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'nagging' reframed

Friday, 11 November, 2022 - 3:49 am

Dear Friend,

I got a phone call this week that both inspired me and simultaneously ‘took me to task’.

The call came from a colleague who is the Rebbe’s Shliach to a city in UK that has a very small Jewish community. As part of his pastoral responsibilities, he is the Jewish chaplain at the local hospitals.

Rabbi J. was called to the bedside of a woman who is facing a very serious illness.

She told the rabbi about her Jewish ancestry. Her mothers, mothers, mother was Jewish. Her great grandmother was buried in a Jewish cemetery. Her grandmother, while married to a non-Jew, kept Shabbat every week.

It was a tenuous connection she had with her Jewish identity that was hanging on by a ‘thread’.

The spark of Jewishness in her soul prevailed. It eventually caused her to search for Jewish connection.

In her quests for meaning, she discovered Chabad.org and became an avid student of the ongoing classes. The ‘live’ broadcasts on Chabad.org’s Facebook page were especially dear to her.

And that is why I merited hearing this story.

While hooked up to oxygen, battling a serious illness (may Hashem send her a miraculous recovery) she told the visiting rabbi that she wanted to thank the rabbi’s on the Facebook page for their classes.

And when she commented on my classes on Facebook she specifically wanted to give me thanks for opening up the daily class with the joyous singing of a Chassidic melody.

This is not the first time I have received touching regards from people I have never met who have been listening to classes I have given.

But this is certainly the most heartfelt and touching message I have received.

As Rabbi J. explained to me, besides her Jewish identity being so nearly lost to the assimilation that comes with intermarriage, she also lives in an area of the UK which has no organized Jewish life within a fifty miles radius.

What were the chances of her being able to study Torah and be inspired to reconnect to Judaism.

And now, against all odds, her life is deeply bound up with the three thousand years of tradition that emanate from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

All because of the vision of the Rebbe who saw the development of technology and modernity as tools to spread the knowledge of G-d to the four corners of the world. Thus, the pioneering work of Chabad.org on the internet is constantly adapting to utilize the newest technology as it unfolds.

It was a wakeup call of sorts for me personally.

While I have tried to restart my Facebook posts on Chabad.org, there are technicalities that have hindered me.

Why have I not worked harder to solve those technical issues?

Perhaps there was a little voice inside of me saying that if it is so important then someone from the internet broadcast team would be on my back reminding me or even ‘nudging’ (as in nagging) me to get back online. I was not proactive enough about overcoming the issues.

However, if a woman struggling for her life, takes the effort to thank me personally for my contribution to her Jewish experience, it makes me recognize, that I too, need to try a bit harder.

This story is a reminder for me that one needs to be proactive in their acts of giving and kindness, not just reactive.

It just ‘so happens’ that this is a poignant message that can be culled from this weeks Parsha.

This week’s Parsha opens up with the following narrative.

Avraham had his circumcision at the age of ninety-nine. G-d had made it swelteringly hot in his area so that no one would be walking in the streets. Thus Avraham, the indefatigable and legendary ‘hospitality man’ would not need to host anyone. After all, it takes a little while to recover from the operation that he went through. Hashem wanted to give him recovery time.

Avraham didn’t enjoy his enforced respite. He was unhappy. He wanted to host people. But there was no one in sight. So, he sat at the entrance of his tent and waited with anticipation. Perhaps someone will show up out there in the streets and be available to be a recipient of his hospitality.

When the Almighty saw Avraham’s burning desire to host, and the anguish that he felt by not having guests, He sent three angels in the guise of men. Avraham saw them and indeed prepared a lavish meal to host them.

This aspect of Avraham’s kindness is unique.

There are many people who are responsive to those who are in need.

When a poor person, or worthy institution turns to them and asks them for help, they contribute generously.

However, if they are not approached and solicited, they are happy to remain on the sidelines.

When there is a need they don’t run away. They are genuinely kind people. Yet, they are not actively searching for ways to activate their charitable muscle.

Avraham’s approach was twofold. Avraham was attentive and super-responsive to the needs of those around him.

Avraham was also constantly proactively searching for opportunities to be kind and help others. To the point that when he deserved to take some ‘time off’ to heal himself, the lack of ability to give caused him so much pain that Hashem provided miraculous angelic guests to be recipients of his kindness.

The message from Avraham our Patriarch’s behavior is inspiring and compelling.

The first thing is to make sure to respond to calls for help that reach you. React with benevolence and charitableness.

But don’t stop there. Don’t just be a responder to pleas that reach you.

Dig deeper into your heart and see how you can broaden and widen the circle of those whom you help. What else can you initiate that will be helpful to those in the world around you who can utilize your help.

Even if you must persevere and toil to find and implement those giving opportunities, don’t shy away from being proactive.

In our times of connectivity, the parameters of whom we can reach have broadened to being nearly limitless.

It used to be that you could only help people in your immediate proximity. Avraham only recourse to search for hospitality opportunities, was to sit at the entrance to his tent and scour the horizon for guests.

Today the world is open in a way that it never before was.

You can help people and causes from all four corners of the world.

If you search for ways to implement goodness and kindness, the opportunities are endless.

(It’s important to insert a word of caution that one also needs to focus and not be pulled in all directions. There are some clear limitations and guidelines to ensure how we channel our giving. The Torah teaches us that we need to focus on family first, then community and only then should we go more global)

The same thing goes for spiritual giving and sharing of inspiration.

Today one can spread Torah knowledge and inspiration to individuals from all walks of life, on all four corners of the globe. Jews who are wandering in the proverbial desert and desperately thirsty for the soothing waters of the word of G-d are able to be reached via the ubiquitous internet.

Thank you, Rabbi J., for sharing this with me.

Thank you, dear student, for making the great effort to record your words of thanks to my colleagues and I who broadcast on the Chabad.org page. May you be blessed with a miraculous recovery.

I have heard the message I need to hear.

Please G-d I am going to try harder, and overcome the ‘hiccups’ to get back on the ‘air’ with messages from the Torah for contemporary times. At least once a week please G-d. And yes, with a joyous melody to set the tone.

Look out for me on Sundays on Chabad.org Facebook page.

‘Start your week with Torah light and joy, delivered live from Bangkok’

And may G-d provide you with opportunities to ‘flex your giving muscle’.

Here is the first step I think one should take.

Don’t look at solicitations for help as being a ‘pain in the neck’.

Rather, view them as G-d gift to you.

Deep down, you really want to give. Its in your DNA. By having people ‘chase you’ for help, G-d is giving you the opportunity to actualize that potential.

It’s Hashem sending you a gift to encourage and enable you to merit the great mitzvah of helping others with tzedakah.

When you reframe people’s requests of you, as G-d giving you the gift of being able to give, (just like he did when he sent Avraham the angels), you will discover how uplifting and special it is to be solicited for tzedakah. The recipient will get the gift of receiving tzedakah with a smile. This is the highest and most noble form of giving.

And once you get ‘hooked on giving’, you will not suffice with those causes that chase you.

You will start to look out for opportunities to volunteer to help others.

It’s ‘addictive’ in the most positive and powerful way.

Not an addiction to something external to us. For as descendants and progeny of Avraham, giving tzedakah and helping others, is at the core of who we truly are.

Lechayim, may we always merit to be able to give!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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