Photo Credit: wikipedia

As many of you remember, I spent Shabbos on October 23-24th at Hackensack Hospital.

I underwent emergency back surgery on Shabbos morning.

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What follows is one of the many exciting encounters I had over Shabbos.

Shawn, the nurse on call on Shabbos, was an amiable and helpful fellow; however, it was a bit strange when he asked me if I had any danishes.

Later on in the day, as he was taking my blood pressure, he asked, “By the way, any Gi-filtered fish leftover from lunch?”

By now, I knew something was strange.

“Shawn, you are an excellent nurse. You take good care of your patients. However, why did you ask me if I had any danishes or gefilte fish? You did not ask any other patient for food.”

“I see you have on the black head-cap, and you wear those strings, so I figured you are an Orthodox Jew. Aren’t you?”

“Yes, that’s true; however, what does any of that have to do with danishes and fish?”

“You know what I mean, the 24/7 chess club you guys are all part of, they always bring over danishes, gi-filtered fish, and sholent stew.”

“Chess club?”

Shawn saw my confusion and explained, “Every time a person who looks like you is in the hospital, someone always comes around and delivers him Jewish food. You even have a designated room where any club member can get a hot drink. Whenever a patient like you receives a delivery, I am offered a danish or a piece of potato goggle and sometimes gi-filtered fish. I noticed on the back of the sweatshirts the delivery men wear it says Chesed 24/7. I figured you guys must be members of some chess league that plays 24/7. When I saw you and your strings, I thought you must be a club member, so I asked you for some fish.”

(If you have ever visited or been a patient at any hospital in the New York metropolitan area, you most probably have been the beneficiary of the organization’s Chesed of Chesed 24/7.)

I now understood why Shawn was expecting a piece of fish or at least a danish.

I explained to him that since I had emergency surgery on Shabbos morning, there was no time to benefit from the services of Chesed 24/7.

Shawn then looked at me and asked, “I understand why you don’t have any food to share with me like your friends always do; however, I do have one question which I have meant to ask one of you club members for a long time.”

“Please, ask me anything you want.”

“I have seen the camaraderie between all of you. And I also admire how you share your food with the nurses or any other patient, irrespective if they are Jewish or not. However, I still haven’t figured out how come in all the years I have seen your club bring food in, I have never seen even once anyone taking out a chessboard or even discuss chess. Why do you call yourself Chesed 24/7 if you never play chess?”

“Shawn,” I replied, “The word is Chesed, not chess, and it means kindness. The organization spreads kindness in the world, and it does so 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“Wow, so the organization brings you kosher meals here to the hospital?”

“Yes, that’s one of the many things they do.”

“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but I’m curious, how much do they charge for a meal? I am thinking of ordering one for myself.”

“Shawn, the food is totally free. And I’m sure they would be happy to provide you with a hot lunch as well. We believe in kindness for all people. We never discriminate when it comes to kindness.”

Shawn had one more admission, “I must tell you, you have changed my stereotypical view of Orthodox Jews. You help everyone, and that is true kindness.”

“Shawn, we were all created in the image of G-d.”

“Thank you”, said Shawn, I wish others felt the way you do. I think we all would be better off.”

 
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Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is rav of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, New Jersey. His book, “The Elephant in the Room,” is available either directly from the author or at Amazon.com