My great-grandmother used to teach: “Do good and be good!” – a teaching that filtered down through her daughter to her granddaughter; and her great-granddaughter after her. This provided an unbroken chain on the importance of spreading goodness and kindness wherever and whenever possible. Where did she get this teaching from?
She was the granddaughter of a great rabbi in Dublin who taught the importance of bestowing kindness to our fellow Jew – a teaching that comes from none other than Avraham Avinu, our patriarch and Sarah Imanu, our matriarch. All of this might seem like interesting concepts. Nice ideas. The right thing to do when presented with a situation that someone needs help.
When one is on the receiving end of needing help, it makes one realise just how special this quality is and what extent of sensitivity can help to ease the pain of a fellow Jew or human being.
Just recently I found myself in a position of need, when unforeseen circumstances resulted in my spending a short period of time in hospital, followed by several days unable to take care of certain basic necessities. Feeling dreadful, I reached for the phone to call a friend to ask that she pray for my speedy recovery. Being new in the area I live in, I did not yet have a support system of anyone to ask to help prepare food for Shabbat, to give advice as to the best doctor to go to, to give my husband and me some support.
I thought I wanted my friend to pray for my recovery, but Hashem (G-d) heard my silent cry for help and set up everything that I should receive just that. Instead of talking to my friend, I found myself talking to her mother, who immediately said she knew just the person to help. She made a call and very shortly my whole situation changed. Yes I still had to go to doctors, yes I still had to recover and deal with the pain but over the next few days, it became very evident how G-d was directing things. From not knowing anyone in our area, suddenly through an interesting turn of events, I was put in touch with a very caring person and before I knew it, a support system had been established. Having no appetite and unable to stand for long, I had no idea how I would cook for my husband. This problem dissolved as I was sent one thoughtful and caring Jew after another.
Of all of the new friends, one stands out as a model of how to offer help to your fellow Jew. This wonderful woman called and introduced herself, saying who had given her my name. She then said: “I understand something not so nice happened to you, how can I help?” There were no questions, no lectures. She had no need to know any details. All that mattered was what were the needs of the person she was about to help – in this case, me.
When I began to tell her, she listened and offered to come over with a meal. I expected some soup, enough for 2 for one meal or something simple. How pleasantly surprised we were to discover soup, chicken and vegetables enough to be heated up for a few meals.
When bringing the food, she came in and visited me for a while. When I mentioned I needed a certain type doctor in our area, she did not just give a name and say, “now call him yourself!” Rather, she realized that I was a little confused and so she asked for my phone and called herself. She insisted I have the soonest appointment they could give me and made sure all the details were written down for me, including showing me on the map how to get there.
Each time she called, it was like a breath of fresh air. It is so easy when wanting to help another to reach out with a hidden agenda. So often the story of what another is going through is interesting. We want to know. We want to give our views and opinions. We want to tell others not to question, to have faith etc, etc. When one is ill though, it is not easy to talk too much. Not everyone wants to talk about what is happening. Sometimes we just need practical help and wait and long for the person phoning, visiting or showing they care to stop long enough to listen to our needs. Perhaps we need a meal cooked, an errand run. Perhaps we need help with some household task or information about a doctor. Sometimes we just need someone to be there.
This is exactly how this special Jewish woman behaved. No lectures, no digging for information, no projecting her views, needs or perspective. She put aside who she was and where she was coming from, and was just there for the other; available for what was needed and prepared to call others to do what she could not do herself.
What a beautiful lesson she taught, an obvious messenger sent by G-d. If we can all emulate this kind of consideration for another, we will make our forefather Avraham very proud of us. Not to mention the Nachas to Hashem or the obvious relief of pain by sharing with another in a manner that meets their needs and not our own hidden agenda.
As it is brought down in Likutey Moharan I:34 “In every Jew there is something precious, a virtue not found in his friend … with this he can inspire his friend to Avodas Hashem. His friend must acknowledge and accept this good point, as it is written of the angels, “They receive each from the other.” (Targum on Isaiah 6:3)