Hidden Heroes

The Three Weeks period that began with Shivah Asar B’Tammuz and concludes with Tishah B’ Av is a period of profound mourning — but it is also a time for concrete actions.

As we grieve over the destruction of a Bais Hamikdash destroyed because of sinas chinam, this is a most appropriate time to seek to rebuild it through acts of ahavas chinam.

Within our community are numerous heroes who exhibit lofty levels of ahavas chinam. Some of them are well known, although the extent of their altruism is a well-kept secret. Others are so discreet about their activities that only the Ribbono shel Olam — and perhaps their immediate relatives or the recipients of their kindness — are aware of the treasure we have in our midst.

Consider the following examples:

A young father abruptly abandons his family and moves to another town. He shows no inclination to grant a get or to help support his children. The brave wife, who does her best to raise the children singlehandedly, contacts a spiritual mentor with a singular question filled with ahavas chinam: She is very careful never to speak ill of her estranged husband in front of her children. But since the children sense that their father has little interest in maintaining a relationship with them, they rarely call him. How hard should she push them to reach out to him?

* * *

After many years of running a company together, a disagreement between two partners turned into a terrible feud. One of them was forced to leave. He opened a company of his own that sold the exact same products, and did his best to try to win over the same customers. One day, he realizes he is running out of a vital ingredient, and unless he procures a sizable amount of it very soon he will have to suspend production.

* * *

He soon discovers that it would take too long to get this ingredient from the original manufacturer. In desperation, he starts calling those competitors with whom he is on good terms. They are all either unable or unwilling to help. A day later a large truck pulls up in front of his company’s headquarters, filled with the vital ingredient. The sender was none other than his ex-partner, who, in a lofty exhibition of ahavas chinam, had put aside his natural feelings and come to the rescue.

* * *

A bachur approached the Menahel of the yeshivah he attended and informed him that he was unhappy and wished to leave for a different yeshivah. The Menahel felt the bachur was mistaken in his assessment that the other yeshivah was better for him and, in any case, that yeshivah had no intention of accepting him. The Menahel also knew that a departure in the middle of the zman wouldn’t benefit the reputation of his yeshivah either. Yet, in an act of ahavas chinam, the Menahel put away his own feelings and used up every bit of “proteksia” he had to convince the other yeshivah to accept the bachur.

* * *

A middle-aged Yid is a fixture in a famous Brooklyn shul. For many hours a night he makes the rounds, collecting money from the mispallelim. From his attire and the fact that he is there every day, most people assume that he collects for himself. Only a handful of people know the real story: This precious Yid, who lives alone, actually lives on the proceeds of a small inheritance. Every quarter he collects is an act of ahavas chinam, as it is given to a specific family in need — a family to whom he is not related and who has never shown him the slightest measure of gratitude.

* * *

These stories are true; only identifying details have been changed. These individuals are among the unsung heroes who manage to divest themselves of their natural inclinations and fill their hearts with unconditional love for their fellow Yid.

In many instances, the degree of ahavas chinam is hidden from human sight and evident only in the depths of the hearts of the heroes themselves. These include older singles who not only give a younger sibling a “green light” to precede them in finding a shidduch, but daven with all their hearts on behalf of their younger siblings. These are the couples who are waiting long years for a child of their own, yet manage to feel genuine happiness when a much younger nephew makes a bris.

When we open our eyes and look closely, we will find all around us role models of ahavas chinam. All that is left is for us to emulate them, each of us in our own way, in our own set of circumstances.