Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Worst Possible Thing

(Picture courtesy of

"Don't do that. You will make work for someone else.", said my father to my three-year old son after my son had thrown food onto the floor during lunch.

As soon as I heard these words, it struck me that they encapsulated another lesson my father had always tried to instill in me: the importance of not being a burden on another person. Putting another person out or causing them to go out of their way for you was regarded as the worst possible thing you could do in my father's eyes.

Both of my father's parents were constantly focused on being givers and not takers. Bedridden with emphysema and Alzheimer's Disease the last year of his life, my grandfather would routinely ask us if we needed anything. Despite the fact that his every need was selflessly attended to by my grandmother and he could do little or nothing for himself, my grandfather still had a great desire to help others as he had done his whole life.

Hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) the last days of her life a little more than ten years later, my grandmother gave strict instructions that no one tell her good friend where she was. Her elderly friend had a bad hip and had great difficulty getting around. My grandmother was concerned that if her friend learned that she was in the ICU she would feel obligated to come and visit her since my grandmother had regularly took the bus to go visit her friend in her nursing home. Knowing the end of her life was imminent, my grandmother wanted her friend's last memory of her to be as a giver and not a taker connected to machines and attended to by doctors and nurses.

Growing up I was never educated me in the mitzvos of bein adam l'Makom, however, it is now obvious to me that I was taught how to go beyond the letter of the law in the mitzvos of bein adam l'chavero.


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