I once asked mori v’rabbi Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth, zt”l, author of Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa, why it says “gomeil chassadim tovim” in the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei. We view chessed as something good and positive, so why is the word “tovim” added? He instructed a Rav who was sitting in the back of the car to answer my question.
The Rav related that someone once offered him a ride home, but he declined, explaining that it wouldn’t take him long to walk home. The person persisted, and finally the Rav acquiesced. On the way, the person informed the Rav that he had to make a quick stop. That “quick” stop turned out to be so long that the Rav would have been long home had he walked. That’s why we praise Hashem for bestowing “good” chassadim upon us.
As I write these words, my wife is sitting shivah for her sister. Her sister’s husband and three children accompanied the aron to Eretz Yisrael. As they have many relatives and friends here, they sat the first two days, from Sunday night to Tuesday night, in our home before flying back to sit the remaining days in their own home in New York.
The email that went out and the signs posted on our door and inside and outside our building specified that the hours of nichum aveilim are from 9:00 to 1:30 and from 4:00 to 10:00. Anyone who has sat shivah knows how physically draining it is, and in this case, my brother-in-law and his children were already exhausted from the many months of taking care of my sister-in-law and from the traveling from New York to Yerushalayim. The mid-day break and the somewhat early ending time at night were chosen in order to allow them to get badly needed rest.
A good friend of my brother-in-law arrived some time before 10:00 p.m. and stayed until well after 11:00. I am not exaggerating when I say that I never saw five people run for their beds as fast as my wife, my brother-in-law and his children did. The next day, the day they were flying back, the wife of the man who had left after 11:00 the previous night showed up at 1:30, despite the fact that, as she confirmed to our daughter, she was aware of the aforementioned schedule.
Our daughter stipulated that she could come in if she would limit her visit to a few minutes, to which she agreed. At 2:00, our daughter gently but firmly insisted that she go, and she responded that she’d leave as soon as she’d gone to the bathroom. She came out of the bathroom and sat herself down again, and didn’t leave until 4:00, the end of the rest period!
These are good and intelligent people, but they lost sight of the purpose of nichum aveilim.
This is an appeal to all Hamodia readers: Please, please, make sure that all your chassadim are tovim. And please pass on this message to everyone you know.
Doniel Binyomin Lewenstein, Yerushalayim