Yesterday I attended the funeral of Andrew Fitzgerald. Andrew was a firefighter from Suffern who managed to save many lives on Sept. 11, before losing his own.
I stood outside the Catholic Church on Rt. 59 in Suffern shivering in the cold with hundreds of others that couldn’t get in the building. I listened over a loud speaker to the eulogy given by what sounded like a young priest. Three thoughts came to mind during that speech. One, Jews don’t have a monopoly on talking during a Drosha. Two, as far as I could see no other Jew stood with me to pay last respects to someone who did not ask people their religion before saving their life. Three, we have to learn from everyone how far an act of kindness sometimes goes.
I had an important conversation with my Rebbe on Erev Yom Kippur. I asked him what he thought about everything that was going on. (it was a week or so after the WTC attack). He told me that he thought there was an awesome midas hadin being exercised by G-d at this time. When there is a din, it affects everything. It is our job to turn it around into Midas Harachamim; we can only do this, he said, by increasing in acts of chesed. We know this works.
On Sukos we invite exalted guests, Ushpizin, into our Sukka. Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Aharon, Moshe and Dovid HaMelech. According to the Zohar before the esteemed guests enter the sukkah they look inside. If they see a poor person sitting there they enter, if there is no poor person there they look for a different sukkah in which to spend their time. If they come into our sukkah and mir machen Shabbos far zich they walk away because we are missing the most fundamental part of being Jewish.
In today’s society it is not always practical to actually have an oni at the table. We can’t always open up our homes. But, we can always open up our hearts. The Jewish way, the way of our parents and grandparents is to share the good fortune we have with others that are less fortunate than we are.
As we say Yizkor the holy Ushpizin are our own parents and grandparents. They too want to see our chesed and caring. We ask them all to stand before Hashem at this trying time for our families, for Israel, the United States and for the world and ask on our behalf for peace. And may the days before us turn into days that will go down in history as the the days of mercy and kindness.