Posts Tagged ‘Chesed’


Teresaville by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Teresa is a waitress in a coffee shop in Delaware. She is a fabulous waitress with an outgoing personality She knows what her regular customers usually order, and their soup or salad are at their table a minute after they sit down. Teresa has her own section of the coffee shop.

But what makes Teresa different is the community she creates in her section. Most of the people who come in are retired. Many of them have lost their spouse and eat alone. She introduces these people to each other and encourages them to sit at the same table for dinner. My father was one of those people.

One day she pointed to another man sitting alone and said to my father, “That’s Ray. Do you want to meet him?” “No,” said my father. A couple of days later she said to Ray,” That’s Sam. Would you like to meet him?” No,” he answered.

But Teresa was persistent, and one day she seated Ray with my father. Ray was 28 years younger, a divorced man with stomach problems. My father was a widower. But that night they sat and chatted. And they began eating together. My father and Ray formed a very close friendship. I met Ray a couple of months after their introduction, when I was visiting my father.

The next four years, Ray and Sam had dinner every evening. My father did not drive at night, so Ray would travel 20 miles to pick him up and take him to the coffee shop.

There were many such stories in Teresa’s section. People who were alone no longer dined alone. It was a community.

My father passed away five years ago, but I have kept in contact with Teresa. During one phone call, she told me a customer had ordered a $35 meal and left her a two dollar tip. I was incensed. But she told me not to be upset because we do not know what was in his pocket. I was puzzled, and asked her what she meant. She told me the extra three or four dollar tip might have been the difference between buying, or not buying, the meal he wanted.

I was amazed at her attitude, and asked her where she had picked up this philosophy. Teresa answered, “A few years ago, two old ladies came in to have dinner. I heard them discussing what they wanted to share, and realized they did not have enough money for each one to buy a meal. They were trying to decide what they would split. I went to a table of my regulars and said, ‘It just breaks my heart. Those ladies cannot afford separate dinners.’ The customers looked at each other, and then told me they would pay for two steak dinners for the old ladies. When I told them, they started crying and were very appreciative.”

If you look at a map of the state of Delaware, you will not find a dot and next to it the word Teresaville. But you and I know there is such a place, a caring community created by a catalyst of kindness, named Teresa.


Life Force: by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

Don’t drain the life force. This week the Torah teaches us not to eat blood because blood is the life force, and we are not to drain the life force out of a living being. There is another way we use our mouth to drain the life force out of people. The way we talk to them. “Claudia” is in my Toastmasters club. She is a kind woman who is a successful model, and in many ways she is on top of the world. But one day she told a story that has the power to still embitter her. When she was in second grade, her teacher continually told her in a loud voice in the front of the class, “You’re stupid.” She was humiliated, resentful and angry. As she told the story, her face contorted into pain and you could hear the bile coming up from her stomach as she relived second grade. Twenty five years later, that teacher still drained some of the life force from Claudia. I was at a panel discussion, and one man had the courage to tell the following story. On one of his birthdays, his two children gave him presents. His eight-year-old boy proudly presented him with an envelope. When the man opened it, he found a five dollar bill. He started raising his voice to his son and said, “You don’t give your father money on his birthday! You give a card or a little present.” His son was embarrassed, and ran out of the room. Then his seven year daughter give him a picture she had drawn in art class. Her father told her what a wonderful job she had done and pointed out the different colors she had used. He then looked up and saw his son standing in the doorway with tears streaming down his face. The man looked at the audience, and admitted he had been wrong to react the way he did. That day, he had drained the life force out of his son. My final example is a horror story. I was walking down the street with a friend and his family. Suddenly his father turned to his son and said, “I wish you had never been born.” The boy’s face fell and his body trembled. That father drained the life force from his son. We need to be careful when we speak. Let us make sure our words are words of life.


“The Choreography of Caring” by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Motion. When the Jews were in the desert and the cloud or fire above them moved, the nation moved as one unit. It was choreography.

When I was a little boy, one evening after finishing my meal I blurted out, “I’m still hungry.” In one unbroken motion my mother cut part of her lamb chop, put it on my plate and went back to eating her dinner. In my mind’s eye I see this as one fluid motion. It was a choreography of caring and a symbol of all she did for me.

