After so many years in the field, it is hard to surprise Rav Chollak. Still, he says that the volunteers’ readiness to help and their dedication during the Corona period managed to move him at a new level. It was the test that he sees as the symbol of the strength of the organization and its volunteer network. “Even at the height of the Corona, when panic pervaded the streets, the branch directors and the volunteers were not broken. On the contrary, they expanded activity, helped thousands of families, and displayed creativity in the ways they found to help, in spite of the restrictions and the necessary caution.” Rav Chollak explains how difficult this challenge was. “You need to remember that there are thirty thousand new cancer patients every year,” he presents the chilling data. “These patients were not going anywhere and still needed the extensive work we always do for their benefit. In addition to them, there were other populations, plus the Corona patients, who needed special and complex help. Beyond this was the existential anxiety of those defined as being “at medical risk.” And our volunteers overcame all this in a remarkable way!”
How do you continue without losing sensitivity, in spite of the intensity of the pain? Rav Chollak’s secret is to remember the place of the patient, to feel what he is feeling: “I’m telling you, someone who is sick is unimaginably miserable. You healthy people, who can hold a sefer (Religious book) in your hands and who are baruch Hashem (thank G-d) well and functioning, cannot understand what life looks like for someone who senses the Angel of Death hovering over his head. No one should know of it, but there are people who undergo very difficult times in their brief lives here on this earth. The only way to understand what they are going through to some small degree is by trying to see them, to feel what they are feeling, to see the world through their eyes.
“When the patient is someone who lives alone, this is a tragedy. When the patient is someone who lives within a family cell, this is an even greater tragedy,” says Rav Chollak, his voice cracking. “I daven (pray) that no one should know what a terrible thing it is to live in the shadow of daily fear. It drives the family insane, destabilizes one’s mental health, creates tension and stress, and turns life into Gehinnom (hell) on earth.”
“It’s a matter of middah k’neged middah,’ Rav Chollak says. “When one Jew helps another Jew, it removes from him Heavenly Accusers. Hashem (G-d) helps anyone who helps his fellow. I’ll never forget the shmuess (lecture) I heard, as a bachur (young man) ,from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l on Erev Yom Kippur in Yeshivas Tiferet Tzion. Rav Chaim started crying and said: ‘You want advice for Yom Kippur? Be good to each other, do chessed with each other, daven for each other — that’s the only way to come in to Yom Hadin (Day of Judgement) .’
“People have to understand that the way we thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for our being healthy and for not having a sick child c”v, is by helping others. The moment we help, we show that this is not the exclusive tzarah (hardship) of this sick or suffering Jew; it is Klal Yisrael’s (the Jewish nation’s) problem,” Rabbi Chollak says fervently. “The goal is to think of the next person. If you cannot do it personally, help with money. Do something. I saw that the Arizal writes that the whole reason man was created in this world was in order to help another. Suddenly, after 120 (upon death) , people will discover that they have tons of zechuyot (merits) , because they were a part of Ezer Mizion.