A doctor, Craig Spencer, in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea became the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.
Dr. Spencer recalled that in his five weeks in West Africa, “I cried as I held children who were not strong enough to survive,” but that he also had celebrated with those who were cured and “invited me into their family as a brother.”
Spencer posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing protective gear and wrote, “Off to Guinea with Doctors. Please support organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history.”
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center said in a statement that Spencer “went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population. He is a committed and responsible physician who always put his patients first.”
Seventy percent of Ebola cases in West Africa are fatal, but eight of the nine people treated in the United States have recovered. Dr. Bassett said a key reason was the labor-intensive job of managing body fluids and replenishing lost blood, allowing the body’s own defenses to kill the virus.
However, what tends to happen at times, when one does a passionate good deed, we learn in King Solomon’s Mishlei; Passion can blind you; it blinds the smartest people. Once you think you’ve scored brownie points, one thinks he has a licence to do whatever he wants.
Spencer didn’t follow protocol. He lied to the police and told them he didn’t go anywhere when he arrived back. He actually went to few parties. He did not care that he might be carrying the infectious disease.
Passion – strong and barely controllable intense emotion, compelling enthusiasm or desire for anything. It’s a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing.
Dr. Craig Spencer had a passion!! He left his job as a doctor at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, a prestigious job in the medical field, to travel to West Africa and risk his life to treat a deadly virus.
Passion, sometimes even momentary, can change ones life, sometimes in a drastic way. Doctor Goldman, Psychologist at Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim said that President Bill Clinton’s affair with his aid Monica Lewinsky not only had a very negative effect on his legacy, but a rippling damaging reaction on a country. Reports indicate that his cabinet and staff lost faith in his ability to command. As result, they became lethargic in their duties. They felt betrayed defending their leader who then without informing them confessed to the country of his misdeeds. This is all in result of moments of perhaps passion, or perhaps just flimsy moment of desires.
Passion can change a life time of achievements. Our forefather Yaacov had an evil brother, Eisav, however he had one virtue, one good deed, that he passionately performed most of his life. In fact many Torah Scholars marveled at his performance and encourage us to emulate this one mitzvah, which he did. He honored his father to the highest level. The Torah tells us that Yitzchak loved Eisav. And Eisav loved him back. He respected his father and served him faithfully. The Sages even deem his act of “honoring parents” greater than that of his brother Yaakov’s. And so Yitzchak requested Eisav to “go out to the field and hunt game for me, then make me delicacies such as I love, and I will eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4). Yitzchak wanted to confer the blessings to him. Eisav won his father’s regard. And even when Esav found out that his brother, Yaakov beat him to the blessings, he did not yell at his father, “How did you let him do that?!” All he did was “cry out an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!” (ibid v.34). Yitzchak finds some remaining blessing to bestow upon his older son, but the grudge does not evaporate. What troubling is not the anger of defeat or the desire for revenge, rather the way Eisav expressed it. “Now Esau harbored hatred toward Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau thought, “May the days of mourning for my father draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.” “May the days of mourning for my father draw near” Think about it. How did the love for a father turn into the eager anticipation of his death?
Passions overrule sanity. They even overtake years of love and commitment. When one is enraged, he can turn against his best friend, his closest ally, and even his own parents! Eisav, who spent his first 63 years in undying adulation of his father, changed his focus in a burst of emotion. Now, instead of worrying about his father’s fare, he awaited the day of his farewell. All in anticipation of the revenge he would take on Yaakov.
When passions perverse our priorities, and obsessions skew our vision, friends become foes and alliance becomes defiance. In the quest for paranoiac revenge, everyone is an enemy even your own parents. But mostly your own self.
Furthermore, Eisav married his uncle Yishmael’s daughter, an act that his parents favored, however, he did not divorce his two wives which his parents greatly disapproved. Seemingly, his passion for those women were still burning.
One of the most famous and endearing story line in our Torah is the one when Avraham is commanded to sacrifice his son. At the end, though, G-d withdrew his command to slaughter his son. Sforno explains “instead of his son: in exchange for that which was in his heart to offer his son, a ram was then brought. Avraham had to maintain the faithfulness to that which he had previously committed in his heart.” Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler finds this amazing: G-d gave Avraham the command to bring Yitzchak (Isaac) up on the altar as a test, for just as G-d had commanded Avraham to bring him, he was commanded to remove him. There is a strong determination to perform an act of passion and Avraham viewed this act as a spiritual opportunity. Once one initiates an act of passion and enthusiasm, it’s very hard to stop.The “commitment” that Avraham made to bring his son as an offering was in error, a colossal misunderstanding. Nevertheless, notes Rabbi Dessler in Sforno’s words, without an alternative vehicle with which to serve G-d, Avraham would have been dishonest to his commitment to serve. Indeed, Rashi explains that the ram was “instead of his son” because Avraham literally requested that G-d view each act – from the slaughter through each subsequent step – as if it was performed in his son’s stead. Rabbi Dessler notes that Avraham was correlating every action to his original intent and commitment. That even though he was absolved by nothing less than a Divine decree, Avraham was concerned with fulfilling his “obligation”.
