In last week’s article, we began an exploration of the connection between Megilas Rus and the yomtov of Shavuos. When we left off, we had just considered that the famous dictum of Rabbi Akiva, who said, “V’ahavta l’rei-acha k’mocha; Zeh klal gadol baTorah – Love your fellow man as you love yourself. This is a great principle of the Torah.” This emphasizes the great battle against our being self-centered.
Let me share with you an important observation. There is a troubling anomaly in human behavior. Some spouses never compliment their mate privately but in public they sing the praises of their partner to others. In a similar vein, children who care for an older parent might never hear thanks from their father of mother but are amazed and troubled when they hear this same parent sing the praises of how their children take care of them when speaking with their own friends.
Why do some many people behave in such a paradoxical way? The answer is simple. When a spouse or a parent compliments their mate or their child, the act is about the other person. This is something that self-centered people have a hard time doing. When it comes to telling others about the goodness of a spouse or the wonderful behavior of their children, then it’s really about the person himself. What a great spouse they have or what great children they raised. They have no problem applauding themselves publicly to others. The husband has no problem of boasting to the public what a great wife he has because that’s all about himself. To compliment his wife in private would be about her. That’s something he has not mastered as of yet.
In a similar vein, Shlomo HaMelech, in describing the Eishes Chayil, the Woman of Valor, explains, “Komu banehah vayashruhah, baalah vayehalilah – Her children get up and applaud her, her husband gets up and sings about her.” The obvious question is, “Of course they praise her, it’s his wife and it’s their mother. Wouldn’t it be more telling to know what others say about her?” The answer is a resounding, NO! How she behaves with other people is because she is constantly calculating quid pro quo. If she’s not nice, she won’t get a raise; if she’s not friendly, people won’t call her anymore. But how she behaves at home where they are stuck with her is all about whether she is moved to do for others and is not simply centered on herself. This is why, to build a successful Klal Yisroel, Eliezer looked for just one thing in a wife for Yitzchak, and that was a passion for chesed, a love to do for others, for that is the very life blood of the Torah and a Torah Jew.
So, this Shavuos, as we enjoy the blintzes and the flowers, as we stay up the night reaffirming our dedication to Torah study, let’s also reevaluate how much we do for others without thinking “what’s in it for me,” because that is the true meaning of being a baal chesed. In the merit of working on cultivating true kindness, first and foremost in our homes and then to all around us, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, happiness, and everything wonderful.
Happy Shavuos everyone!
Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.