Jewish Spirituality 101: Do What You Hate

June 19, 2014

BH

I read the email during a break in the action at the Yeshiva boys graduation: 

“Dear Mothers of 7th and 11th Grade Girls.”

I quickly did the math. Mother, yes, that’s me. Eleventh grade girl, yes, that would be my daughter, Rivky. 

“We are looking for volunteers to help set up for the girls graduation tomorrow.” 

Hmmm.

There are times when I actually respond in a holy way to being asked to do things—”help somebody? I’d love to, that’s why I’m here”—but this wasn’t one of those times.

I think it has something to do with getting a mass email. They don’t really need me, and besides, I have a blog to write.

Then there’s the fact that I’m just not a talented setter-upper. Making a fruit platter is beyond me, arranging napkins is not my thing; you either enjoy doing that stuff or you don’t. I imagined myself hauling folding chairs and thought, well, I don’t love doing that either but it’s better than decorating the room.

I stared at the email. I could do it but but I just didn’t particularly want to.

Why was I feeling so drained?

I realize now that I was still processing my reaction to the abduction of the three Israel teenagers. I had to internalize that something unspeakably awful had befallen the entire Jewish nation. Nothing happens by accident, and I could not ignore the fact that G-d was ultimately responsible.

So much for my lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. I had to work up to the fact that G-d wants something more, still more, from me.

Because when tragedy strikes, the Jewish way is to respond with positive action, with prayers, with mitzvos. But, when Jewish children are kidnapped for being Jews in the Jewish state, it’s more than tragedy. 

It’s an affront to G-d and everything He stands for, above all, Truth.

The “abductors” hate the Jews because they hate the G-d of the Jews.

So, yet again, G-d has been kidnapped, this time, in the bodies of three teen-age boys. How can our collective Jewish life go on as normal?

It can’t and it mustn’t.

I read a touching blog post by an Israeli woman who acknowledged that, at least on some level, it was fortuitous that the kidnapped boys were observant. “They have their faith.” she wrote. “I would have nothing.”

Nothing?

G-d is alive within her soul just as He is alive within these three boys. Nobody should undergo a test to discover the pintele Yid, the Jewish essence, but it exists within the soul of every Jew.

I sent this woman a Facebook message, urging her to use her “power of the pen” to inspire other Jews to take  positive action. I told her that her prayers and her mitzvos are as effective as any Jew’s.

And G-d especially appreciates when we do something that’s difficult for us, but we do it just for Him. Because we love Him. Because we need Him.

So I volunteered to set up for the girls graduation, but  I made sure to tell G-d I was doing it for “our boys.” The work wasn’t terrible, just an hour and a half in a freezing auditorium, mostly by myself, mostly trying to separate stacks of thumbprint cookies that had stuck together. 

But now I’m warmed up to the idea of trying to say “yes” to everything, all in the merit of the their safe return.

Because the most effective antidote to irrational evil perpetrated against Jews is irrational kindness towards Jews. And for that, there’s nothing better than doing something I can do but don’t particularly want to do. 

I’m hoping we will hear good news about “our boys” very soon. It’s hard to imagine the anguish of their families.

But when I think of the prayers that are being said, the mitzvos that are being done, the unity that is being felt, I can only imagine that all of these events could be setting the stage for G-d to do what He has been waiting to do for over two thousand years: free His Chosen people, and the whole world, from the stranglehold of darkness, a world where evil not only exists, but flourishes.

Each and every one of us can do something more, something better, something Jewish, something hard to do, to propitiate G-d to allow for the safe return of “our boys”:

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah

Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim

Eyal Yifrach ben Iris Teshurah

And while we’re asking, we should ask G-d to send Moshiach, so the Jewish nation will never have to go through this suffering, or any suffering, ever again.

 

6 Comments

  1. Reply

    ellen

    Dear Liebe, I found this week’s blog particularly inspiring; thank you! I have what may be a silly question, but I am curious to know your thoughts. Since one can’t say yes to everything– and the more one says yes the more one is asked, often– how to choose? For instance, is a request from a school more likely to command attention than a blog, both of which serve others? How to know one’s own desires (ie you would rather write the blog) from God’s desires/influence (eg that God wants you to write the blog?) With respect, Ellen
    ps glad you were able to do both in this case!

    1. Reply

      Ellen

      BH
      Hi Ellen,
      It’s a good question and I actually started writing about that exact dilemma, but felt the urgency to say, “just do it” regarding mitzvahs for the boys.
      Often, our “evil inclination” tries to convince us not to do what we, in fact, should do. If we always wanted to do the right thing, we would be angels. But we “outsmart” the egotistical side of our soul by actually doing what we “think” we don’t want to do.
      Also, if a mitzvah comes my way, not in a mass email, that is clearly by G-d’s design. If at all possible, I should try to do it and do it well because it was meant for me.
      And, lastly, the Lubavitcher Rebbe passionately urged all of his followers to have a mentor, a mashpia, someone who is trusted to help figure these things out. Even if we want to do the right thing, sometimes it can be a complicated process to get there!
      Great to hear from you, Ellen…have a good Shabbos!

      1. Reply

        ellen

        What a wonderful, thoughtful reply. Thank you, Lieba!

  2. Reply

    sararivka

    lieba, you are able to direct thoughts of the heart , soul and mind directly to that ‘pintele yid’ that lives within all of us who were fortunate enough to be jewish. you remind me that even if i can’t do the big stuff, there is always SOMETHING I CAN DO!!!…and it isn’t an exercise in futility.
    have a great Shabbes

  3. Reply

    sararivka

    p.s. did that woman respond to you?????

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      BH Not yet, but I hope she read what I wrote!

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