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