in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times
Last week’s stretch of the week was: 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.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
[He] Shares The Burden Of His Colleague
נושא בעל עם חברו
No'say B’Ole Im Chavayro
Perek Vav, Mishna Vav
Story: (based on a true story)
I was someone who might have been considered an “older single”, not having found my soul mate until my late thirties. One by one, my closest friends got married while I was still serial dating throughout my twenties . . . and thirties. At the announcement of every engagement, I was genuinely happy for my girlfriends, despite the gnawing feeling caused by being “always a bridesmaid and never a bride”.
Finally, at the wedding at one of my friends, I was introduced to Jacob, a wonderful, intelligent and sensitive accountant from my hometown. We were married six months later and I can say with absolute certainty that he was worth the wait! Five years later, I am a grateful mother of three happy, healthy children and we are a family that is firmly rooted in a growing Jewish community.
One of my friends from college, Sarah, lives close by and is a frequent guest in our home. She is an attractive, successful attorney who is great with kids and keeps busy with work and social events. That being said, although she desperately wants to be married and start a family, she has not been able to “find the right one”. Over the years I have tried to set her up a couple of times with men from my husband’s office or other singles in town, but Sarah is never interested. There is always an issue . . . “there’s no chemistry”, “he’s unemployed”, “he’s divorced”, etc. Often her points seem valid but, admittedly, I had stopped making a strong effort to suggest new potential matches, anticipating another negative reaction to my latest idea.
Sarah often offers to babysit so my husband and I can go out at night. Our kids love her and she works on her laptop after they go to sleep so it works out well for everyone. Last Thursday was our wedding anniversary and Sarah arrived just after we had settled the kids in bed. We were on our way to catch a concert in the city and, after thanking Sarah profusely, rushed out the door in anticipation of a fabulous evening.
Once we had turned the corner, I realized that I had left the concert tickets at home. I asked Jacob to drive back and wait in the car so I could run back inside. When I entered the house, I found Sarah crying quietly, with her head in her hands, at the kitchen table. When I asked her what was wrong she said, “It’s me. There’s something wrong with me. There must be because I just can’t find the right guy. I can’t take driving home to an empty apartment anymore. Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?” I realized that I could not leave my friend in this state, but also remembered my husband sitting in the car waiting to start our date.
I poured Sarah a glass of water and told her I would be right back, her sobs growing louder as I walked into the living room to call Jacob and explain the situation. We quickly agreed that I needed to stay and be with my friend. Jacob quietly came back inside through the garage door and went upstairs to give us some privacy, while Sarah and I stayed up through the night. We talked about what might be holding her back. She agreed to be more open-minded about suggestions and that we would work through the issues that seemed to be obstacles as they arose. I resolved to make a concerted effort to help her through this and reignite my efforts to find her a match, instead of avoiding the subject.
I’m not sure when Sarah’s husband will arrive but I hope that it will be soon. Her loneliness serves as a reminder to be grateful for my husband and children. Through my relationship with Sarah, I am further reminded that we are all one people and that, if one of us is suffering, it is as if all of the Jewish people are suffering. The price of the concert tickets was a small one to pay for these spiritual reminders. After all, a few short years ago, it could have easily been me crying, with my head in my hands, at someone else’s kitchen table.
"...והתורה נקנית בארבעים ושמונה דברים...נושא בעל עם חברו..."
"...V’haTorah niknais b’arba’im u’sh'mo'ne d'vorim...no'say b’ole im chavayro..."
"...and the Torah is acquired with forty-eight things…[he] shares the burden of his colleague..."(Perek Vav, Mishna Vav). A person who shares the burden of his colleague delves into the viewpoint of a dissenting colleague and tries to understand his reasoning.
Thus we often find in the Talmud that an a'mora resolves a question directed at his disputant. For instance, “Abaye explained something according to the viewpoint of Rava” (Shabbos 52b etc.) (Ruach HaChaim). A person who shares the burden of his colleague empathizes with him, desires his success as much as he desires his own, and averts his eyes from his colleague’s flaws. But what is the connection between that and acquiring Torah? The answer is that Torah is given to the Jewish people as a whole, and not to any single individual. Therefore, in order to attain the Torah, a person must be part of a community.
Moshe Rabbainu was a prime example of a person who shares the burden of his colleague when he was still a privileged young prince in the house of Par'o. When Moshe learned of the decrees that had promulgated against his fellow Jews, he sought a position in which he would be able to help them without incurring Par'o’s suspicions. To that end, he proposed that he supervise their labor, to which Par'o agreed. HaShem saw that Moshe turned aside from his personal affairs to take an interest in the troubles of the Jews. As a result, “HaShem called to him from the midst of the bush” (Sh'mos 3:4). When a person bears the yoke of the community, feeling himself to be a part of a whole, he attains the Torah, which has been given to the Jewish people as a whole.
(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:
If we try to help a friend find a mate, a job, etc., how do we know if we are really putting forth the maximum effort?
Think of a time in your life when you have felt jealous of someone else’s success? How did you get over this feeling?
Think of a relationship you have with someone who has a habit, mannerism or attitude that you find irritating. Now think of a habit, mannerism or attitude you have that this person might find irritating. Does this awareness help you feel closer or more distant?
Stretch of the Week:
Think of a friend who is going through a particularly challenging life situation. Make an extra effort to reach out to him/her and do something specific to help.