The Chief Physician and the Resident

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by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

There are times when we can be inspired by observing examples of absolute integrity and honesty. Then there are times when we can be inspired toward Everyday Emes by seeing the consequences of actions and behaviors that we should avoid.

The concept of “dover emes bilvavo – being truthful in one’s own heart” can apply in many varied fields and areas.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l in his comments on the siddur derives a remarkable lesson. In the davening directly before the recitation of the Korbanos, the siddur states that a person should be a G-d-fearing person both in public and in private and that he should also always be “dover emes bilvavo” – speak truth in his heart.  From the fact that the siddur felt the need to say that one should speak truth in his heart after it just said that one should be G-d fearing in public and private, Rav Chaim notes that it is possible for a person to fear heaven both publicly and privately, and yet still not speak truth in one’s own heart.  This is possible because of the biases that we may harbor that can cloud our judgment.

In one particular hospital in a foreign country, there was a patient on a heart-lung machine who was in a vegetative state. The attending physician stated that there was nothing further that could be done for the patient and that he should be disconnected from life- support.

A young resident who was present suggested that a certain operation be attempted on the chance that it may relieve the underlying condition. The Chief Physician, who was known for his medical acumen and brilliance, however, refused the young resident’s suggestion.

The young resident brought his suggestion up again in front of the other senior physicians who said, “What do we have to lose?”

The operation was a success and the patient fully recovered. The Chief Physician however, never forgave the young resident and never spoke to him again. The Chief Physician eventually fell into obscurity. All of this happened, unfortunately, because he could not bring himself to admit that the young resident was right. Sometimes, even an expert can chas veshalom fall victim to not being able to admit error.

The author is now involved in producing a weekly parsha sheet on emes and honesty. If anyone wishes to subscribe please send an email to [email protected] with the word subscribe in the subject line.