Weekly Thought: Seeing and Feeling Others’ Pain

In what way was Moshe like Hashem, regarding the pain of the Jews? How is this reflected in The Rebbe’s leadership? How can we – ordinary people – emulate this? Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Shliach to Doral, FL, shares his thoughts on this week’s Parsha – Va’eira.

“V’gam Ani Shomaati Es Naakas B’nei Yisroel…” And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel…”

Moshe was like his master, he paid attention to and felt the pain of The B’nei Yisroel. In last week’s Parsha we read how Moshe went out to observe the plight of his brethren. Upon seeing an Egyptian hitting a Jew, Moshe reacted and “took care of business”. Although he himself was free from the enslavement and any worries, having grown up in the king’s palace, yet Moshe made it very personal when he witnessed the hardships his brethren were experiencing. A true leader, and for that matter areal Yid, feels the pain of others and participates in the sorrow of another. There are countless stories which we are privy to, regarding The Rebbe’s personal involvement in the pain of His fellow Yidden. Not only did The Rebbe know what was happening, moreover it affected Him personally and many times resulted in His direct involvement.

Rabbi Chaim Gutnik OBM once went in to Yechidus and noticed that The Rebbe appeared unusually serious, close to tears. It was obvious that The Rebbe was experiencing some emotional distress. Rabbi Gutnik, being somewhat “close”, summed up the courage and inquired “what is bothering The Rebbe?”

The Rebbe told him: “there’s a young couple who recently married and requested to go out on Shlichus. I stipulated my agreement with them bringing me consent from their parents that they agree to it. After several days they returned with the consent, and I gave them my blessings. The young woman is an only daughter, a sister to five brothers who all serve on Shlichus in various places the world over (The Rebbe proceeded to enumerate the exact locations of each one), and now the parents will be all alone…” The Rebbe continued: “right now they are all in the airport saying their good-byes, the tears are flowing like water… Although these are tears of joy, still they are tears AND IN THESE MOMENTS I AM THERE WITH THEM!”

Another story which highlights The Rebbe’s care and involvement in the plight of even the youngest of Chassidim. Many years ago the principal of one of the schools in Crown Heights received a phone call. It was Rabbi Chadokov on the line. He explained that The Rebbe had instructed him to find out what was being done regarding a certain young student who was being harassed by his classmates due to his handicap. The mother had tried to resolve this matter through the “regular channels” but was unsuccessful in getting the school to make a real change. The boy was still being taunted and his feelings terribly hurt. She wrote to The Rebbe expressing her anguish. Rabbi Chadokov asked that the school take care of the problem ASAP.

About a week later Rabbi Chadokov called again. This wasn’t just a regular follow-up call… He explained that The Rebbe is frustrated with the fact that nothing substantial was done to resolve the matter and The Rebbe made it clear that “if the school does do whatever necessary to rectify the situation, He himself will have no choice but to come down to the school and personally take care of the problem!” Needless to say, the problem was taken care of very quickly!

A while later was the boy’s Bar Mitzvah. Typically, on the Shabbosim that The Rebbe would Farbreng, all Kidushim were short and quick. Everybody wanted to make in time for the1:30 start of the Shabbos Farbrengen. The Bar Mitzvah fell out on one such Shabbos in which The Rebbe would always Farbreng. The family prepared a Kiddush in their Shul on the opp[osite end of Crown Heighhts, with the expectation of the crowd remaining for only a short period of time. As The Rebbe entered The Shul in the morning for Shacharis, he did not give the typical signal for a Farbrengen. This obviously took everyone by surprise: “no Farbrengen on such a Shabbos?!” As the people attending the Bar Mitzvah Kiddush were getting ready to head out to 770, people were pouring in with the news that there will no Farbrengen! The young Bar Mitzvah ended up having a very nice Bar Mitzvah celebration, well attended and which lasted for many hours!

Take a moment to reflect. Think how important these special occasions were to The Rebbe, that He would Farbreng for the occasion year after year. Think about how His time was so well calculated and precious. Think how The Rebbe would not deviate from his schedule. Yet, to help the celebration of this young boy The Rebbe made it personal and helped contribute to his Simcha.

None of us are able to realistically, fully emulate The Rebbe’s care and compassion for another Yid. Yet, on some level we certainly have the capacity to care and show compassion – to the extent of our abilities. As The Rebbe explained many times, when relating a story about one of The Rabbeim or other Torah Giants “the fact that by Divine Providence the story has reached us, indicates that (at least) on some level we are capable of doing the same”. Make it a point to feel another’s pain, to get involved, to actually do something to help.

In conclusion, I once heard a Vort repeated in the name of Reb Mendel Futerfas: “A Chosid not only feels someone else’s pain. For, not to feel bad when someone else is going through hardship is just plain cruel. Even a non-Chosid is Mentch enough to feel another’s pain. A Chosid is someone who truly feels and experiences joy when another Yid is in joy!”

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