by | Oct 31, 2006 | 0 comments

Sometimes we are so preoccupied with our suffering that we don’t realize we are causing pain to others.

“What time can I daven in the morning? It seems to get light so late!”

There are a number of answers to this question. If you are one of the 38% of those privileged to own a Palm Pilot, within seconds you can get the exact moment of Alos HaShachar, the earliest Shema, and the earliest time to put on your talis. (I recommend www.penticon.org )
So much techno-spiritual information at the point of your stylus.
Or you can put your computer away and do what the Shulchan Aruch says. “When can you begin davening? When you can see your brother…”

“When can you begin davening? When you can see your brother…” There is something magical about these words. How can you turn to G-d when all you can see is your Palm Pilot? How can you ask G-d to help you through the day when you can’t see past your own nose? How can you ask G-d to see you, if you can’t see your brother?

Let’s consider the plague of darkness that G-d brought upon the Egyptian people. When the rivers turned into blood – there was nothing to drink. When frogs, locusts and grasshoppers attacked Egypt – there was nothing to eat. But what happened when the lights went out in Egypt? What couldn’t they do?

“There was darkness across all the land of Egypt – and no man saw his brother!” That was the plague; they couldn’t see their own brothers. This was a plague worse than hunger and worse than thirst; the inability to see past one’s own needs and thoughts.

From time to time all of us get caught up in our own thoughts. This is natural and very human. The problem begins when we are so caught up in our own thoughts that they form a brick wall around us and we don’t even hear the thoughts of our brother. Even worse is when we are so preoccupied with our suffering that we don’t realize we are causing pain to others.

The laws of Kashrus teach an important lesson. Everyone asks: when kashering a fork should you use a milchig pot, a fleishig pot, or a treif pot? The answer is that it makes no difference. Being that the fork is “busy” exuding treif – it can’t absorb anything! What a lesson – not only for forks, but for people. When someone is so busy making their point, they become deaf and blind! Communication breaks down. When this becomes the culture of society, it becomes a plague. This was the plague of darkness.

Seeing the world of our brother is one of life’s most challenging tasks. Listening, even if painful, is our greatest expression of love. When we listen, our brother, spouse, child or fellow Jew becomes the center of the world. He or she is what is important.
“When can you begin davening? When you can see your brother…” It is only when we can get out of our own little space that G-d will turn to our prayers and have mercy.
One of the greatest acts of kindness we can do is to pray for someone who is suffering. It is natural and relatively easy to pray for a friend that is not as fortunate as we are. How about praying for someone else when we ourselves our suffering? When we ourselves are in pain it is so difficult for us to see the suffering of our brothers. That is why the Talmud taught us “If you pray for your fellow man, and you yourself have the same need, G-d will answer you first.”

“In all the houses of Israel there was light.” The Ibn Ezra comments that actual light emanated from the houses of Israel. In the Jewish homes there was love, there was caring, there was listening, there was seeing your brother… and therefore there was light. May we all be blessed with light in our homes and in our lives.

This weeks parsha is dedicated on the occasion of the first yahrzeit of the late Dr Fred Bergman O”HS by his wife Bruria, and children Yael and Ari (and families) of Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Fred dedicated his life to healing, caring and supporting others in the most gentle, humble and dignified way imaginable. But what is most amazing was Dr Fred’s ability to fit twice the amount of such deeds of chesed into his time than others are capable. Dr Fred always had time for everyone who needed him, whether his patients, close and extended family, friends and all others – Dr Fred was a creator of time.

At Dr Fred’s funeral and subsequent memorial, his family were overwhelmed to see hundreds of people from diverse lives show up in the middle of the working week to pay their respects. The family received hundreds of letters of condolences, detailing the way Dr Fred touched each of their lives. It is a testimony to Dr Fred’s true humility that even Dr Fred’s family were surprised and moved by the outpouring of sympathy and gratitude. A person’s true chesed and humility can only be recognised once

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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