Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shoftim) Elevation Through Kindness!
Finding ourselves in the month of Elul, it is imperative that we focus on how we can elevate ourselves.
Reb Elya Lopian o.b.m. a man who was steeped in refined ethical behavior, made a personal commitment to do a Chesed – an act of kindness, for another person each day. Even if he was already in bed, ready to retire for night, and realized that he hadn’t done something for another, he would get up and find something to do to benefit another.
The opportunities are vast: It can be a phone call to lift someone’s spirits; holding the door open for someone; giving charity; praying for someone in need etc. No matter how small the Chesed may seem, try considering that our day not go by without doing something for someone else. Let me share with you a story about the effects of Chesed:
A few years back I attended Shabbos services at a Shul in Miami. Rabbi Green from Hamilton, Ontario, who was visiting, was honored with giving the sermon. He spoke eloquently and compassionately on the topic of the unity of the Jewish people. Later, at the Shabbos meal I began wondering if a story I had heard years ago was connected to this Rabbi Green. When I returned to Shul for Mincha (afternoon) services, I asked the Rabbi if there is a story about him, a banker and a Shul. He said yes. I asked him if he would retell the story. He did, and here it goes:
Rabbi Green came to Hamilton in 1958 at the age of 24. In 1959, he decided he wanted to build a beautiful Synagogue to welcome and attract new members. The problem was, none of his congregants had the means to put up money for construction. The only option was taking out a loan from a bank. Rabbi Green made an appointment with the president of the local bank. The president respectfully greeted him, and ushered him into his office. Rabbi Green began telling him of his dream to build a synagogue and brazenly asked for a half million-dollar loan. Within moments, the president of the bank broke the silence in the room and asked, “What type of synagogue do you wish to build?” “An orthodox Synagogue,” the Rabbi replied. “Your loan is approved!” exclaimed the banker.
After the rabbi composed himself from the initial shock, he profusely thanked the president. He then asked the non – Jewish president of the bank, “I am wondering what difference did it make to you what type of synagogue I wished to build?”
The president relayed the following: “When I was a child, my father died and my mother was left alone to care for five young children. There was a general store in our small town that was owned by an orthodox Jew. He called my mother in, and told her, ‘As long as I have this store, you won’t need to worry; your children will have food to eat and clothing to wear.”
The president then said, “That is why it is important to me to have an orthodox synagogue in the city that I am living in.”
Let’s project for a moment: The owner of the general store passes on, and comes to the Heavenly Tribunal where he is told a sizable part of his reward is due to a synagogue that he was instrumental in building. He bashfully asks, “What is this about? I never even heard of Hamilton, Ontario!” To which he is told that the Chesed that he did in his small town, years ago was sown, and then sprouted beautiful fruits. Thus he is reaping the profits of his kind actions. Kind words, good deeds, fine character, devotion to Torah and Mitzvos may seem incidental and at times even insignificant, but the impact that they have go a long way. They multiply and spread and only G-d can keep track of all those who are affected by our actions. He then rewards us accordingly.
Here is the recollection of a child: We lived in a community in Israel where my father was known for the wonderful kindnesses he did for others. It wasn’t very often that we went away for a weekend, yet one particular weekend we went to spend Shabbos with relatives who lived in a community 30-minute away by car.When we arrived, I realized that I had forgotten something that I needed for the weekend at home. My father realizing how important it was to me insisted that he take me back home to get it. During the ride home, my father spoke to me about the importance of performing kindness for others. But he stressed that one should never neglect the obligation of doing kindnesses for the ones who are dearest to us, our own family.
“When you will eventually raise a family, be certain to do Chesed for them. Go the extra mile. The kindnesses you do for your family is considered ‘true Chesed’ as apposed to the Chesed you perform for others, because when you do a kindness for others, it impresses them, they thank you for it, and they anticipate an opportunity to return or pay back the favor that you have done.”
My father continued, “This is not the case when you do a kindness and go out of your way for you own family. They don’t look at your assistance as a kindness; they look at what you are doing as your function as a father, mother, husband, wife, sister or brother helping them out. When you go out of your way for them it is a kindness of the highest degree.”
The child continued: When we arrived home, we opened the door to our home and were immediately overcome by a terrible odor of gas. Apparently the gas to the stove was not shut off completely and dangerous fumes were filling the house.It was not difficult to imagine what would have happened if we would have not returned home. My father’s insistence on doing a Chesed paid off in many ways, especially the message that true Chesed begins at home.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks