Saving lives

Friday, 8 March, 2024 - 3:57 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two people shared similar stories with me this week.

Is this a sign from Heaven to share the stories and find how the parsha or date relate to the stories?

Perhaps I can ask you for your help.

Here are the stories. Please share with me if you see the connection with the Parsha of the week – Vayakhel. Or with the time of the year, Shabbat when we read about the Shekalim (half shekel) or Rosh Chodesh Adar the first day of the month of Purim.

S.Y., a community member who was eating lunch at JCafe, told me that he had merited to save a life this week.

A business client was visiting him from the USA and started experiencing pain in his chest. The visitor brushed it off and said he would check it out in the USA when he went back the next day. S.Y. insisted on taking him to the doctor to check it out. It was a 95% blockage in one of the main arteries. Who knows what could have happened G-d forbid on the plane. An angioplasty cleared the blockage and now he is free to travel back home safely.

A life was saved thank G-d through S.Y.’s caring and responsible intervention.

As S.Y. told me his story, I remembered that I had heard a similar story just a few days earlier from a visitor to Beth Elisheva’s daily afternoon service.

It was related to Tefillin.

Dr. H. told me that he was in the airport in NY checking in to a flight to Israel. He needed to use the bathroom and didn’t want to take his Tefillin which he was carrying by hand, into the bathroom. He saw a Jewish couple nearby and asked them if they could hold his Tefillin for the few minutes. After retrieving his Tefilin he conversed for a few minutes with the couple and noticed that the woman didn’t seem right. Being a doctor, he asked a few questions and came to the conclusion that she has a delicate medical condition and shouldn’t be flying. They indeed went straight to a medical clinic, and it was confirmed that she needed medical treatment. Again, a life was saved because of a concerned person who acted to intervene responsibly. In this instance it was a doctor who through his commitment to honoring Hashem’s mitzvahs, was granted the gift of saving another life.

The common denominator of both stories is the great mitzvah of saving another person’s life.

Another thing that stood out was the uplifting way the protagonists of the story related this to me. Their voices reflected joy and feelings of gratitude to Hashem for being able to have the merit of saving someone else's life.

There are so many things that we can be grateful for in our lives.

Every morning when we wake up, we make twenty blessings of thanksgiving.

Click here for more information and guidance to incorporate these blessings of gratitude to your life).

Before we eat, we make a blessing and recognize the gift G-d gives us of food. After eating we thank G-d for the food. These are parts of our life that we are aware that we ought to be thankful for.

For the most part we recognize the great gift of helping someone else. Often helping someone else is not so easy. Effort, sometimes great effort, is required. Some people refer to it as a ‘pain in the neck’ when they get requests of help from people.

However, at the end of the day, they recognize that this is the greatest form of joy.

When looking back at your day, your week, your month, your year or your entire life, there is so much precious joy in the knowledge that you were able to contribute beneficence and goodness to someone else.

How much more so the gift of literally saving someone’s life.

What we sometimes don’t realize is that we need to be grateful to G-d even when He places us in a position of neediness. When we need to be recipients of favors from others, we must also thank G-d for that role in life.

If you are like many people I know, when you need to ask someone else for a favor, you cringe. You would rather be the provider, rather than the receiver.

Let me present a reframing of asking for favors.

(Care must be taken that this information doesn’t fall into the ‘wrong hands’).

Have you ever considered that when Hashem puts you in the position of needing kindness from someone else, He has given you a ‘giving’ role as well?

How so?

Hashem has designated you as His messenger to deliver a gift to the person you are asking for help.

The gift of the mitzvah opportunity of being kind to a fellow.

(I say it must be saved from ‘wrong hands’ as it is possible for someone to use this way of thinking in a dysfunctional way becoming an ingrate and taking advantage of the kind persons benevolence).

To sum it up.

Hashem has created His world with giving and receiving built into the very rubric and rhythm of creation.

Sun and moon. Male and female. Givers and receivers.

