Latest update: March 6th, 2012
More Readers Chastise Critics of “Community (lack of) values”
(See Chronicles 3-18, 4-8 and 4-29)
When I read the responses to the young woman’s complaints regarding her neighbors’ indifference or unwillingness to help her and her husband, I was quite taken aback by the vitriol and mean-spiritedness of the responders.
Do any of them know all the facts? True, the young woman’s letter omitted much background information, but to me, something about her letter struck a chord. The Orthodox communities my husband and I both come from were small, with one main shul and one day school that all the children attended — the Rabbi’s children, as well as children from non-religious families.
We all knew one another, some better than others, but all would wish each other “Good Shabbos” with a smile (not mumbled in passing), and received warm responses in return. We would go out of our way to greet guests in shul and make them feel welcome; we certainly did not ignore them. And if we noticed a moving truck parked outside, and an Orthodox family in the process of moving in, we offered whatever assistance was needed, whether by way of food and drinks, or, if their children were similar ages to ours, we offered to have them play at our homes to ease their parents’ burden. We did not wait for them to do us a favor before reaching out to them, nor did we keep score as to who owes whom a favor before offering our help. For our community, this was normal and no big deal.
When we got married and moved to a large city, we were in for a culture shock. When our moving truck stopped in front of our apartment, no one noticed. When we would greet people on the street with a “Good Shabbos”, we were met with indifference at best, and stares (what?? do I know you??) at worst. It took several Shabbosim for someone to even notice that we were newcomers.
It took even longer for someone to invite us for a Shabbos meal. When we met other former “out-of-towners” who had lived here for several years, they told us this is the way things are in the big city. We eventually gravitated to other former out-of-towners because the city folk had their own cliques, and were not interested in including us in their circle.
So, maybe this young woman and her husband, with similar backgrounds to one another, moved far away from their families to a large city where they knew no one. (Notice how she did not mention asking any of their family members for help.) Maybe they simply thought that what was normal in their former location would be normal in their new one.
Did any of their new neighbors reach out to them to find out if the two are working or perhaps students trying to get by on part-time jobs or loans, or whose families are unable to help them out financially? Did it ever occur to their indifferent neighbors that this couple might not have been able to afford the cost of hiring professional movers? If these neighbors couldn’t offer their time, they could have directed them to a gemach or an agency that could have been of help to them.
To “Be a doer, not a whiner”: Yes you have suffered a lot and have managed to cope without anyone’s help. In that respect you are to be commended. But you just blew it by resorting to vile, bitter language that was totally uncalled for.
You, who are older, should know better than to be so judgmental without having all the facts. What makes you think that your suffering gives you the right to belittle other people’s problems, even if they are nowhere near as bad as yours were? Lady, there are plenty of people who suffered much, much worse than you yet don’t brush off another’s problems as nonsense.
I can think of my grandfather, z”l, for one, who went through unspeakable horrors during the Holocaust. He emerged with his emunah intact, with a genuine love for humanity and with an ayin tov. He was someone who cared about others despite having suffered much more than most could conceive of. He would listen to their woes with a sympathetic ear and try his best to comfort them. He did not tell them to stop whining, grow up and get a life.
Like the rabbi who gave a lot of money to the poor man who asked if he was permitted to use milk for the 4 cups, understanding that the man could not only not afford wine, but obviously could not afford meat either, my grandfather would secretly give money to people he would keenly note were in real need, even if they tried to hide it.
To the scathing critics: Remember that Hashem judges you as you judge others.
I guess we know why the Beit HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt. We, the participants in this weekly column, have run an excellent sinat chinam experiment. First, a young couple, out of personal discomfort and frustration, sought fit to indict a whole generation’s midot — in public and in writing, no less.
Then, rather than judge them favorably, we, as a whole, responded with ferocious letters oozing with disgust, disdain and derision. So now, what began as an individual unilateral expression of frustration is spread across the whole column.
I tell my kids all the time: You may be correct, you may be right, but once you are infected with strong negative feelings you lose the capacity to judge others. In fact, the anger may be a negative trait suppressed within us, just waiting for a moral justification to make it erupt in all of its fury.
So how did I interpret the original woman’s letter? As someone who has moved four times in the last seven years, I can tell you that it is a daunting, expensive and frustrating experience. Had my husband and I not had the help and support of my family, we would have been overwhelmed as well.
The Jewish people have always been head and shoulders above everyone else midot-wise, so when one of us comes up short, the deficit stings and is all the more glaring.
Please save the disdain and disgust for the sonai Yisrael — or perhaps let us all let go of that poison altogether.
A fellow reader
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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