What is the cause of cancer?
I couldn’t tell you. But it’s certainly one of Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s plans to bring the world to perfection. When we see other people who are suffering and we just keep quiet about it, we have lost the opportunity. You have to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu every day that you’re well. Absolutely! And you should daven that you should remain healthy. לעולם יבקש אדם רחמים שלא יחלה – You always have to ask Hashem, “Please Hashem, please keep me well” (Shabbos 32a).
Now, the shemonah esrei is too short a time to do that. Outside of shemonah esrei you must ask from time to time. While you’re walking in the street, talk to Hashem: “Hashem, I thank You that I am well. I thank You that I don’t have this and I don’t have that. And I don’t have this and I don’t have that. There are so many thises and thats in the world, and I don’t have them.” Thank Hashem for all the illnesses that you don’t have. Ahh! Boruch Hashem! And so, cancer is one of the opportunities for the non-cancer people to thank Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Now, somebody with cancer chalilah should know that he’s being given a notice; time is short. Why should he die suddenly without preparation?! Let him get ready now, let him do teshuva. There’s so much to repair in your life. Here you have Rebbi Zeirah; before he died he sat down and began reviewing all the mesichtas. Now he didn’t have cancer, but he knew that his time was close to die and he wanted to take with him all of his learning. Some things you learn too superficially, so he sat down and learned all the mesichtas over and over again, until he was ready to leave this world with all the Torah in his suitcase.
And a cancer patient, נישט אויף קיינער געדאכט, he should use the opportunity to rectify all the wrong things he did; to ask mechila, forgiveness, from everybody. Some people he sinned against already died, so he should send a minyan to the grave, or go himself with a minyan and ask mechila. He should give tzedaka, he should try to daven with perfection of character and awareness of Hashem. He should learn as much as he can.
And little by little, in his last hours, or his last months, or his last years, he can become very great just because he had that sickness. If he didn’t have that sickness, he would have just kept jogging along through life, the same way as he did up till now, and suddenly he would die. But now he’s being given a notice. He knows it’s going to come to an end, so he’s perfecting himself. And therefore, he gained from it. And the people who saw him and were so busy thanking Hashem that they don’t have the illness, they also gained.
TAPE # E-173 (June 1999)