February 28, 2022, Israel
Dedicated to my dear mother, Chana Sarah daughter of Isaac and Henrietta, of blessed memory
I look at photos taken in the weeks before she passed, and I miss those days. My poor dear mother was so helpless, so dependent on others, something that she vowed she would never be. She drove as long as she could, she took care of herself. One of her mantras was, "I vowed never to become a burden to my children",
But she was never a burden, it was my honor and pleasure to take care of her. And suddenly today it hit me as I looked at one of those photos, and I am so glad that I had the wisdom to record those precious moments, that I derived such joy from being able to help my mother. Burden? Never. An honor.
In the story of Yossele the Holy Miser, see the Living and the Dead, Yossele in heaven misses one thing, he misses the ability to help the poor people of his town. He says he is willing to give up his entire heavenly paradise for one more Thursday morning to distribute money to the poor.
And how real that lesson becomes to me now. The ability to give, to help others. Some see it as a burden but it is a gift, a treasure! And it is a gift that we can only have while we are here, among the living. As a great rabbi said to his student, even in Auschwitz one can do a favor for another, he can listen to his troubles and lift up his spirit. The ability to give!
Imagine if you were given the ability to make a million dollars with one simple act! Imagine if you would be paid a million dollars to bring someone a drink!
I had that opportunity. When my mother said, I am thirsty, and I would say, Mom, do you want some of that milk shake that your cousin brought you yesterday? and she would say, Yes. And I would go running downstairs to the refrigerator to bring it to her as fast as possible. And she would sip on it, and smile, and enjoy it, and I became a millionaire once again, a rich man.
I had the opportunity to make millions every day, and this is something I miss. I would sit by her bed for hours, and then the golden opportunity would come again, I am parched, and I would bring her a drink.
I look at a photo and this is what I feel, this is what I remember. I had the ability to make her a little more comfortable. And her grandchildren came, and brought her new slippers, and face cream, and lip balm, and a new blanket that she loved so much and was so eager to show off to the other patients, staff and guests. The ability to do for others. Ah...what a gift!!!
We spend our lives chasing after money but in the end it is the Giving that is the true wealth. The joy of giving far exceeds the joy of anything you can buy.
But where do these values come from?
My dear mother would tell me of her grandmother who was head of so many women's volunteer groups. And my mother would say, so I asked my grandmother, Bubbe, (grandmother in Yiddish), how can you do so much? and she answered, the truth is I would like to do more but I am concerned that people will think I am showing off.
This is my mother, she comes from a long line of Givers. So my mother at 85 was still volunteering in the school system. and before that she ran the organization for helping immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She helped everyone. And even in her death, we gave away all her belongings, which now proudly adorn many homes, and help many many people. Her kindness lives on.
And what can we learn from this, as Krav Maga practitioners? We can learn to give. We can learn to care about our students, to be truly concerned with their safety. Yossele the Holy Miser yearned for one more opportunity to help the poor, how many can we help? How many can we raise up from despair and desperation? What a difference we can make in people's lives.
I look at a photo taken less than two weeks before she passed, and as a friend said, the vault to the gold mine is still open! Act now! and I did. In this photo she is sipping from her Ensure Plus drink which we imported for her from the USA. My brothers and I went to herculean efforts to get the exact drink that she liked best. We made an international effort to get "her drink". I remember her smiling when I told her how my brothers in the USA were packing up the drink and sending it by special delivery to Israel, she smiled, her sons were taking care of her.
And now she is gone, and I yearn for one more opportunity to hear her say, I am thirsty, I need a drink. I am orphaned, with a huge void in my heart, in my life. But I think of her and know that the best way to honor her is by giving, by caring. For in heaven there are is no violence, and no poverty, but here on earth there is plenty, and we can do something about it. Here we have the great gift of the ability to give, to help others, each of us in our own way.
As the rabbi said, one can always help another, even in Auschwitz, a kind word, a moment to listen, and I think of my mother sipping her drink, and I am eternally grateful that I was able to bring her that drink.