Two unforeseen developments rocked Reb Yisroel's stay in Vilna. The first was related to Reb Yisroel's attitude toward matters of health. He accepted doctor's orders as halachah (Torah law), implicit in the command of ''V'Nishmarsem M'od L'Nafshoseihem", "And you shall guard your lives" (Devarim 4:15). When health concerns conflicted with other halachos, he usually decided with a consistent leniency as far as the latter was concerned. He seemed to share Reb Chaim Brisker's view: "I am not lenient in regard to Shabbos or Yom Kippur; rather I am stringent in the laws of preservation of life!"15
Since Reb Yisroel never rendered any halachic decisions in Vilna, not even for his own household,16 he must have experienced enormous personal conflict during the peak of a cholera epidemic that devastated Vilna in late summer 1848. Reb Yisroel had committed himself to the city's welfare - renting hospital quarters with five hundred beds, while his own talmidim nursed the stricken around the clock, seven days a week, with patient care on Shabbos no different than on the other days of the week. As Yom Kippur approached, he feared that the fast would weaken the people and make them dangerously susceptible to the often-fatal disease. Reb Yisroel hung placards throughout Vilna urging all who felt weak to eat on the fast day, to stave off any threat. He did this without consulting others because he apparently realized that he would not gain a consensus for such a radical, yet - in his view - essential move. Immediately after Shacharis on Yom Kippur, he himself rose to the bimah, and according to some accounts, publicly made Kiddush and ate some cakes to encourage all those in need to follow suit. Needless to say, there were great protests, but Reb Yisroel ignored them and reportedly made his way to other shuls as well, to urge others to join him.
We join with others in wishing everyone "gmar khasime tova" ... That everyone should be enscribed for a good year.