A young avreich from Jerusalem fell ill and had to undergo a complex brain operation at a medical center located in the former Yugoslavia. In order to translate from English what the medical team was saying, the father of the avreich asked his friend R’ Yosef Rafoul, shlita, to accompany them on their journey. Upon arrival, they immediately made an appointment to see a top surgeon at the prestigious Institute for Neurosurgery in Belgrade, Serbia, who specialized in brain operations of the type required by the avreich. After days of exhaustive tests, the surgeon fixed a date for the operation.
When the surgeon completed the operation and emerged from the operating theater, he addressed R’ Yosef and ordered him to immediately purchase a large quantity of milk for the avreich’s recovery, for milk is extremely beneficial to the healing process after major brain surgery. When he awoke from the anesthesia, R’ Yosef addressed the avreich, and joyfully told him that with Hashem’s help the operation went well and he needed to drink a lot of milk to further his recovery.
The avreich asked whether he could get milk that was chalav Yisrael, produced under Jewish supervision. He was strict in this area, and non-Jewish milk had never passed his lips, a custom that he had no intention of changing, even under such difficult circumstances. Needless to say, it was quite impossible to find such milk in Serbia at the time, and therefore looking for it would be an impossible task. R’ Yosef tried to convince the avreich to change his mind. He summoned all the teachings of the Sages with regard to the measures one must take in order to preserve one’s life. However, the avreich continued to insist. He told the rabbi that since drinking such milk was so important to him, surely the Holy One, Blessed be He, Who heals all flesh, would help him find milk produced under Jewish supervision.
R’ Yosef walked out into the corridor, racking his brain to come up with a way to find milk produced under Jewish supervision. Just then he was approached by a man and woman who had just arrived from Israel. They saw R’ Yosef’s kippah and were thrilled to meet a fellow Jew. “Do you speak English?” the woman asked him in Hebrew.
R’ Yosef said he did and the woman explained that she had recently underwent major head trauma that required a serious brain operation. She was told that the medical center in Belgrade specialized in this; however, since she did not speak any English, she did not know how she was going to communicate with any of the surgeons.
R’ Yosef accompanied the woman and spoke with the surgeon, who looked at her medical records and brain scans. He then told her that the type of operation she required could best be performed not in Yugoslavia, but at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, where the skilled and highly trained staff were available for such a type of surgery.
When R’ Yosef translated the surgeon’s remarks to the woman, she was beside herself. “How can this be? I traveled all the way here from Jerusalem. It was a long and tiring journey. I had to endure airplane strikes along the way, wandering from country to country before arriving here. And now you’re saying that I should return to Israel?”
The woman’s supplications were translated to the doctor, who strongly repeated his position: “The local medical team isn’t capable of performing such a complicated operation. It’s only at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem that such an operation can be attempted. Therefore, you are much better off scheduling your surgery at Hadassah.”
As they walked out of the surgeon’s office, the young man who was accompanying the woman approached R’ Yosef and asked him to take the suitcase he was carrying, since it was now useless to them. “What’s in it?” asked R’ Yosef.
“Why, it’s milk,” he declared. Then he explained that the woman made sure to pack a large quantity of milk, which she would have to drink after her operation. Since she was careful to only drink chalav Yisrael, he had therefore purchased a great amount of supervised milk, which obviously she would not need now. With visible joy, R’ Yosef took the suitcase from the hand of the young Israeli and ran to the room of the avreich, who was stunned to see its contents. With praises and thanks to Hashem, he took a glass of milk and said a blessing with great concentration: “…shehakol n’hiyeh b’varo, …by Whose word all things came to be.”