The choreography of caring is apparent in many actions. The mother swaying back and forth rocking her infant baby, holding her young child’s hand as they walk down the street or the swift striding toward her child coming out of school.

Choreography also takes place with a father; many times shoulder to shoulder. Putting up the wall of a succah, bent over a carburetor tuning up the car or rising together to applaud a spectacular play at a baseball game.

Choreography is expressive movement. Great choreography is a thrill to behold. When my mother cut that lamb chop she soared to a height that forever hovers above me. It is an artistic legacy.

When it was time for the Jewish nation to stop somewhere in the wilderness the cloud stopped moving and at night the fire above them marked their place. From time to time, we need to stop in place and marvel at the majesty of the choreography of caring.


How Much Is Enough? By Prof. Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

How much is enough? The Torah speaks about a heart willing to give. What does this mean? Let me tell you about Paula.

One early evening, she was on a subway platform in Manhattan waiting for a train to take her home to Brooklyn. There had just been an announcement that the subways were not running smoothly and people would have to be taking different ones. Also, they might have to take a subway going in the wrong direction before they could get a subway going in the right direction.

A young blind man with a seeing-eye dog asked her if she would just let him know what was going on at the next station and steer him in the right direction. She agreed.  At the next stop he had to go to another part of the station. She asked the man if he wanted her to accompany him to the correct track and he said yes. Ten minutes later, the train arrived.  She asked him if he wanted her to accompany him to the next stop. He said yes. Paula was now going in the opposite direction of her destination.

When they arrived at the next stop, there was an announcement. To get the train the young man needed, he had to walk three blocks to another station. Paula asked if he wanted her to walk with him to the new station and he said yes.

While they were walking the man told Paula he had recently been kicked out of his home by his parents. He was now living in a shelter, and was worried that if he came to the shelter after curfew he would not get in.

Paula thought, “Maybe I should offer to let him sleep at my house.” She immediately decided against it. She then asked him for the phone number of the shelter and called to explain the situation on the subways. The person at the shelter said, “Don’t worry. We will let him in whenever he arrives.”

When they got to the station she noticed it was awkward for the young man to go through the turnstile with his dog. Paula said goodbye, got her subway and continued on to Brooklyn. She had gone 55 minutes out of her way.

When she got home she sat down and wrote a letter to the Transit Authority asking them if there was a way to make it less awkward for blind people to go through turnstiles.

At that point the story ended for her…but not for me. I admired what she had done. It was a good    example of how far a willing heart can take you.

In Jewish law there is no required amount for how many acts of kindness you may do. There were several steps in this story when Paula had to make a decision based on her willingness to perform an act of kindness.  She decided to take the next step. She also asked permission from the young man at each step. She did not assume he wanted to be dependent on her and gave him the choice of whether to allow her to accompany him.   It was an altruistic act because there is scant possibility the man will meet her again. Once she arrived home, she was still attempting to be helpful by writing the letter.

She also considered her need to be safe and comfortable in her home, so she did not offer to let him come to her place. This is a good example of practical compassion. Consideration is needed for all the people who might be affected by her choices.

Is the story over for me? I would not have done what she did. But perhaps if I am in a similar situation I will think of this story and go one or two or three steps further than I ordinarily would have.

This week’s Torah reading talks of people who were asked to give whatever they felt like giving.

How giving can we be?

How giving will we be?


“Uncle” Barry by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Relationships

Uncle Barry's Motto

In 1958, I was in day camp and my counselor was Barry. In camp we called our counselors uncle. Uncle Barry is still a friend.

On his 65th birthday, I bought a book by a great Rabbi and asked him to autograph it. He asked me to tell him a little bit about Uncle Barry. And I told him three stories.

After I got up from shiva for my mother, may she rest in peace, I needed a ride to the train station. Barry had offered to take me. I called him and was a little confused about when I wanted to leave. He cut short my confusion with the following: “Just tell me when and where.”

That has always been true with Uncle Barry. Whenever I visit my hometown he can be counted on to pick me up if I need a ride. And it doesn’t matter how far out of the way he has to go. I know if I tell him where I need to go, I will get to my destination. Barry is dependable.

