Under the Knife, Between the Straits


Is it advisable to avoid a surgery during the three weeks?


If a person needs an operation or even plans to have elective surgery and can schedule it to avoid the time between Shiv'ah Asar Betammuz and Tisha Be'av, he should do so. The Mechaber rules that one should not hit students during this period.[1] Presumably he is referring to a situation in which hitting the student is justified from a halachic and educational standpoint; nevertheless, one should refrain from doing so during the national mourning period.

We can extrapolate to surgery based on these principles. Surgery involves physical invasion no less than corporal punishment and it is not administered by a loving teacher. Often the surgeon has only a minimal acquaintance with the patient if any. Furthermore, there is usually some degree of risk associated with surgery. Therefore, if the surgery can be rescheduled for a time before Shiv'ah Asar Betammuz or after Tisha Be'av without any significantly increased risk to the patient, it is advisable to avoid scheduling the surgery during the three weeks.

Surgery does not have to be singled out. Any medical procedure that involves risk of bodily harm is included in the halochoh calling on all Jews to be extra cautious during this time of national mourning due to the increased danger. Some medical procedures, such as certain fertility treatments, involve little or no risk and there is great advantage to not postponing them. Generally, these should not be delayed.

The behavior of the Jewish people today includes many of the negative elements that were prevalent among the people millennia ago and which led to the tragedies of this time of year. As long as the similarities of evil behavior persist, the spiritual forces allowing harmful events to happen during this period will also remain.

May we correct our own behavior and assist others in correcting theirs so that this time of sadness departs from the Jewish people, to be replaced by a time of happiness, when we will all be healthy and have no need for physicians or surgery.

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[1] או''ח תקנ''א סי''ח. ועיין במ''ב שם סק''ג הביא בשם הט''ז דה''ה דיש ליזהר ברצועה.

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