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Op-Ed: Please Don’t Wait Till I’m Dead to Say Hello

by Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky

There’s a story told about a group of Gaboim & Shul presidents who gathered for their annual meeting, where they hoped to exchange ideas on how to improve the overall management of Hashem’s houses of worship. Naturally the issue of pledges & Aliyos came up.

One of the more prominent members of the group had the following gripe: “Why is it that Jews always pledge in increments of Chai. True Chai means life. But one time Meis (“dead”) equals more than ten times!?”. Chai has the numerical value of 18, while Meis squalls 440.

Every joke has some truth. Sadly the way things are in our society “one time dead equals more than ten times life”. The saying goes that “everybody enjoys a tragedy”. Regrettably we seem to allow our good character and our sense of compassion to awaken only in the face of misfortune. Everybody springs to action and joins the chorus of concern at the sound of the tune of calamity. Unknown & unnoticed people suddenly get a face, their existence becomes broadcast in light of tragedy.

Why? Why do we need to wait for bad things to happen to someone before we even bother to acknowledge that they exist?! Of course no Jew is able to ignore the suffering of another person. No Jew is capable of ignoring the pain of others. No one would stand by and not feed orphans or help the sick or assist with the dead. But why wait until the father is dead to notice his children?! Why ignore the family until mom takes ill? Why allow someone to fail at until they hit rock-bottom before galvanizing the tropes to come lend a hand?

How often do we sadly hear about the loss of another young life to a tragic overdose or worse? Everybody’s concern and compassion for the poor parents and family knows no bounds. Suddenly everybody becomes concerned and caring. Some even express their regret about not having done more – with a commitment to do so in the future. The fact however is that reality kicks in & everything goes right back to normal. “Normal” meaning that no one pays much attention to the living. Too often we don’t even bother to go out of our familiar zone and reach out to a living stranger. That stranger becomes very familiar only after tragedy strikes.

Why are we worth (the attention) more dead than alive?!?

Have you ever had the feeling of loneliness even while being in the presence of hundreds of people? Have you ever walked in to a packed room yet felt empty and alone? If you went through it – you most definitely know the feeling. If you haven’t experienced this – than you really don’t have a clue as to how painful this is. When was the last time you took a few moments to embrace a stranger or a little-out-of-place guy – just to make them feel welcomed. Yes that may necessitate you leaving the company of your comfort zone – friends. It may not grab headlines or great recognition. At least you will feel good knowing that you have promoted someone’s Chai instead of waiting to react to a Meis situation.

Think of all the tragedies you have read about on this very site. Think of all the people you know, who can benefit from a kind word. Think of the little effort it takes to make such a great positive impact.

Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky
Chabad Jewish Center of Doral
Doral, FL

15 Comments

    • 2. Why don't you rewrite this article wrote:

      in an uplifting way to show Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky Instead of criticizing.

  • 3. Anonymous wrote:

    Is that the reason that mosdos want to be beneficiary on the life insurance on parents yes better dead than alive

    Reply
  • 6. Yossel wrote:

    It’s much easier to be “a person” in smaller communities. In New York you really ARE just a number!!

    Reply
  • 7. Your words are so true! wrote:

    Years ago a successful businessman woke up to find his own obituary in the local Times, (submitted but a competitor, of course)!
    Instead of being upset, he called my father and said it was really nice, after the initial shock of reading his own obituary, because he never knew he had so many friends! Everyone was calling and sending Telex s, about what a wonderful person he was, and how he would be sorely missed.
    People, take the time to say hello to your neighbors and out of town relatives. Because most of them will never hear your condolences after they are gone.

    Reply
  • 8. I agree wrote:

    After a friend of mine passed young who worked every second that they could to provide for their family I couldn’t agree more. Now that that person is no longer alive their family is finally getting the help it needs. Sometimes young boys who have a father need someone to take them to shul and learn with them. A chesed organization in crown heights that helps people in a pickle with a one time bail out severely needs funds but their recent fund raising campaign was not exactly successful. Yes some young ladies are dressing untznius because of peer pressure but some received those clothes from charity bags dumped on their family’s front stoop. Some cherished mitzvos are discarded when a family has to choose between them and survival. Yes BH we have organizations for help. But maybe we need more. We need drop off places where teachers can help students with their homework for free. No matter how much their parents make. In crown heights we have the middle class poor – between house payments and car payments and tuition payments and tax payments – what is left? If the parents are too proud to ask for help should the children suffer.

    I wish I could state solutions that didn’t involve time or money but I can’t – but maybe others can.

    Reply
  • 9. Excellent! wrote:

    How very true! The world is so self absorbed and even in “tight knit” communities, so many people don’t matter until tragedy strikes, r’l.

    Reply
  • 10. Great Article wrote:

    I myself was just wondering this yesterday, why wait till death to be recognized? why wait until you leave to be told how good you were.
    Its time to make others feel they are worthy and valuable to the world WHILE they are alive

    Thank you for this beautiful article

    Reply
  • 11. www wrote:

    I love #1 comment!!
    we all need to hear how to have more ahavas yisroel.
    and talking about midos, one of our Chabad rebbes said:

    aleph bais gimel daled:
    aleph: achdus
    bais: bracha
    gimel: gaava (giyva)
    daled: dalis (poverty)

    Reply
  • 12. The kangeroo wrote:

    #10 All #1 proved is that “kol haposel bmumo posel” and even if you do not understand it,you are proving the same point.I wish you would keep the rebbes out of your non brocho comments.

    Reply
  • 13. I Couldn't Agree More! wrote:

    When I moved to Crown Heights 40 years ago I met someone on Kingston who thought that she was being helpful when she suggested to me that I should:

    “Give yourself a year and you won’t have TIME to greet anyone!”

    BH I proved this person wrong time and again even if I was greeted by a non-responsive stare or the vague comment: “Do I know you?”

    It is therefore not for nothing that the Rebbe, ZY’A felt the need to instruct grown women in a letter read to us by Rabbi Weinberg, obm that it is essential to greet one another!

    Kol HaKavod Rabbi Brashevitzky for feeling the need to instruct us in the vital though basic form of humanity!

    Penina Metal

    Reply
  • 14. Crown Heights Resident wrote:

    Some people refer to needy people as אחרי מות קדושים. After they die they become (holy) important.

    Reply

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