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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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The Wonder Of Technology At Our Fingertips

can be hazardous to our spiritual health!

Dear Rachel,

I am writing to you because something just happened to me, something that has thrown my whole faith, which has hitherto been quite devout, into a tailspin. I live in a frum neighborhood and attend a women’s shiur at the home of Mrs. A. The family is a model family, the home is beautiful, and everything seems so perfect when I go there for the very inspiring, engaging shiur. This shiur has been one of the highlights of my experience here in the frum community — until recently.

I woke up on Shabbos morning before the shiur with pain in my abdomen. I rushed to the bathroom and promptly urinated what seemed like a liter of blood! I was absolutely terrified. I knew nothing then about hematuria except that someone I knew who had it now relieves herself through a stoma. I had two options: either call an ambulance or quietly get the information I needed on the Internet without causing my family (which includes several people with severe anxiety) unnecessary panic.

Of course the Internet had to pick THAT DAY to fail on me. I figured I’d make it to the shiur and ask Mrs. A to use the Internet. Surely a nice mother would understand. I went to her home and took her aside, explaining my situation. To my horror, she refused to let me use the Internet.

“You should see a doctor,” she said. I explained to her that I am a Medicaid recipient and that a trip to a doctor could mean a month of waiting just for an appointment, and then another who knows how many weeks for test results. I could be dead by then. “I don’t know anything about what you have either,” she said, “But it’s Shabbos and I’m not letting you use my Internet. You are going to have to wait and see a doctor.”

My blood is still boiling from this incident. Forget the ludicrous reasoning; do you think that if it were her daughter in this situation she would sit around all Shabbos or wait several months for a diagnosis? I don’t even have to answer that question. The woman, quite frankly, is in my opinion a murderer. I could have died in a sea of blood for all she knew, and she knew less than a tenth of nothing about the problem to justify cutting me off from the information I needed, when I needed it.

A miracle happened and one of the women at the shiur was a friend of mine who happened to be a highly experienced nurse. She knew things about this condition that would have taken me hours of reading to find out, and even she knew that it justified violating Shabbos to use the Internet in my case! At a very great inconvenience to her (long story), she took me to her home to use the Internet and sat and chatted with me while I read, getting me cup after cup of tea. How do you have it that an extremely competent nurse found it medically imperative for me to use the Internet on Shabbos, but this housewife – who admitted to knowing nothing about my condition – felt justified in strutting her high horse at my expense!

Just for the record, if I didn’t get access to the Internet when I did I would have felt obligated to call an ambulance, which would have caused my family – and subsequently myself – tremendous agony and accomplished nothing, since I learned on the Internet that routine bladder tests are often ineffectual, and the patient has to know to push for a referral to see a urologist. It’s unthinkable what this woman would have seen me endure if she had had her way.

I think many of us are struggling with the issue of people who, for all of their observance, Torah scholarship and standing in the community, can absolutely astound us with their inability to behave like basic human beings. It causes the most well meaning among us to question the whole body of Yiddishkeit and its ability to refine and shape us as people. I learned in Bais Yaakov that a Jew is distinguished by, among other things, his or her compassion — yet I cannot think of one non-Jew who would have behaved like that, and I cannot help but think that this woman stands in utter contrast to my Christian landlord who is one of the most generous, compassionate people I know. How does one continue being a frum Jew after seeing something like this?

Still seeing red…  

Dear Still,

Your letter is baffling. Assuming it’s for real, I’m sorry – well, not really – to have to tell you that Mrs. A had the right idea. And yes, we do stand in contrast to non-Jews who are not committed to Toras Moshe and thereby have no obligation to heed its laws.

You say you could have “died in a sea of blood” and that Mrs. A had no business “cutting you off from the information you needed.” Sounds like Mrs. A sized up the situation and determined that a “need for information” does not warrant desecrating the Shabbos, particularly under her roof.

On the other hand, it is somewhat surprising that an “extremely competent nurse” (who you indicate knew quite a bit about the condition) could have seen no other way to calm your fears than to indulge your compulsion to surf the Net on Shabbos. Perhaps she was simply uninformed in Torah law or had allowed her compassion to get the better of her.

You seem to have been well enough to browse the web through “cup after cup of tea.” That being the case, there was obviously no compelling reason for you to be mechalel Shabbos, and you could have easily waited until after Shabbos to either seek a medical opinion or do your research by the technological means at your disposal.

My own web research (on this weekday) informs me that Hematuria is not necessarily an indicator of anything more serious than a urinary tract infection. Hopefully you’ve since been evaluated by a competent medic and are on the mend.

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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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