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"Love Your Brother as Yourself!"

01/07/2021 03:29:51 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Rebbe of Kapishnitz, once visited one of his followers who happened to be quite wealthy.  The Rebbe knocked on the door of the man’s home.  When the wealthy man opened the door, he was quite taken back at the sight of the holy Rebbe standing on his doorstep.  He asked in bewilderment; “Why did the Rebbe have to trouble himself to come to my home?  The Rebbe could have summoned me and I would have dropped what I was doing and come at once!”  The Rebbe answered him: “I know of a certain family that is in desperate need of help.  The husband is out of work and, as an addition to the extreme hardship that this produces, they have a son who is very ill and requires immediate special medical attention.  Needless to say, their expenses are well beyond their means.”

But Rebbe” the wealthy man responded, “did this make it necessary for you to exert yourself by traveling to my home?  Why did the Rebbe not simply dispatch a messenger to inform me of this? I would have gladly given whatever sum of money that was needed!”  The Rebbe slowly and deliberately answered the wealthy man: “This particular request is of the utmost importance to me.  Because of this, it was essential that I come to your home personally.”  Exasperated, the wealthy man exclaimed in a loud voice: “I am fully prepared to give as much money as is necessary!  Just tell me: to whom I should make the check payable?”  The Rebbe paused for a moment and then slowly said: “Make the check payable…to your brother!”

In this week’s parashah, Parashat Shemot, we find the following: “And the daughter of Par’oh descended to the river to bathe [in it]; and her maidens were walking near the river.  And she saw the basket in the midst of the reed-thicket; and she sent her maid and she took it.  And she opened [it}, and she saw him – the boy, and behold: a lad was crying, and she took pity on him.”  (Shemot 5-6) The Torah goes on to tell us that Par’oh’s daughter, Bit’ya, realized that the baby was a Hebrew.  “So, Rabbi,” You may ask, “just what is going on here?  Why are two different people, the baby and the unnamed lad mentioned in the same passage?  Are they one and the same person?  And how did Bit’ya know that the baby was a Hebrew?”  The Baal HaTurim explains that this verse does, in fact, deal with two separate people.  When Bit’ya opened the basket, she saw the baby whom she takes for herself and eventually names Moshe.  It is at that same moment of discovery that she noticed a young lad crying.  Who was this young lad?  The Baal HaTurim says that she recognized him as being Aharon, the brother of Moshe.  She then realized that because one brother was crying for another that both must be Hebrew.

Many of us, in an effort to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah will spend a great deal of time searching far and wide for opportunities to extend ourselves to others in order to help them and to make their lives better.  But all too often we fail to recognize that there are members of our own families who need our attention and our attentiveness the most.  A way to test whether you really care about others or whether you are merely helping them for the recognition you might receive is by examining the way you help the members of both your immediate and your extended families.  While charity may begin at home, it is lovingkindness and caring that is really needed the most!

Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781