Why such a burning passion? Because Avraham realized that this was not simply some contractual obligation that was now moot because the contract was revoked. This was the ultimate of Avraham’s Divine trials. But these trials did not test Avraham’s G-d consciousness, they FORGED it. This opportunity was presented to Avraham to allow him to transcend his human condition and offer his entire future to G-d in His service. Avraham very keenly appreciated this unparalleled opportunity and knew he was bound to follow through. And G-d agreed, such that He built this parallel chance into Creation.
The Satan, though, was also rather aware of this unique circumstance, for it was he who entangled the ram’s horns in the bushes to brake the momentum and defuse the passion of Avraham.
Passion can be powerful and sometimes has to be curtailed. The book of Devarim, the last of the 5 books of the Torah, is replete with warnings against idolatry, but perhaps the parashah in which the repetitiveness is most obvious is Parashas Va’etchanan. Dozens of pesukim – including nearly one third of the pesukim in the second rendering of the Ten Commandments – contain numerous admonitions not to serve idols.
Nowadays, these warnings seem unnecessary. Almost no sane humanbeing today has any interest in worshiping a graven image of any sort. In fact, it seems strange to us that anyone ever had such a passion.
Truthfully, our utter disinterest in idol worship is not a credit to our advanced, developed intelligence or our purer faith in G-d. The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, a group of 120 sages, some of the greatest Torah scholars ever, convened during the era of the second Temple and determined that the inclination to serve idols was too strong for mankind to withstand. The Talmud (Yoma 69b) relates how the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah captured the yetzer hara-evil inclination for idolatry and destroyed it.
We can still have an idea of how strong the inclination for idolatry was before they conquered it. The Talmud tells us that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah was encouraged by their success in conquering one of the two major passions of mankind, so they decided to turn their sights on the other major passion: the inclination for promiscuity.
When the sages succeeded in capturing the passion for promiscuity, however, they came to the realization that if they destroyed this passion people would no longer procreate, so they released it.
We are all aware of how difficult it is to control the inclination for licentiousness. Our Sages teach us that people once had an equal passion to serve idols.
So, the Chachamim dissolved a major passion but left us with another. G-d created an extremely powerful attraction and passion between the sexes. It exists and cannot be ignored. The Rabbis explain that G-d did this in order to perpetuate the human race. Without desire and attraction, people would not reproduce and the world would remain desolate. Therefore, He created this intense desire between men and women.
Here is one scenario where people for the most part are vulnerable, the workforce. One is especially vulnerble when there are bumpy roads in the marriage. For the most part one can say, who doesn’t have bumpy moments in their marriage. Mind you can develop in a crowded office environment but once one is alone with the other, that stuation can accelerate the passion.
You may like her. She may like you. Obviously, both of you have lines that you will not cross when it comes to inappropriate behavior. You have self-respect and know that you will keep to those guidelines. You know that you would not be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next day if you crossed your line, whatever your particular line may be. Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself alone with him or her. You glance at each other. The attraction and desire is there. No one is around and no one will know. Everyone has a vulnerable moment. What will you do? Will you cross your line? How far? How will you feel the next day? What will it feel like, knowing that your line, your boundary that you always said you wouldn’t cross, has just been violated?
Some of you may be say, I am stronger than that and will never cross my line, no matter what. That may be true, but lets ask ourselves something: Which requires greater self-control; controlling yourself when you are never alone together or controlling yourself when you are alone in a room with him or her AND the attraction is there? The Torah is providing you with a boundary that does not require superhuman self-control on your part. It is protecting you from moments of vulnerability, when you may do something you may feel badly about later. Don’t be alone together. Let’s be honest here. It is a lot more difficult to control yourself from acting inappropriately when you are alone together than when you aren’t. Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to rely on greater self-control. Don’t play near the edge of a cliff. True, nothing may happen, but why take the risk? Don’t forget, you have to face yourself in the mirror tomorrow. Make it easy on yourself.
We learn something valuable from Yaacov, our forefather. Yakov’s blessing to Shimon and Levi as he lay on his deathbed was intended as directive, not just critical. Shimon and Levi had displayed enormous devotion and courage in defending the honor of the family, even if it was misguided. They decieved and destroyed the entire city of Shechem avenging the rape of their sister Dina. Yakov’s “blessing” of Shimon and Levi was intended to direct that same devotion and courage into constructive channels. As the Pasuk says, “Into their conspiracy I will not enter, with their congregation I will not join.” (49:6) Because they did not first seek Yakov’s advice and direction, he would not have anything to do with their actions. However, if Yakov’s teachings and truth would direct their passion and strength, they would be indispensable to the nation’s survival.
Passion, at times, can be channeled in the right way. One has to realize the power of it. In a moment, one can act on it and regret a life time. Passion, if used right, can elevate one to a lofty level. The key is to be aware of our feeling as well as anticipate what we will be feeling when we will be faced with life challenges!