“Mike,” I asked, “do you remember when you told me how comforting the rabbi had been? What did he actually say? Can you recall his words?” Mike swallowed hard and said, “Nothing. I know it sounds crazy, Rebbetzin, but it was really nothing – that is, nothing I can quote.” He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face. “When the rabbi entered our house,” he explained, “he walked straight up to me, put his arms around me, and then” – Mike’s voice broke with emotion – “he cried with me.”
Mike paused for a moment. “Rebbetzin,” he said, “no one else cried with me like that except for Shirley. The rabbi came every night and he took on my pain. I will never forget it as long as I live.”
Then Shirley added, “Do you know what I think made all difference? He did not have to say ‘I’m sorry’ – we felt he was sorry. He did not know us, yet he knew us better than our closest friends. He took us into his heart and we felt it. Just knowing he was there made it easier. He’s the most compassionate man we have ever met.”
Such identification with someone else’s pain and tragedy can only come from experiencing your own pain – and from reverencing G-d. It is reverence for Hashem that can render a human being merciful and compassionate in the sense that G-d is merciful and compassionate. When belief in the Almighty is absent, a vacuum is left in the heart – and that vacuum is filled with the selfishness our society promotes. Sadly, ours is an entitlement culture. We want and we want some more, and we are never satisfied. And our eyes and ears are closed to the pain of others.
(To Be Continued)