from the Ribono Shel Olom and reminder for us all that we examine our deeds.
The situation in which we find ourselves was not sent to us just so that we pray, though undeniably, prayer is a powerful thing, especially so the prayers of the public. Gevaldig!
But we must consider an additional aspect to this situation. Just like we say that the afflicted one must make his own introspection but here in this situation, each and every one must carry out his own personal reckoning and seek a direction for arousement.
Surely, Heavenly compassion is operating for our benefit, to remind us to arouse ourselves and examine our deeds.
Generally each one knows for himself what he has to correct. Who can say he is fully meritorious? Who can say that he is completely clean?
But when we are talking about bnei Torah and bnei Yeshiva the main thing is the area of the peh. Certainly of all Klal Yisroel it is said that our main power is in our peh, but bnei Torah, since their peh is their professional tool, when they do a reckoning they must examine if their professional tool is used optimally, and if there is room for improvement.
Chazal say that a man should really have two mouths, one for divrei Torah and one for everything else. Rashbi said that if we have such a hard time watching one mouth, all the more so if we had two, it would be terrible.
We learn from here that according to the letter of the law, that with the mouth we use for devorim beteilim, we should not speak divrei Torah, because the Torah which is kedoshah and tahorah to the ultimate degree, should not be mixed together with other mundane things. This means even things that are not forbidden, all the more so that forbidden things should not be together with divrei Torah.
Everyone knows how much we need chizuk in this area. In the entire community there are probably some who are alright, but still there is probably room for improvement, in order to reach the ultimate taharah of the mouth.
If we are mischazeik, there are two benefits. 1. The issurim involved, and especially in these times when some think that it is permitted to speak freely about public figures, and everyone looks into them. Everything has become permissible with regard to askonei tzibbur. Certainly everyone makes mistakes and has failings. But if a public figure does something not so good, right away they talk about it with all the meforshim.
The second thing is the chizuk this would bring to limmud Torah. This is the reason we receive these warnings from Heaven: to strengthen our limmud Torah. And as we said, to learn Torah with the proper safeguards to our peh. And especially about talking in the middle of seder. Then it is not only a personal failing, but there is a risk of causing others to sin as well. Everyone is influenced by everyone else.
We have to make our cheshbon. Because they mean us, and they are bringing us to task. When we talk about an ordinary person, his suffering affects him and maybe his family. But when we are talking about a man of the public like this, a man who has thousands of talmidim who need him, certainly everything that happens to him also applies to all of us. We must all examine ourselves and our deeds.