Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nisan 5766 - April 4, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

A Little Boost

by Bayla Gimmel

We keep a little plastic stool under the washing sink to help our grandchildren reach the sink. The other day, I was putting things away on a high shelf and kept stretching to reach the top of the pile and to see what I was doing. I got the children's stool, which is only seven inches high, stepped up on it and — Wow! All of a sudden, the work became effortless.

It is that way with so many of the tasks in life. The smallest amount of help can make quite a difference. It is relatively easy to realize this when we are on the receiving end. However, sometimes we need to work on fine-tuning our sensitivity to see where a small boost from us can help someone else reach their goal.

In the States, parents try to drill into their children's heads, "Don't talk to strangers." When we first came to Israel, we were astounded to observe that children here regularly come up to adults who are complete strangers and speak to them.

Most of the children want to know what time it is. Mother said, "Be home for supper at a quarter to six," but the child does not have a watch and there is no clock on the street or in the playground. The way they know when to go home is by periodically asking the time of whoever passes by wearing a watch.

Once the child has ascertained that it is indeed time to go home, the second most popular request comes into play. There are few street lights in residential neighborhoods and therefore it is dangerous for children to cross streets by themselves. Children go to the corner and wait. When an adult passes, they ask for help in crossing.

It is nice to be able to help these children. It gives us a warm feeling. It would be equally gratifying to be able to help their parents and other adults.

However, somehow or other, as people grow up, we seem to lose the fine art of asking for help. We may occasionally need assistance quite desperately and be forced to ask someone to help us. But when it comes to ordinary day-to-day situations where a little help would make all the difference in the world, we struggle to complete the job by ourselves rather than to ask anyone to lend a hand.

People who ride buses here are amazingly sensitive to helping mothers in getting their carriages up onto city buses or placing them in the underneath compartments of intercity buses. Also, the average passenger on a crowded bus will get up automatically to give a seat to a woman who is expecting, or to someone who is standing on a moving bus, trying to hold on to a pole, with a sleeping toddler resting on a shoulder.

It is heartwarming to see that people at bus stops are careful to call out numbers of approaching buses to blind people who are waiting for a certain bus, or to take them under the arm and help them across busy streets.

Since we already have the ahavas Yisroel that prompts our bus manners and our street crossing manners, maybe we should look for other outlets for this wonderful trait. Let me tell you of an incident where I was on the receiving end of a small but significant act of kindness. It happened many years ago, when I was a young mother, but I remember it as if it happened yesterday.

My husband had invited over important guests. I don't remember any details but the point was that it was the middle of the week and I had only two hours to prepare.

I had a main course dish in the freezer so that was a help. I rushed to the supermarket to buy the rest of the food I needed. There I was, going up and down the aisles. My baby was in the cart; I had a two-year-old on one side and a not quite four-year-old on the other. My "helpers" were busy taking things off the shelves and asking if we could buy this and that. It was taking longer to put back all of their selections than to find what I needed.

I thought that I would never finish my shopping when, all of a sudden, a neighbor about ten years my senior walked up to me with her four-year-old son. "I've been watching you for a few minutes. Wouldn't it be easier for you to go home and come back to shop after your children are asleep? The market is open until midnight, you know," she said, kindly.

"That would be great," I replied. Then I told her about the guests who were coming in an hour and a half. She turned to my two older ones, smiled and said, "Do you want to come home with me? Jonathan has a new tree house and he would love to show it to you." In a flash, they followed her out the store.

Within the next hour, with only one little one to keep track of, I was able to finish the shopping, drive home, cook supper, make a salad, set the table and rush to my neighbor's house to retrieve the older boys, who were indeed having a wonderful time in her tree house.

The guests found everything ready and a smiling hostess waiting to greet them, all thanks to my wonderful neighbor. I have never forgotten her kindness. Since then, I have tried to find ways to help other people.

Here is one small example. I heard that one of the men in my neighborhood had passed away. I usually offer to cook a meal for a family sitting shivah. When I called one of the neighbors of the bereaved family, she told me that the women in their building were taking care of the meals, but she asked if I could help in another way.

They needed someone to come each morning and just be there to help in various ways that usually come up. I volunteered. These are some of the many small things that a person can do to help someone who is in the week of bereavement.

Some people do not realize that upon arriving at a house of mourning where the door is not open, they should not wait until someone answers the bell. Mourners who are sitting on low stools cannot be expected to jump up and open the door. Visitors are supposed to knock and then let themselves in.

If someone does ring or knock and then wait, the mourners often call out, "Come in." However, if they live on a busy street, their voices can be drowned out by the traffic. It is helpful to have a friend available to open the door and then direct the men and ladies to the appropriate rooms.

Since Jewish people now live all over the globe, many friends and relatives call to offer condolences over the phone. It is very helpful for someone outside the family to answer the phone and then notify the appropriate mourner who has a call. If the mourners have to answer their own phone, they may have to contend with telephone solicitations, surveys, and business calls from people who do not even realize they have reached a house of mourning.

Someone who is "on-site" can also set the table, bring out the food, serve drinks and gently encourage the mourners to try to eat the lovely meals that the neighbors keep bringing in, which might otherwise just pile up untouched in the refrigerator.

Indeed, there are chessed opportunities for every age group — truly from the cradle to the grave. We just have to open our eyes and see who around us needs that little boost that we can easily provide.


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