I recall collecting matanos l’evyonim for a tzedakah in Eretz Yisroel. When I went to my yeshiva and familiar shuls, I received generous sums of about ten dollars per person. When I went to an unfamiliar place, the donations were much smaller, and I realized that some people might have assumed I was collecting for myself. One well-dressed person handed me a penny, and I remember feeling the burn of the penny on my palm. It was then that I truly realized what a person must feel like when he feels forced to collect money for his family or sick relative. I try to remember the personal pain I experienced on that Purim, and use the memory to supplement my modest donations with a warm smile or kind word. Thus, it is only when we feel the pain of others that we can deliver the appropriate reaction for that particular circumstance.
As Purim approaches, let us all try to pass the test of care and compassion for our fellow Jews. Let us react to the needs of others as though they are our own. When we hear that someone is ill, let us find out if they have needs that we can meet, instead of asking prying questions. Offer meals, visits or financial help; at the very least, find out the person name’s so that you can daven for him or her. Follow up a few weeks later; it gives the person and/or the family tremendous chizuk when they know that people are davening.
If you can’t respond financially to the plethora of solicitation letters and advertisements, at the very least you can add the names to a list of cholim and daven for them three times a day as if they were your relatives… because we all are relatives. When you see a Hatzalah ambulance, pull over to let it pass and say some tehillim. It may not be your grandfather inside, but it is someone’s Zeidy. When you say matir assurim, think of those who are imprisoned or in captivity – that is why this blessing is included in our tefillos.
The test of being a caring Jew is acting when called upon, even in these “little” ways. As Esther was informed, perhaps this test is an opportunity for you and the reason you are informed of the plight. And if you don’t respond appropriately, the salvation will come from another source and you will have lost the opportunity. As we follow the example of Esther and exert ourselves to help our brothers and sisters in need, may Hashem bring a yeshua to all of Klal Yisroel.
Rabbi Gil Frieman is the pulpit Rabbi of Jewish Center Nachlat Zion, the home of Ohr Naava. He is certified as a shochet, sofer, and has given lectures in the United States, Canada, and throughout Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Frieman is currently the American Director of seminaries Darchei Binah, Afikei Torah, and Chochmas Lev in Eretz Yisroel, and teaches in Nefesh High School, Camp Tubby during the summers, and lectures weekly at Ohr Naava. In addition, Rabbi Frieman teaches all tracks in Ateres Naava Seminary. He is a highly anticipated speaker on TorahAnytime.com where he speaks live most Wednesday nights at 9:00pm EST. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org