Three years ago I was busy preparing Shabbos. I reached into the oven to transfer a cast iron pan onto the blech WITHOUT A MITT!!!!
My hand was terribly burned. Remembering Chaya Malka’s advise on burns, I quickly ‘shmerred’ honey over my palm and put my hand in a plastic glove. Then I kept my wrapped hand in a bowl of ice for hours and hours and hours. I took Advil and tried to deal with the pain. This gave me plenty of thinking time.
Rabbi Leib Keleman told our class about a time when he was bitten by a poisonous spider. He was rushed to the hospital and told that there was a very real danger of the venom travelling up his leg and body, reaching his heart. He only had hours to lie there knowing the possibility of dying. He used the time to do a “Cheshbon ha Nefesh”, soul-searching character review. He realized he had things he had to do tchuvah for. He thought about what he had to do to correct himself.
Thank God, the antibiotics worked. Since we believe that Hashem is the Healer, the Rabbi knew that this situation was given to him so that he would do “tchuvah”, repentance and change. He was able to turn a painful and life threatening event into one that caused him to grow and improve.
I asked myself: why? NOT why me but why my hand? What does Hashem want me to learn? I realized that with my hand I take care of my family. With my hand I do ‘chesed’, kindness. I thought of the chesed I was doing. And I thought of the chesed I was Not doing. How should I respond?
My time was not wasted. When I woke up Shabbos morning, my hand was 100% healed! I didn’t even have any redness! Apparently Hashem accepted my tshuvah and gave me back my hand ‘as good as ever’! My awareness changed me to become a better person. My suffering was the stimulus to grow.