Friday, February 15, 2013

Me, Myself, and I

As the journey through the desert continues, the Jews were encouraged to donate some of their valuables as a contribution to the building of the mishkan. 

But, they were told only to give if they sincerely wanted to.
"Kol nediv libo, yivieha es trumas Hashem= everyone with a generous  heart, will bring the donations to Hashem".  
The Torah is teaching us about the righteous trait of 'giving'.

In the moving poem of  Eishes Chayil,  written by Shlomo Hamelech , he explains that there are two types of giving.

"Kapah parsah l'ani, v'yadeha shilcha l'evyon", She stretches out her palm to the poor person, and she reaches out her hands to the destitute.

#1- She stretches her palm to the ani. An ani is a poor or struggling person that needs some support to get him on his feet again.

#2- She reaches out her hands to the evyon. An evyon is someone who lacks everything and needs a lot of help.

So, to the ani, the one who needs even minimal aid, she gives with her palm- a small amount, in a dignified manner, since that's what he requires.

But, to the evyon, she gives with both hands, since he requires a whole lot more.

Now, the giving that we're speaking of, is in no way limited to just financial necessity. We could be acquainted with people who are needy in other areas, too.  
Someone can be going through a difficult time and need our emotional support. Or, someone may not be feeling well and in need some physical assistance.

This is quite a difficult principle that Shlomo Hamelech is asking us to strive toward. To be able to determine exactly who needs what, in order to give to them accordingly, is not simple. It takes a lot of careful planning and thinking. Especially, since giving can easily turn into taking when used improperly.  
When we reach out and give to someone, we must be conscious to give them what they need, and not to give just to fill our emotional need to give.

When I was a teenager, I knew someone who was very insecure. Her self esteem was in the land down under. Obviously, she gave an impression of omnipotence and snobbishness, but it was all a facade. She had no idea how to love or how to be loved, and no one really liked her, they just appeared to, out of fear of her. Now, this girl came from a very wealthy home where she lacked exactly nothing.  Her parents gave and gave and gave- more than she could even hold. Since they had an emotional need to give, they stocked her up in material and physical... but never once did she get a hug, or hear the words "I love you". Never once has she had any reason to trust anyone or feel secure anywhere.
  Her emotional needs weren't dealt with, which resulted in her growing up being very needy. 
Though it saddens me, it was no surprise when I learned about all the poor decisions she has made in her life, and the tremendous suffering she is continuously experiencing. Her life turned out to be one that is the envy of absolutely nobody.

Why is it such a difficult challenge to give sincerely, as the possuk says, 'from his heart', based on peoples´ needs?

Because true giving requires us to do something that's very hard for the people of our generation. We have to have reached a significant level of selflessness, demanding of us to involve ourselves with others. The overwhelming majority of the population today is so self absorbed and preoccupied with themselves. When we're so self involved, we really don't have much time, or much room, for anyone else. 

Every magazine I see (at the doctor´s office, of course) has a whole section called "ME Time". It's all about how to get rid of your kids and husband for a few hours, and to close off your ears to the world, and focus on ME. Sounds pretty boring to extroverted me, actually.

I remember, when I went to study in Israel for a year after high school, there was a food called "Bislach", and another called "Beigelach", and yet another called "Mitzlach". Four years later when I married and went back to live there, the names of those foods have been changed! They became "Bisli...Mitzli...kefli..." Even the food went from lach= you, to li= me. 
Hmmm...You are what you eat, much?

Ever meet someone who seemed really inconsiderate? Thoughtless? 
Well, some people might think that about us after we leave their presence, too. That's because the person isn't necessarily bad or mean, just sometimes we're so self absorbed, and so focused on ourselves, we don't give enough thought about others. When someone's in pain, and it doesn't bother you at all, it's because we're so cut off from others, and so concerned with what I want. My feelings.

Ok. Have I got a story for you. It's 100% authentic, brought to you by an eyewitness.

The setting was a busy Sunday afternoon on 13th Ave in Brooklyn, New York. There was a man sitting in his car, double parked slightly behind a car that was about to vacate a spot. Another car suddenly pulled up and double parked slightly in front of it, to try and get the spot from the front angle. Picture the scene. We have a car legally parked, trying to pull out of his spot. Two cars sit there- one by his front, the other by his back, each one so focused on getting his spot, but oblivious to the fact that they're completely blocking him in. The drivers of the two cars are yelling back and forth at each other, calling out words I can't repeat to you, while the poor man is sitting in car, unable to move from his place, watching the scene. Twenty minutes went by. Yes, twenty minutes. 
(Why was I still standing there watching this?)
 Finally, the driver of the car wishing to emerge, got out of his car, put another two quarters in the meter, and announced that he may as well do some more shopping, since he's unable to budge anyway. And he walked off, leaving the two selfish statues howling away. 
In. Your. Face.

Having such a large ME interferes with many aspects of our lives. It can get in the way of our relationship with G-d, and with others.

1. Bein adam laMakom, and 2. Bein adam lachaveiro. How?

1. Proper avodas Hashem, service of G-d, is putting His will before mine. When someone´s ME is so big, there becomes a major conflict between me and Him.

2. Self absorption and egocentric ism don't allow us to focus on the needs of another, as we explained above.

By the way, have you ever had a good friend that got married? So what happened two months later when she invited you over to look at her wedding pictures? You flipped through them, glancing quickly at each one,  focusing carefully, and looking for....ME!  Where am I? How did I come out? Oh- kallah? What kallah? I'm busy looking for me.

If we just move the ME over a little bit and make room to focus on the needs of others, we'll be able to give properly. 
And, also, if we really are just worried about ourselves in the end, by giving to others, there's so much personal benefit too, as we will feel so good about our actions.

 A pessimist, they say, sees a glass of water as being half empty. 
An optimist sees the same glass as half full. 
I say, Yay! More room for vodka!
But, a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty.

Have a beautiful shabbos.