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SAVE THE MOMENT

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SAVE THE MOMENT

Parashat Vayera

In 1974, Cat’s in the Cradle was the hit song of the day, a song that hit the cords of the hearts of many dads. Here are the lyrics – a real tear jerker. If you know the words, sing them again, so you won’t forget them!

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it and as he grew
He said, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you”…
When you comin home, Dad? I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then,
You know we’ll have a good time then.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw? ” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do” He said “that’s okay”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him”

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man, I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please? “
When you comin’ home, Son? I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then.

Now I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said “I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind”
He said “I’d love to Dad, if I could find the time.
You see my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu.
But It’s sure nice talking to you, Dad,
It’s been sure nice talking to you…….. “
And as I hung up the phone it had occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me, My boy was just like me…
Shame that we dads haven’t changed much, since. Why do so many dads forget this song of the generations?!

Many people are ready to “save the day”. But not so many people are ready to “save the moment”. To be a hero when things are haywire and for the big things in life – for that, we are ready, we have the energy. But for that everyday smile, nice gesture… to hear someone out, to feel someone’s awkwardness, that is not on our radar. Fathers like to say, “Contact me for the BIG things, when you need a hero to “put out the fire”. Like helping marry off the child, paying their tuition and getting them a job. Otherwise, I am unavailable!  I can’t waste my time for the little things! If I do, how do you expect me to be able to be the hero when I am most needed?”

It is so ironic, though. I keep learning in life, the hard way, that NO ONE really wants you be their hero. No one wants you to SAVE them. People, deep down would rather be their own hero, of their own life stories. All they really want from you, NEED from you, is for you to be a nice person, and share their special moments with them, and to experience with them what they are going through. To feel what they feel. Teachers, Coaches, Dads, Moms – ask those who are dependent on you the real truth; they will tell you. They need you more to save the moment, than they need you to save the day. And for the big things, they would rather depend on G-d.  But it is you whom they need to be with them through their everyday emotions…

Everyone knows that giving is the key to happiness, but not everyone realizes that there are two ways to give: חסד, kindness, and רחמים, mercy. We see in the beginning of Birkat Hamazon, in the end of the Amidah, in Nishmat, in Tahanun, that kindness and mercy are two different words, two different behaviors. What is the difference? Also, we know that Avraham Avinu was the pillar of kindness.  תִּתֵּן אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב חֶסֶד לְאַבְרָהָם. What is kindness? And how does it differ from mercy?

Mercy is to fill a need, to solve a problem, to heal a pain. Kindness is that even if there is no call for mercy, but there is אהבת חסד, a love and a desire to give.

Avraham’s tent was situated to the side of the road that people traveled to and from Sedom and Amorah. After Sedom and Amorah were destroyed, no more traffic would pass near Avraham’s house. So, Avraham moved his tent to a place where there was more traffic, so that he could continue to do kindness.  (See Rashi 20;1) But Avraham!  Finally, you can go on vacation! Why look for more people? For more problems? No one ASKED you to open another chessed organization?!?!

That is Kindness! Kindness is even when no one is asking, no one is crying, there is no fire to put out, there is no saving the day,… there is just a desire to give, to love, to be a nice person and be there for people on their journey through life. Avraham believed that G-d brings the rain, even without anyone asking! G-d supports people, even without them asking. Not out of pity, but just to be nice! And if G-d acts in this way, we are to emulate His behavior.

It is easier to get people to be Merciful than it is to get them to be Kind. It is so ironic, though, how people forget what you do for them, and remember only how you make them feel. People forget the heroes that saved them. But people do not forget the someone who put his arm over their shoulder, when they felt lonely.

All during my youth, my parents assured me that before my wedding, they would see to it that I would have a beautiful smile. Braces, if needed; bite plate, whitening, etc.  But B’H, I got engaged to the first girl I met, while learning in Israel, before coming back to New Jersey for Pesach. Although I wore a plate that helped my teeth straighten up, I still had a gap between my two front teeth. My wedding was going to be in Israel, and I had only 2 weeks in USA to do “bonding”, a procedure in which the orthodontist would need to add to each tooth, to close up the gap for that perfect smile. But when I showed up at the family orthodontist, I was informed that he had taken an early leave for Passover. The secretary, instead, referred us all to another orthodontist, Dr. Levy, a fifteen-minute drive away. Someone my family had never heard of.

When Dr. Levy saw my teeth, he said that first, I needed to whiten them to match the color of the bonding. I did not have enough time for whitening strips. Dr. Levy said that, with the latest technology, for 1,200 dollars, he could make my teeth as white as my shirt, in an hour and a half. But my mother was not ready to pay that kind of money for whitening.

As I got up from the chair, frustrated, Dr. Levy sat me down. “I want your teeth to be perfect for the wedding. I will whiten your teeth at a loss; it will cost you only 450 dollars.” My mother was on board. After my smile was perfect, I asked Mr. Levy why he was so kind to me.

“20 years ago, in Hillel yeshiva, your father was my son’s Rabbi in second grade. Hillel Yeshiva, at the time, had a majority of Sephardic students. All the boys were getting a Tallit for Shacharit prayers, but my Ashkenazi son was the only child in the class who would not be wearing a Tallit. Your father called me up, asking me if it would be okay to get my son a Sephardic Tallit, so that he would not feel out of place in the Sefardic class. This has helped my son feel mainstream, which, ultimately, helped him excel in all of his studies! All because of your father’s thoughtfulness!  When you said you were a Farhi, I thought that it would be my privilege to pay back Rabbi Farhi’s son, white teeth for a white Tallit!

 

Mercy is a must in our relationships. But kindness is the glue. Here are the Selfie Steps, the self-help steps to becoming a kind person.

1- Get Your Smile On

2- Make People Feel At Home

3- Give Off Confident and Optimistic Vibes

4- Dish out the Compliments.

5- Show That You’re Actually Listening.

About the author, Yosef

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