Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - The Epitome Of Selflessness?
A Simple Jew asks:
There once was a man who was the epitome of selflessness. The needs of others were paramount in his eyes and his tremendous acts of kindness remain legendary to this day. As inspiring as he was, there was one tragic aspect to his personality. Perhaps he considered his wife and children as part of himself, however for reasons that we will never know, his selflessness did not extend to them. He was always caring for others and was not able to provide the attention that his wife expected. In the end, his selfless nature cost him his marriage.
This man was certainly on a level miles above me. As I have reflected on this man's life, I am reminded of a teaching I once saw from Rabbi Chaim Vital:
"When a person faces his judgment in Olam Haba, he is not evaluated according to how much he helped other people. He may be a tremendous activist, may be constantly running from one affair to another, may be constantly involved in one project or another, but his worth is measured according to how he behaved with his wife and children. The way a person acts with his family reflects who he really is."
As with all great men, had this man devoted himself solely to his family he would not have been able to leave behind the world with all the precious gifts that he left behind. However, based on this teaching from Rabbi Chaim Vital, in your opinion should this man have followed a different path and devoted himself to his family instead?
Dixie Yid answers:
I think the answer to your question is best expressed by MoChassid's rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, as quoted in a now-deleted posting on Foster parenting, "My rabbi said something I will never forget: "Just because you signed up to be tzaddikim (righteous people) doesn't mean your kids did. You can't turn them into 'karbanos' (sacrifices) because you want to do chasadim (good deeds)."
Curbing one's kiruv/chesed/Klal work in order to avoid damaging his children and his marriage is not only an issue of fulfilling one's obligations to his family. It is also an issue of fairness. It's just not fair to make one's wife and children suffer and sacrifice for a cause they never bought into (or at least not to an extreme degree).
Part of this mistake is due to a lack of perspective and Emunah. One feels, "If I don't do X, Y, and Z, they will not get done." As Mordechai said in Megilas Esther (4:14), "כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת--רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר." "If you remain silent at this time, salvation and rescue will be established for the Jewish people from another place." Taking a slightly different message from this truth, if a person remains silent and abstains from saving the world because he must do so for his own family, he must know that there is still a Master of the World. Hashem will take care of his people. It is the obligation of each person to do what Hashem wants him to do. It is not his obligation to do every chessed and save every soul that he can. "רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר."
The truth of this approach can be seen from the story of Moshe, Tzipporah and the snake. I heard a vort many years ago by Rabbi Benjamin Blech on the psukim in Shmos 4:24-25: " וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ, בַּמָּלוֹן; וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהוָה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ. כה וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר, וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת-עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ, וַתַּגַּע, לְרַגְלָיו; וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי." Moshe was on the way from Midyan to Mitzraim to save the Jewish people. He was in such a hurry to do so, that he did not give his son a bris mila (since traveling would have been prohibited afterwards, for health reasons). Hashem wanted to teach Moshe Rabbeinu that it is not right to sacrifice the basic needs of his family, even for something as great as (literally) saving the Jewish people. Therefore, he sent a snake to kill him. In this situation, it was his wife Tzipporah, who knew what to do and circumcised their son herself, thus saving Moshe Rabbeinu's life.
There is a Community Kollel and kiruv organization nationwide moderated e-support group for the wives of these Klal workers. It is very difficult for them. Many chose the challenge and accepted the sacrifice, though they still needed the support to help get through the difficult times. A few others felt that they didn't really have a choice in the lifestyle and resented it. They all need and use the support group to get through it.
At the end of the day, whether it's work for the Shul, Chessed, Kiruv or, kal va'chomer, a secular job, one must learn the ability to say "No, I'm sorry I can't do it.," sometimes. Without the ability to do this, despite the difficulty, a person puts his marriage and his children in danger. If one "makes" several Baalei Teshuva, but his own children go off the derech, it is a net loss, and it is not the ratzon Hashem.
May Hashem strengthen us to sacrifice and give to Him and His people, without sacrificing our families!