My appointment with Ephraim Sagi was for 8:40 a.m. That’s a curious time for an appointment, I thought. When I arrived at the clinic, I understood. There was a long list of patients, neatly typed, next to the doctor’s door. Each patient had been allotted 5 minutes. From 8:00-11:50, one day a week, the doctor meets with 46 patients, each one in and out in 5 minutes.
When it was my turn, I opened the door. The doctor sat opposite me at a desk. There was no nurse or assistant present. A Mozart clarinet concerto was playing softly in the air of the little room. “Yes,” he said. I lifted my shirt and showed him a few scabby growths. “That’s nothing. Those come with age. If they bother you, I can burn them off with liquid nitrogen.” “So there’s nothing I can do about preventing these, nothing I can do about getting older?" I joked. “No," he responded in kind, “they have not yet found a way to stop that process." I tucked in my shirt and left the office. No need for a liquid nitrogen burn. No need to keep his eager patients waiting, especially since they were mostly women with small children, as Dr. Sagi specializes in pediatric dermatology. My skin mystery was solved. With any sort of bodily condition, it’s not knowing that is really the problem, always much greater than the problem itself.
I was in the doctor’s office around three minutes. It reminded me of what they say about great rabbis, who often have long lines of troubled people outside their doors. “The less time the rabbi spends with each person, the greater the rabbi.” A great rabbi can diagnose your problem instantaneously and provide you with the means for solving it, too. Really, though, I think most great rabbis probably tell each troubled person, in so many words, “it’s nothing.” Just like with a mysterious bodily condition, a mysterious spiritual condition is usually not as bad as you think. But you need to hear that from the right person, from someone who can tell you that there is nothing to worry about and, when you hear those words coming from this particular person, you are immediately convinced that everything is good.