I start with one spoon

Friday, 20 July, 2018 - 8:24 am

Everybody speaks about sinat chinam (baseless hatred) and yearns for ahavat chinam (unconditional love). I read and hear calls that go out into space, and requests aimed at the public, that it is time to stop all this polarization of society and hatred, and to engage in generous amounts of ahavat chinam. And I think that every great thing can be obtained if you start small. For instance, when I want to clear up the playroom after a vacation day, or the kitchen on a long Friday afternoon, at the first moment it seems a difficult task, almost impossible. But as I have experience in these realms, I know that instead of trying to tackle the whole kitchen, I start with one spoon, and then just one cup and one plate, and suddenly it all looks different.

That is the way it is with any change we want to make in our private, neighbourly and even national lives, and of course also when aiming for ahavat chinam. Instead of changing the whole world at once, let’s start from one small act, and then another one, and suddenly we will see how our environment has become more pleasant, and so on.

Here is a story that I heard from my father, may he live, many times; a story that each and every one of us can adopt. A dear and simple chassid lived in Kfar Chabad, and his name was R. Yoshe (Yosef) Levenherz z”l. Yoshe was an honest person, as they say in Yiddish, “an pshetlach” (untranslatable, unfortunately). My father grew up with him and the rest of his brothers, back in Czernowitz in the Ukraine. The Wishedski and Levenherz families were and still are true friends of each other.

One evening, between Mincha and Maariv, R. Yoshe approached my father and asked for a sum of money – not large. It was a request between friends, in the style of “Give me, I need it and I just don’t have it with me. I’ll return it tomorrow.” I assume that he himself had given what had been in his pocket to someone who just happened to need it, as was the custom of the Levenerz family, and now he needed a bit more. Father, who had no money on him, said, “I don’t have.” Yoshe Levenherz looked at him, his face perfectly serious, and scolded (!) him: “How can a Jew walk around with no money in his pocket? What will he do if someone will need money, and ask him to do a favor and lend him some?”


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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