Go Learn Medicine!

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Shemot 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Dear friend, dear young person, go study medicine. It is a great Mitzvah to prolong life and to improve quality of life. Do it!

Unfortunately, there is a great shortage of physicians in the State of Israel, and throughout the West in general. So, go study to be a physician.

I will not deny, however, that it isn't simple. It takes self-sacrifice.

*The course of study is very long. With internships and residency, becoming a family medical practitioner can take up to twelve years.

*The salary isn't that high, unless you reach the top of the line.

*The hours are long and there is grave responsibility.

For all these reasons, there is a shortage of doctors in the West. People are individualists.

They think mainly about themselves, and not about others, and they prefer short studies that lead to an easier, more lucrative profession.

Therefore, if you are an idealist, go become a physician.

If a physician is not an idealist, if all he has in his head is money and status, and if he doesn't really care much about patients; if he is unwilling to heal the poor for free; such a physician, even if he is excellent, is the object of our Sages’ dictum, that "the best of the physicians go to hell." In our country, however, most physicians – almost all of them, thank G-d – are bound for heaven.

It is great Mitzvah to be a physician. See Rabbi Eliezer Pappo’s work, “Pele Yoetz, s.v., “Rescue”, which explains our Sages’ well-known utterance: “Even the most vacuous of Jews are as full of Mitzvot as a pomegranate.” How can this be? It is because they save lives. Pele Yoetz stresses that someone who saves lives is greater than a Torah scholar. So go save lives.

Even increasing quality of life is a form of saving lives: when a person is physically healthy, and he is also mentally healthy, he leads a tranquil life, steeped in Torah, purity and family harmony (see Rambam, Hilchot De’ot, Chapter 4). Therefore, Rambam writes in his Shemoneh Perakim that medicine is not a profession like any other, but a profession that is a Mitzvah.

Rambam was so adamant that Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein needed to answer why Rambam required everyone to study medicine to save people. His conclusion was that it was a great Mitzvah, the Mitzvah of giving life.

How great and how marvelous are your deeds, oh G-d, as evinced by modern medicine which grants life, prolongs life and increases the quality of life for so many people.

Once, a physician gave a lecture to a convention of prominent CEOs, and asked them, "Who here would be alive today if not for modern medicine?" Out of 40 people, only one raised his hand.

Obviously, everything I'm writing applies to females as well. Our own women deserve to have female physicians. True, women are permitted to go to a male physician, but it isn't always pleasant for them. Pregnancy and childbirth are not easy experiences, and going to male physicians an just adds to the unpleasantness. So, we ask for a bit of mercy. Please, good women, go study medicine.

Yet I will not hide from you a fact that makes me hesitate before encouraging you to study medicine: studying and practicing medicine involves self-sacrifice for a male – for a young mother this self-sacrifice is twice, three times or four times as great.

Therefore, do as follows: obtain advice from a female physician who will tell you what she has gone through in her studies, and then decide. If you decide to go forward, you will earn our greatest esteem. And let me take this opportunity to say candidly that being a nurse is likewise a great Mitzvah, likewise involving enormous self-sacrifice.

How fortunate you all are, emissaries of G-d in curing G-d’s Nation, Israel!