Last week’s stretch of the week was: Try to understand what's behind an angry response and replace it with a calmer one.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
Any Love That Depends Upon Something
כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר
Kol Ahava She'Hee T'luya B'Davar
Perek Hai, Mishna Yud Tes
My former roommate married into a wealthy family. Her spacious home is tastefully decorated, and not at all ostentatious, but clearly a step above the homes of most of our peers. Although she doesn’t work outside the home, Miriam is always extremely busy with her family, community projects and social activities.
I am glad to have maintained a friendship with Miriam over the years, but often feel less than perfect in her company. I don’t work outside the home either but am somehow always completely overwhelmed. The bills, the dishes, the laundry are catalysts for seemingly endless piles on the kitchen counter as well as multiple discussions with my husband about how to make ends meet.
Last summer, as the month of August approached, conversations about carpools for the
school year began to unfold. My oldest child was only seven and I also had a five year old, three-year-old twins and a newborn. That being said, I needed to pick up all of my children from school and playgroup with an infant in tow. Although a stay at home mother, Miriam had a live-in nanny and often enjoyed the freedom of shopping trips, classes and a weekly date night with her husband.
For me a babysitter is a luxury, reserved only for the occasional simcha or emergency. Date night is a distant memory from when we were first married, and classes with a colicky newborn were out of the question. The twins only went to playgroup until noon three days per week so I really needed the other mornings to keep the house together.
I walked my children to and from their backyard camps, grateful that they were able to attend for at least a part of the day, pushing the baby in a stroller. I knew that this routine would not be so easy once school started earlier and cold weather set in.
One day I ran into Miriam at the bakery and she suggested a carpool arrangement. She would drive my older children home Mondays and Wednesdays, I could drive Tuesdays and Thursdays and we could alternate on Fridays. The problem was that I had no seats in my car for Miriam’s children because all of my kids would be in the car. This wasn’t an issue for Miriam since she had a nanny and did not have to bring her other children with her to drive carpool.
I would have been so grateful to have any help at all and not have to schlep three cranky younger children to do carpool, even if for only a couple of days a week. I felt resentful of Miriam. I thought to myself, “She has full time help and never has to schlep her kids anywhere. What is the big deal for her to pick up her own kids? She could easily drive an empty car every afternoon and take my kids home. My house is on the way. I would be happy to share the days, but have no room in my car. Why can’t she just help me out?”
I politely reminded Miriam about the issue of having no spaces in my van and asked her for advice. I secretly hoped that she would offer to bring my children home since she does chessed often and it was pretty obvious to anyone that this would be a big one.
Miriam said that she understood and wished me the best in finding a carpool situation that worked for me. I was smiling on the outside but fuming on the inside. “Doesn’t she understand that help with carpool would mean so much to me? Is it such a big deal?”
I thought about it for a moment. It likely is a big deal to her. Maybe she needs help because is truly overwhelmed by the day to day routine of cooking, cleaning and carpool. Maybe she secretly envies me because somehow I do manage it all.
As I was contemplating this Miriam said, “Rebecca, the nanny is off tonight and David and I always have date night on Thursdays. Would you mind if I drop my kids at your house for a couple of hours tonight? “Sure Miriam,” I smiled. “No problem.” For me, I reminded myself, it really wasn’t.
"כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר בטל דבר בטלה אהבה ושאינה תלויה בדבר אינה בטלה לעולם..."
"Kol ahava she'hee t'luya b'davar, batel davar, b'taila ahava, v'she'aina t'luya badavar, aina b'taila l'olam..."
"Any love that depends upon something, when that thing ceases, the love will cease. But if it is not dependent on anything, it will never cease..."(Perek Hai, Mishna Yud Tes).
In Lashon HaKodesh, and as it is used in our mishna, love refers to a closeness, a connection, meaning that two people who love each other intensely consider themselves like one unit. Indeed, the numerical value of the word ahava, love, is equal to the numerical value of echad, one. Both are thirteen. Thus, when a person feels love for Torah, for wisdom, and acts of kindness, he feels that these are a part of who he is.
Rabbainu Ovadia of Bartenura defines a love dependent on something as a love for something physical, such as physical beauty, strength and wealth. None of these are permanent. Contrarily, any love dependent upon something eternal and unchanging may be defined as being “not dependent on anything.” For example, a person’s love for those who are wise and righteous will endure because he loves their wisdom and righteousness. Even if a person ages, changes, or passes away, the love of wisdom and righteousness does not change.
Tiferes Yisrael defines “love dependent on something” as any love that is responsive to a cause; when the cause ceases, so does the love. However, love “not dependent on anything” is a love that has no specific cause, and therefore it will endure.
The Lev Simcha interprets the phrase “ahava she’hee t’luya b’davar” as referring to love that is based upon the spoken word, davar. In such a relationship, love ebbs when the conversation runs dry. On the other hand, true love exists regardless of the tenor of the conversation. It is also possible to communicate without any words at all.
Notes: The goal here is to explore the need for ahavas yisrael not to be dependent on the specific characteristics of the person you deal with and whether they are similar to you or whether you enjoy interacting with them. The fact that they are a fellow Jew and a creation of HaShem who is loved by HaShem is enough. You don’t necessarily need to agree or endorse specific behavior, but you need to love. K'lal Yisrael is one unit.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
Why is it more difficult to do chessed for people we do not naturally feel a connection with?
Is one required to do chessed for someone, even if they feel strongly that it will not be reciprocated?
Are we obligated to like everyone? What does it mean to love the Jewish people?
Stretch of the Week:
Find out what would be a true chessed for someone you do not naturally feel close to and do it for that person even if it will cause you a minor amount of inconvenience or discomfort.