25 years ago, when my aunt had a stroke, her son Fred left New York and went back to help his father take care of her for a few months. Fred became a caregiver and it was a full-time job. Barry would continually get him out for a few hours. He owned a company and frequently would throw parties for business associates. Fred was always invited to the parties and many times Barry would pick him up. Caregivers need a break. And Barry made sure Fred got time off on a regular basis.

Barry is interested in local artists and is on the board of the local museum. One day he was talking to an artist who was just an acquaintance. The man said he had a big opportunity coming up. He had an appointment to take some of his paintings to Washington DC and have the curator of a museum evaluate his art. Barry said to him, “I will lend you my Mercedes for the day.” The man said to Barry, “I have a car.” Barry asked him what kind of car he had, and the reply was, “A Chevrolet.” Barry said, “Take my Mercedes. When you get to Washington a couple of people from the museum will probably come out to help you take your paintings inside. They will see the Mercedes and assume you’re successful. And people like to do business with people who are successful.” Barry saw a way to be helpful, even though the artist did not. This is a higher level act of kindness. Rabbi Telushkin has called this “moral imagination.”

Barry has always been there for me, my cousin and an acquaintance.

After hearing these stories, the Rabbi knew what to write inside the book. He wrote, “To Gerald’s Uncle Barry. A man who has lived a life of kindness and generosity”.

My wish is for each of us to have an Uncle Barry…and to strive to be like Uncle Barry.


The Neighbor’s Mailbox: A Follow Up by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Relationships

In a post 3 weeks ago, I mentioned my friend Arleen, who told me I must tell friends if I have a problem Friends want to know and want to help. And I must let them.

A week ago, she had to put down the family dog of 10 years, Cassie. Cassie loved Shabbat. She would patiently look up at Rabbi Kessler making kiddush, and then eagerly devour the Challah. The family loved her. Alas, she had cancer, and needed to be put down.

Arleen read my blog a few days before she had to say goodbye to Cassie, and it reminded her to reach out for support. A couple of years ago, she called her friend Laurie, who had to put down her cat of 18 years . Arleen comforted her friend after the cat was gone. Now Arleen remembered how good she felt to do so.

With Cassie in such bad shape, it was time to give Laurie the opportunity of doing the mitzvah of providing comfort. And the opportunity to feel good about doing so.

Arleen told me she did not anticipate, when reading my original post, how much her own words would help her only two weeks later. As I have written before: Sometimes YOU can be your own best role model.


Chesed Shel Emet

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, please place your hand under my thigh and do kindness and truth with me; please do not bury me in Egypt. For I will lie down with my fathers and you shall transport me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb.” (Genesis 47: 29-30) “The kindness shown to the dead is the ‘kindness of truth’ in that the beneficiary will never be able to return the favor.” (Rashi)

I guess that the Chesed shel Emet applied only to Joseph and not his brothers: “Then he instructed them and said, “I shall be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” (49:29) Jacob does not again mention Chesed shel Emet. Why?

Perhaps for Joseph’s brothers, burying Jacob in Israel would not be considered something for which they will never receive a favor in return. Jacob does not mention the Cave of Machpeilah to Joseph, only to the brothers. Their mother, Leah was already buried there. Rachel, Joseph’s mother was not. “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebecca his wife; and there I buried Leah.” (Verse 31) Eight of Joseph’s brothers had already received a favor from Jacob.

Jacob’s brothers received an additional favor: Their descendants would leave Egypt and enter Israel as their children. Joseph’s children left Egypt and entered Israel as Jacob’s children; “And now, your two sons who were born to you in Egypt before my coming to you in Egypt shall be mine. Ephraim and Menasseh shall be like Reuben and Simeon.” (48:5)

When Joseph requested, “When God will indeed remember you, then you must bring my bones up out of here.” (50:25) He doesn’t mention “Chesed shel Emet,” because bringing Joseph up out of Egypt would not be a Chesed, but an old obligation on those who sold him into slavery in Egypt! (Mechilta, Beshalach; Shemot Rabbah 20:18)

“And Moshe took Joseph’s bones with him.” (Exodus 13:19) Moshe was of the tribe of Levi, one of the two main instigators of Joseph’s sale. Moses was paying his ancestor’s obligation.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.


