JERUSALEM (VINnews) — When Yehuda Sabiner was a young boy, he dreamed of being a doctor. This would not be an unusual dream for most people, but Yehuda grew up as a Gerer Chasid in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof and had no secular education whatsoever. “I didn’t even know multiplication tables”, Sabiner told Channel 13 in a recent interview.
Sabiner (30), who recently completed his certification as a doctor, has become something of a celebrity in the Israeli press as the first Chareidi doctor in Israel who grew up in a totally Chasidic home. “I don’t think it’s unusual to find a Chareidi doctor in Israel, they usually come from abroad, but I don’t know anybody else who came from the Chareidi consensus to this vocation,” Sabiner says.
Sabiner wasn’t daunted by his lack of secular knowledge, nor was he discouraged by his teacher’s mockery or even by his wife’s tears. One day he told a member of staff in the Yeshiva where he studied of his dream. “He held his head between his hands and said: You really need a psychiatrist, that’s just unrealistic. You won’t get in, you can’t. You won’t go against your entire community,” Sabiner recalls.
Apparently Sabiner was a good student in Yeshiva and his father thought that his dream was merely a passing fad. When the time came for Yehuda to get married, he wanted his family to stress to the Kallah’s family that he didn’t intend to stay in learning forever. However his wife Rachel says that she was told a different story. She claims that her father was told that “he’s going to be the next leader of the generation, he is a genius, one of the top five among Gerer Chasidim.” Yehuda responds quietly that “someone got carried away.”
Eight months after his wedding, Yehuda told his bride of his dream. “It was a very difficult discussion,” his wife recalls, “because I understood at that moment that I had either lost my dream that my husband would sit and study Torah or that if I forced him to sit and learn, I had lost a happy and contented husband. I cried a lot that night. I asked him the whole time, ‘Is that what you want your children to see? A father who is a doctor?'”
Yehuda said that he felt really bad that night and told his wife that he wouldn’t do it and that it was just a joke, since “you know it’s impractical.” The next day she “displayed great spirit and came to me saying ‘I won’t be the one to ruin your dream.’ ”
The couple agreed to consult with a prominent rabbinic authority and when he gave his blessing, Rachel decided to stand with her husband on his decision.
Yehuda recalls that “on my first day at the Technion studying medicine, the guard stopped me and said ‘great, we have a new Kashrus supervisor.'” Two years later he matriculated in math, physics and English with high grades and went on to do his degree under Professor Arnon Benetton’s tutelage. Benetton established a program for top Chareidi students who wish to embark on scientific careers. At present there are already 100 Chareidi students in the Technion.
Despite feeling out of place in the rampantly secular atmosphere, Yehuda, who maintained his Chasidic dress the whole time, managed to overcome his uneasiness and excelled at his studies. All this time his family kept his studies secret within the community. When the news came out that Yehuda was studying at the Technion, people told his wife to pray that he return to the Kollel. However when they heard that he was studying medicine, the response was more positive.
Yehuda sees himself following in the footsteps of the Rambam and the Amora Shmuel and is convinced that there is a place for Chareidi physicians as well. He humbly concludes that “if in the future I will merit saving lives, it should be public knowledge that the merit truly belongs to my wife.”