Monday, June 22, 2009

Simple Kindnesses

Chassidic stories and the like have a legend of "hidden tzadikkim", good people who look ordinary but do very special work behind the scenes, when no one in particular is looking. Where does one find such people?

Well, we made a "simcha" this past weekend - my eldest son's Barmitzva. It was all wonderful, and we had much to celebrate. It is the first "simcha" that we have made beyond the rushed organisation of a "Brit." And so in our planning and running of the events, we discovered certain things, or maybe I should say, people, that we did not expect.

Planning the Shabbat of a Barmitzva is quite a feat. If one wants to avoid the inordinate cost of a full blown caterer, how does one manage? After all, one needs tablecloths, napkins and dishes, and one wants them to be elegant, colour coordinated and the like. Moreover, one may wish to eat of china rather than plastic plates. How do we do this for forty people in a cost effective way?

What we discovered is that our Yishuv (community) has a Gema"ch (free loan society) for family celebrations. They have a storage room with tablecloths in about 20 colours, serving dishes, decorative pieces for the table, every last detail including a board to cut the Challah, and a mirror on which to place Shabbat candles. and the amazing thing is that one can take all these things for FREE! (One has to pay to get the tablecloths laundered but that is the total cost.) The people who work there volunteer. I don't know who set it up, nor who donated all the beautiful things there. But what an amazing concept! Everyone has bar/batmitzvas, aufrufs, and other family parties. Why not have a central facility that helps everyone to have a high-quality upscale simcha for minimal running costs? The fact that all this is offered to the community without charge is astounding.

And after the Shabbat, we had leftover food. Friends informed us of a man in our community who distributes leftovers to needy local families. We took him the food. He ensured that needy families received it. This man has created a discreet network which ensures that he is informed of families in need, and he provides for their basic needs.

Once again, here is a shining example of exemplary work performed without fanfare or prestige but this is a service which, no doubt, restores dignity and hope (let alone nutrition) to many desperate homes.

And I am quite amazed that I have lived in this community for 15 years and I was absolutely unaware of these terrific public services. It would appear that certain acts of kindness are done quietly; so quietly that until a person stumbles upon them, one just doesn't know about them.

But beyond these special acts and institutions let me mention something even simpler. we received many phone calls: from friends abroad, family, my parents' friends, all wishing us Mazal Tov. It warmed our hearts. So many people cared to boost our simcha. It doesn't take much to pick up the phone and speak and listen for 60 seconds, but it made a powerful difference to us. I frequently forget to call people in these situations. Now I understand just how incredible it is. The sense that people who you care about are remembering you and celebrating together with you is deeply heart warming. so this has taught me an important lesson, of the power of joining with others in their simcha, the potent force of caring and expressing love to others. That nurturing a friendship and demonstrating concern for friends - not the needy but friends - is also an act which raises us up and make our lives happy, worthwhile and meaningful.


elli said...

Beautiful post, beautiful simchah... and a beautiful community you have!

Alex Schindler said...

off topic, but Rabbi, YOU LIKE AVISHAI COHEN??? Once again demonstrating that you're the coolest rabbi in Eretz HaTzvi.

also off topic, but when (if) you have the time, RSS feeds are all the rage.