2010-06-04 / Columnists

Point of View

“The Rabbi’s Personal Column” Rabbi Allan Blaine Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

One of the books that I reread during the past year was a best seller entitled “The Healing Heart” by Norman Cousins.

The overall thesis of the book is crystallized in the words of Dr. Bernard Lown, in its preface, “The care of the patient requires caring for the Patient!” The author demonstrates from medical records both the healing power of words and the lethal power of words on a patient. Sometimes a little care and concern and a word of encouragement can actually induce health.

An extremely moving article was given to me. Its title was “Are Friends Still Friends In Adversity.” In it the author pours out her heart. A year before her child had become desperately ill and recovery was not guaranteed. Aside from the terrible toll which this illness took on the family, the worst and most puzzling side effect was the disappearance of their friends. She and her husband had lived in typical middle class suburbia, surrounded by the usual friends and social activities. After dutiful expressions of sympathy, her friends drew back. The family was alone and isolated and did not realize why this had occurred. True, they no longer were the fun people they had been or the free spenders they had been. Nevertheless, they needed desperately to have someone to talk to, to share with, to sit with.

She remembered olden times in her parents’ home when people seemed more supportive and more caring – times of mourning, time of illness which seemed to bring out the best in people.

After the child had recovered, her friends slowly began to call again, but she and her husband decided to move from the community in which they lived and find a more caring community, because as he said, “We need people whose warmth we can count on if winter comes again.” It is a sad commentary, is it not?

The Jewish tradition from the time of Abraham and Sarah has always inculcated the supreme value of caring. The Bible records Abraham’s illness and frailty after his circumcision at an advanced age. When three strangers appeared out of the desert, he ran to greet them and to extend hospitality, despite the fact that he was in conversation with God. The Rabbis comment on this fact. “Hospitality to wayfarers,” they say, “is greater than welcoming the presence of God.” An incredible teaching for 3500 years ago!

For Judaism it is not always good manners to mind one’s own business! We come from a people like Abraham and Moses, Elijah and Isaiah, who could not mind their own business when they saw slavery, corruption and poverty. We come from a tradition that adjures us to live in huts so that the generations may know, to eat bitter herbs, to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, to remember the stranger, for we were strangers, to leave the corner of the field for the poor, the widowed and orphaned.

Caring, helping and concern for others should always be the “warp and woof” of life. A kind word goes a long way; a listening ear can be therapy; a helping hand is a real “mitzvah.” Many a time minding somebody else’s business is good Jewish manners!

It’s cold out there. Hand touching hand, and heart touching

heart is the true warmth. Try it today!


This monthly column continues with thanks to an anonymous donor.

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