The Neighbor’s Mail Box by Prof. Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Relationships

Recently in Brooklyn, on the way to dinner with my friend Paula, we passed a house three doors from her place. She said to me, “Remind me when we come home to write on my to-do list for tomorrow to put my phone number in that person’s mailbox. A couple of days ago an ambulance came to her house and took her to the hospital. She is an old lady and lives alone. If something happens again she will be able to call me.”

Why didn’t Paula ask her neighbor if she would like the phone number? I think the answer contains an insight into human nature. Many people like to feel independent. So if Paula had asked, the response might have been, “Thank you, but I’m fine.”

Some people don’t like to feel dependent. Yet, when it comes to giving, they are happy to do so. Taking is a different story. It infringes on their feeling of independence and can seem like an imposition.

But a better way to think would be to realize that taking and giving are both sides of the same coin. A balanced relationship. And if you have trouble with the word, “take, “substitute the word “share.” A “give and let give” dynamic. This is not dependence, but interdependence.

Last year I had a bad flu and was in bed for three days. I live alone and like to feel independent. So I stupidly dragged myself outside to go shopping. When I later told my friend Arleen, she got annoyed and said “Why didn’t you call me? I would have gone shopping for you.” I sheepishly replied, “I guess I didn’t want to bother any of my friends”. But then she gave me a much-needed reprimand. “Your friends want to know if you are sick. You must tell them. They want to help you. Let them. You have helped them and other people. Don’t be so selfish!”

That evening in Brooklyn, Paula was correct. She did not give her neighbor an opportunity to say no. Proactively, she went over the next day and put a letter in the mailbox with her phone number. Maybe the neighbor said to herself, “I will not use it.” If the time ever comes, G-d forbid that she needs to, I hope she will.

Sometimes permission is not required to do a good deed.

John Milton, the great English poet, wrote, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” In this case, Paula served by giving her number. And I’m sure she’ll be happy to help, no matter how long the wait.


Jenna Allison’s Bat Mitzvah: A Lesson in Chesed by Prof. Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

A few weeks ago I attended the bat mitzvah of Jenna Allison, the daughter of my cousin Brad and his wife Michelle. After services were finished, Brad stood at the pulpit to talk about his daughter.

She was named after two people. The first was her maternal grandmother. The name Allison was in memory of a young girl named Allison Krause. Chills ran up and down my spine because I recognized the name. Others in the congregation seemed to recognize the name. Who was Allison Krause? Brad explained.

In 1970, during the Vietnam War, there were student protests on college campuses. At Kent State University in Ohio there were such protests. But something went tragically wrong. National Guard troops had been called to the campus. On May 4, some of the guardsmen fired at the students. Nine students were injured and four were killed. It was a tragedy of the first magnitude.  The country was traumatized. And Allison Krause, 19 years old, was one of the four students killed.

Brad was in high school when that happened. He was shocked and saddened. Four years later he went to Kent State to attend the fourth anniversary of this tragedy. In the years that followed, he would read news stories about the families of the dead students trying to find out who had ordered the guardsmen to shoot. The tragedy at Kent State did not leave his mind.

In 1997 Michelle was pregnant. When they were thinking of what to name the baby, the name of Michelle’s mother was certainly first. And then they decided to give Allison Krause a namesake.

27 years after she was killed.

By giving their daughter that name they performed a true act of kindness, a chesed shel emeth. A true act of kindness is when the recipient cannot possibly pay back the act.

But more than that, it would be a constant reminder to their daughter how important kindness is. Michelle and Brad are both people who perform acts of kindness. And so their acts, including this kindness, served as powerful role models to her.

And she has learned this lesson well. In his talk, Brad told the story of how his daughter, at seven years of age, decided she wanted to have her long hair cut to give to Locks of Love. The hair is woven into a wig for people who have lost their hair while going through chemotherapy. She had heard of Locks of Love and on her own, without any prompting, decided this is what she wanted to do. And this was a true act of kindness, because the person who got the wig would not know who had donated the hair.

