For Seventy Eighty Years a Soul Wears and Tears (My rant)

For Seventy Eighty Years a Soul Wears and Tears (My rant)

She asked if I wanted volunteers to help with my special needs child. I said that would be great. She said she has two girls offering to volunteer on Sundays. I said Shabbos would be much better for us. She said okay then, she will look elsewhere for placement for them - to fill their 'chesed' hours, to fulfill their quota of 'doing good' service.

 

"Hmmm...." I thought. "What about me? What about finding someone to help me?" Who is their 'kindness' for? Themselves ?!

 

My friend called me up, quite frustrated. She asked her mentor, for whom she also volunteers, to make time for her to discuss a pressing issue. He kept putting her off. As weeks went by, she got more and more impatient. "Absolutely can't see you till Tuesday!"  he said with finality.By then she was so down, she didn't even care to resolve her problem. Monday morning he calls, "It looks like this morning would be better for me." "Better for him?!", my friend shouted to me, outraged, "Is this all about him?!?" Ooooh, my friend was mad!

 

For seventy eighty years, the Baal Shem Tov says, a neshomo, a soul, may descend to this world solely to do a Jew a material favor and certainly a spiritual one.

 

The soul lives a lofty life up in heaven, basking in G-d's Holy Glory. Then it's time to come down into this mundane world where G-dliness is hardly felt. The soul prefers not to go, yet it goes, against its will. However, when we do one good deed, whoa, our soul benefits! It reaches a level even loftier than before. Total bliss. And so it's worth it. It's worth it for the soul to wear and tear for all these years just to do a favor for another. To gain that reward.

 

And that is the value I try to impart to my children.

 

We went shopping, my daughter and I, to our favorite Israeli boutique. She found a skirt she liked; the style, the fit and of course the price. She placed the prized skirt over the bar while trying her luck, checking out the other merchandise on the rack. I'm standing right next to her, when i hear her mumbling our motto - "For seventy eighty years a neshomo comes down to do a favor for another Jew."  I turn around to see another woman proudly walking off—with my daughter's....... skirt. My daughter could have said, "Hey lady, that's my skirt, give it back". But she chose not to. She chose to allow another Jewish woman to be happy instead.

 

It's not about us. It's not about what's good for me. It's, what can I do for another? I'm proud of her.

 

There are hundreds of stories of R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who was known to be a lover of Israel and an advocate on behalf of each and every Jew. One story that often comes to mind that exemplifies his outstanding care for every Jew is the one where he gives away his own portion in the world -to-come to a dying Jew who was unable to die in peace, for he knew he did not have any merits and was afraid to face Heaven 'empty'. R' Levi Yitzchak, without batting an eyelash, promised this man his own portion in paradise just so that a fellow Jew would have a few moments of relief. Moments later the man sank into his pillow and - died in peace.

 

There is an amazing story from the Talmud about Mar Ukva, a great Sage, which tells the extent to which he went, to avoid shaming another Jew.

 

In his neighborhood there lived an extremely poor person. Each day, the Rabbi would leave four coins behind the pauper's door. In this way, the pauper would never see his benefactor.

 

One day the pauper decided to catch his benefactor in the act and see who he was. When the pauper saw the coins being delivered, he ran out to see who was there. Mar Ukva ran away and jumped into a hot oven, 'til his feet started to burn. Mar Ukva protected the pauper from the shame of seeing the great Rabbi providing him his daily needs. What was the need for Mar Ukva to hide in a hot oven? Concludes the Talmud:  Because a person should rather let oneself be thrown into a burning furnace than put another person to shame.

 

I kvell from these stories. They warm my heart. (And not from the oven's heat). I too want to perform selflessly.

 

I personally melt when I'm treated with extra consideration. When the parking attendant graciously allows me to park on the side, where no cars are allowed, I'm thinking, 'What a nice person, G-d bless him'. I am so grateful to him. Why? Why does it overwhelm me that somebody was nice? Why should this not be the norm? Why am I bowled over when someone does a kind act?

 

There was a woman we knew that lived in the mountains. She owned a second home there for family and friends to use. She kept inviting us to come with our kids and spend some time there in the summer. I always felt uncomfortable taking advantage of her kindness. One summer we finally went and had a wonderful time. The cool air, the private beach and boating were wonderful. When I couldn't stop thanking her, she repeatedly told me that it was actually a Mitzva for me to come. And of course I should come again! Which of course we did, after all it was a Mitzva. 'A Mitzva?!'', I thought to myself. 'I'm doing a Mitzva by using this kind woman's beautiful cabin and enjoying ourselves??!'  But that was part of her generosity. Part of her giving - fully. To make me feel like I was the one giving to her. 

 

The route to the Heavenly Chambers, says the Rebbe Maharash, is to help another wholeheartedly, with sensitivity, to take pleasure in doing a kindness to another.

 

The phone is ringing. Caller ID tells me it's the elderly woman who wants my listening ear, or to give her a ride somewhere. She has aches and pains. She is lonely. I'm totally not in the mood to listen to her; I have other pressing things to do right now. However.....

 

"For seventy eighty years...." I sing. As I lift the receiver -

 

With a smile!


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