Taking a Positive View

Too often, discussions about our community tend to focus on that which is lacking. From issues that are real and are generally applicable, to problems which are not as widespread as those who speak about them think they are, we have more than enough experience in dealing with crises.

Of course, there is a good reason for that. By concentrating on concerns that people have with the way we do things, we can, when these concerns are legitimate, change things for the better. That is also the reason the voicing of these criticisms most often needs to be done in a forceful manner; it is hard to effect change unless you can “wake up” the subject to its need.

However, there is an inherent problem with primarily discussing negatives — and, by extension, giving the positives short shrift. Whether one is dealing with an individual, or if one is critiquing an entire community, there is a need to be careful so as not to make people feel as though they are in worse shape than they really are.

Harav Elya Lopian, zt”l, points out that there is a big difference when a doctor finds that someone has an illness that the patient has had from birth and is genetic and a sickness caused by some external cause. An external illness is much easier to heal than one that is an innate part of the person.

The same is true about spiritual matters. That is why, he explains, Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni Bamidbar 759) still refer to Klal Yisrael with positive adjectives while discussing the generation of the Churban. One of those drashos uses the passuk in Shir Hashirim (4:7) which proclaims “Kuloch yafah rayasi, u’mum ein bach.” Rav Elya explains that while Klal Yisrael may have blemishes, they are not “bach” — within us. Rather they are like illnesses which are not part of our beings — and, as such, easier to “heal.”

As we begin the days of Bein Hametzarim, this is an important thing to remember.

We all know that the second Churban was due to deficiencies in interpersonal relationships, and that it is our challenge to rectify this in order to bring the Geulah — something we have yet to do. So much of the focus during this time is on all of the ways we are deficient in this area, to the point that one may be tempted to throw his hands up in despair and not even try to work on this seemingly unattainable goal.

But the truth is that it is so much more within reach than we realize. And as much as we struggle with the issue of sinas chinam, it is plain to see that “mum ein bach”; it is not part of who we are.

Everyone has experiences when encountering the ahavas chinam of Yidden toward fellow Jews. The plethora of organizations with only the function of helping people is the greatest example of this. But these aren’t just things we farm out to organizations and third parties; it is our way of life.

I experienced such an outpouring a few weeks ago, when, while playing early Shabbos afternoon, one of my children dislocated her elbow. While “nursemaid’s elbow” is quite common, my daughter’s pain and discomfort meant that we needed to find someone who could pop it back into place as quickly as possible.

After reviewing my options vis-à-vis Shabbos with a neighborhood talmid chacham, I sent one of my other children to knock on the door of a neighbor, who is a nurse, to try to bring the story to a resolution without the need for any melachah being done. And although my child came back with a message from my neighbor’s children that their father was lying down, he was at my door a few minutes later to see if he could help. (He couldn’t.)

Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to us, the talmid chacham I had spoken to was himself knocking on doors of anyone he could think of who might be able to help. While nobody could fix the elbow (but all still managed to figure out a way to help), a Hatzolah member called for someone to drive us over to a doctor who could.

When we got to the house of a prominent Lakewood pediatrician (whom we chose to go to despite his not being our PCP so that we should be able to walk back home), he opened the door and brushed aside my apologies for disturbing him. He promptly popped the bone into place, and then handed my daughter not one, but two, lollipops.

For everyone who was involved in our little “story,” what they did is not something they see as something out of the ordinary — it is something any Yid would do for another. And they are right. Because by our nature we are baalei chessed, and we can overcome the external challenge that is sinas chinam. We just need to realize that, and not allow the yetzer hara to convince us otherwise.