One other thing. Brad is a successful photographer and loves taking pictures of her doing all her activities. Of course, Brad wanted to take pictures of her hair being cut .But she told her father not to take pictures. It was something she was doing without wanting any publicity or photographs.

In his talk Brad also mentioned that she has helped every year in working with Brad and Michelle in organizing the Tour de Lance, a 5K run/walk held in Wilmington, Delaware to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The event helps to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Starting five years ago at age 9, Jenna Allison helped out, and each year her responsibilities got bigger. This year she worked during the day of registration handling the money and the paperwork. A family project.

That was Brad’s speech.

In the evening there was a dinner and party at a country club. And the good deeds continued.

When the guests went to the table that had their names and seat assignments, each guest found an envelope. When they opened the envelope they found the following certificate. “A tree has been planted in your name in the John Lennon Peace Forest in Israel through Jewish National

Fund.” So besides giving party gifts, the family planted trees in Israel.

But why the John Lennon Peace Forest? Because Brad’s brother Joel sold thousands of trees for the Peace Forest. He would go to Beatle conventions all over the world, starting in 1981, and would set up a table at the conventions. And sell trees. So they recognized Joel, donated money to Israel and gave a meaningful gift to their guests, all in one envelope.

When the guests sat down to dinner, there were little place cards on the tables in front of each plate. The cards gave brief information on MAZON, the Jewish Response to Hunger. Only once, near the end of the evening, were the cards mentioned. Brad took 20 seconds to make sure people noticed the cards and what they meant.

What did I learn from this bat mitzvah?

I learned lessons that were not new. But basic lessons need to be constantly reinforced and reinvigorated

I learned it is never too late to do a kind act.  Twenty seven years after Kent State, Brad and Michelle had not forgotten. They remembered Allison Krause.

I learned that even a seven-year-old can have the maturity to decide to take a part of her pride, her long hair, and give it to someone else.

I learned from a seven-year-old that not every deed needs to be recorded for future self aggrandizement.

I learned how one family took the concept of bat mitzvah and modeled it not only in the synagogue but at the party. The emphasis was more on the “Mitzvah” than the “Bat”.

I learned how one family, working together, managed a complicated event like the Tour de Lance.

I learned how one family, proud of Joel, gave him well deserved recognition for the 29 years he spent selling trees for the John Lennon Peace Forest.

I saw the verse in shema with a new understanding:”You shall teach them to your children and you shall speak of them.”First… you do! That is the real teaching. Then…they will listen when you talk.

It was quite a Bat Mitzvah day.

I will not forget it.

I hope to emulate at least part of it.


Successful Chesed

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Eliezer rose to new heights when he accepted his mission. (See An Appreciation of Eliezer) He was lifted into a new reality and was able to travel long distances in just moments. He tasted his own experience of the Infinite, not as an observer of Abraham, but as himself. He knew that God was guiding him. Abraham had promised that an angel would assist him in fulfilling his mission. Yet, he prayed for God’s help, and, even more remarkably, used his own judgment rather than simply rely on his special help.

Eliezer determined on his own that the proper wife for Isaac would practice Chesed – kindness – almost equal to Abraham’s. “With her I will know that you did kindness with my master Abraham.”

Eliezer determined that there was only one thing that could prove God’s kindness to his master. Abraham was wealthy, powerful, honored, and had a son when he was 100 years old. None of that would convince Eliezer that God had done kindness to Abraham.

He decided for which qualities to look and he decided that his success would be the only absolute proof of God’s kindness. His magical journey was not enough, nor was the presence of an angel at his side. How did Eliezer know?

He was convinced that Chesed can be qualified as successful only if it led to more Chesed in the future. Eliezer determined that all of God’s Chesed to Abraham could only be determined as true if Eliezer succeeded in finding a woman who would ensure that Chesed would continue as a primary quality of this family and nation.

We often feel good after performing a kindness. Eliezer reminds us to hesitate before rejoicing in our success: “Wait and see,” says Eliezer, “if your Chesed leads to more. Only then will you know that your kindness was successful.”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.