In each of these roles, the receiver is also a giver.

A group of wealthy people were once complaining to their Rebbe that he was asking them to help the poor too much. To which the Rebbe responded that Hashem created two groups. Receivers and givers. Hashem intended for the wealth he entrusted to the rich people, to be His way of supporting the poor people from whom He had withheld abundance. If you – the wealthy ones – are not happy with your role as being the Givers on Hashems behalf, the other group – the poor ones – are standing by and quite happy to take on that role. “Would you like to flip roles”, asked the Rebbe?

You can imagine the answer. Nobody volunteered to give up their role of being on the side of the wealthy ‘givers’ to be on the side of the needy ‘receivers’.

Today I want to speak to those in the role of receivers.

Fortify your faith and trust in G-d.

He has not withheld from you the gift of wealth.

Rather, He has GIFTED you the individual financial status that you are currently struggling with.

It is valid to ask Him and pray to Hashem for a change in that gift, for a few more zeros in your bank account, but from a place of inner serenity and peacefulness knowing that Hashem is your loving Creator and is directing and overseeing every single aspect of your life.

While you are still in the receiving mode for the most part, meditate on the fact that as well as receiving, you are also giving.

You are giving your benefactors the gift of giving.

Sometimes, allowing someone else to help you through a touch patch, may be lifesaving – literally – for the giver.

A social worker once told me that a woman she was counseling through suicidal depression would ‘come to life’ whenever talking about the help she was providing to others.

Conventional thinking is ‘woe to me that I need to ask someone else for help’.

Counterintuitive thinking is, ‘I will embrace my role in the world of giving and receiving and right now I need to receive graciously’.

As I have said, and it bears emphasizing, this way of thought, requires caution not to be misused. But it’s the truth.

Do you see the connection with the Parsha of Vayakhel?

Hint: every Jew contributed to building the Mishkan sanctuary for G-d in his or her own way. (Click here to see it spelled out).

Do you notice the connection with the second Torah we are going to read from on this Shabbat speaking about the half Shekel?

Hint: by giving a non-complete shekel, we are reminded that each of us is in need of the other to become complete. (Click here for more on this theme).

How about the connection with Rosh Chodesh Adar II (Sunday and Monday)?

Hint: the fact that we have two Adar months – i.e. a leap year – is to realign the moon and the sun. Giver (sun) reflector (moon). The leap year represents their alignment. (Click here for more on this).

May Hashem give us the gift to give to others graciously. If we need to receive, may Hashem give us the healthy mindset of seeing the blessing in receiving.

And most importantly, may we recognize that each and every one of us is an indispensable part of the community.

In the spirit of Adar, here is a joke that Rabbi Gordon told: (click here for full article).

I am reminded of an adorable story about a mechanic that was called in to try to fix a gigantic cruise ship that suddenly stopped working. Surveying the situation, and after making an elaborate show of taking out all his tools, he proceeded to tighten one single screw, and then announced that the ship was repaired. The mechanic’s bill arrived a few days later, for $10,000! Unwilling to pay such a hefty sum for seemingly minimal work, the cruise operator requested an itemized invoice. The revised invoice arrived: $1.00 for turning the screw; $9,999 for knowing which screw to turn.

My dear friends, what we know from the stories regarding space shuttles (tragic Challenger explosion) and airliners (Boeing door blown off) is that every rubber seal and every bolt a small as it may be is critical to the functioning of the huge and powerful aircraft.

Each and every Jew is even more critically needed for the community to be wholesome.

Every person must look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I was created to serve my Master’. I am needed. I am not a spare part. Without me Hashem’s world is incomplete.

The proof? He created me. He doesn’t create ‘junk’.

Engage in your mission. G-d will bless you and bless the collective.

May Hashem bless us with secure peace, health, and the safe return of all who are in captivity and let us ask for the real ‘gold’ – the ushering in of world peace and harmony, the coming of Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov (for Sunday).

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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