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Turtleneck Tuesday' and Chai Lifeline Shabbaton Update

12/06/2016 04:34:12 PM

Dec6

This Shabbos is our first ever Chai Lifeline Shabbaton, which the community has facilitated through its enormous generosity. I know how difficult it can be on a cold Shabbos to leave our homes and participate in a Shabbaton like this but I can't stress enough how valuable these types of weekends are to ourselves, our families, our community and most importantly to the participants. Not to be at all maudlin or manipulative, but these are kids who often sacrifice so much as a result of their illness. The least we can do it to show up and demonstrate our support for them and for the amazing work that Chai Lifeline does on behalf of the community. Both the Oneg at 7:30 on Friday Night and the Melaka Malka at 6:45 on Motzei Shabbos are for the entire community and we encourage full participation. 

In honor of the Chai Lifeline Shabbaton I wanted to share with you the following thoughts. 

     I feel very blessed to live in a country that comes up with a day called 'Giving Tuesday'. Yes, it was undoubtedly thought up as a marketing ploy to drum up business for some local organization, and yes the 400 e-mails announcing that 'Today's Giving Tuesday!!!' might become somewhat cumbersome but in essence I would think that it reflects the 'chut shel chessed' the fundamental giving nature that is endemic to this country. 
    That said I have become somewhat less enamored with Giving Tuesday after walking around YU today and seeing a few guys in Turtlenecks, and after telling one guy 'nice turtleneck' I was told that 'Rabbi get with it, today's Turtleneck Tuesday!'. Now besides being scarred by all of the years back in the 70's in which, like it or not, I was wearing a turtleneck to Beth Tfiloh Day School (has any skinny 11 year old ever looked good in a turtleneck?) I immediately asked myself whether Turtleneck Tuesday and Giving Tuesday are sort of in the same basic family - cute ploys to talk about or have fun with for 24 hours before moving on to the next thing (can I suggest 'Trick your kids into cleaning their rooms Tuesday' or 'Treat the Rabbi to a steak dinner at Fireside Tuesday' or something equally valuable). 
    The truth is that 'Giving' or chessed often become just that - something that we do in passing or when we are reminded, or when we feel guilty or when the right cause happens to come our way. The איש חסד, the Man of Chessed, as Reb Chaim of Brisk was referred to, is a completely different animal so to speak. The איש חסד doesn't need a day on the calendar to remind him of the imperative for altruism, rather with every instinct he is completely attenuated to the needs of his friends, community and the world at large. עולם חסד יבנה, build a world of chessed commands King David. A 'world' doesn't imply a remote island that we visit by rowboat on a yearly excursion. The עולם החסד and the איש חסד is a call and a mandate to shape lives in which the very fabric implies generosity, consideration and goodness. I guess simply put, my question would be are we 'Giving Tuesday Jews' or 'איש חסד Jews'?
    I was reminded about the model of the איש חסד in a conversation with a close friend the past couple of days. This friend is an unusually caring physician who specializes in geriatrics. Years ago an older man from the Shul by the name of Joe was hospitalized for a number of months in the Hospital in which my friend was employed. Every night after work the Dr., who was not Joe's caregiver, would come in to sit with Joe and talk about his life, his childhood, his children and grandchildren and generally just to make Joe feel as though life was not passing him by. These visits typically lasted between a half an hour and an hour and went on uninterrupted for the months leading up to Joe's death. 
At Joe's funeral, Joe's widow approached the Drs. wife to communicate their families enormous gratitude for the dozens of hours that the Dr. had dedicated to Joe and that the Drs. presence had been the single greatest source of joy during these past few weeks. The Drs. wife was somewhat taken aback in that she had no clue what her husband had been doing the last few months. When I heard this story I marveled at the type of person who would not only give so generously of their time but wouldn't breathe a word of it to their wives as well. He and so many like him have transformed chessed from an act to a lifestyle. 
We should be blessed with the generosity of spirit, goodness of character and genuine commitment to do the same. 

Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780