A bus ticket, a care package, a haircut — the items were small, the caring behind them enormous. A small seed sprouted and grew tall. Twenty readers share acts of giving
Tzippy Braude, Lakewood, NJ
I must have been in tenth grade, when I went to the lunchroom to wash netilas yadayim, and like every other day, took off the ring my grandparents had given me for my bas mitzvah.
I rarely saw my grandparents, and the ring was a precious memento of their love for me. To my horror, the ring somehow slipped across the wet counter and disappeared down the drain.
I gulped down tears and ran to the office for help. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to do, and I sadly went to class. About an hour or two passed and there was a knock on my classroom door. Rabbi Yoel Bursztyn, the school principal, stood there. He beckoned to me. I had no idea what he wanted and hesitatingly came out.
He smiled widely, lifted his hand, and opened his clenched fist. There, on his palm, was my lost ring!
Rabbi Bursztyn had called a plumber (probably at his own expense) and had gotten him to open the pipes under the sink to see if my ring was still there.
A young girl’s loss had pierced his kind heart, and he’d acted upon it. This small act of kindness still looms large in my memory.
A Hug from Hashem
Tobi Samet, Passaic, NJ
One of the small pleasures my husband and I enjoyed was shopping at Costco together. Even if I’d go alone, my husband would always say, “Call me when you’re coming up the street, and I’ll come help you unload the car.” A shopping trip to Costco was always about large quantities and bulky items, so the help was always appreciated.
Shopping for the Yom Tov meals meant huge briskets and turkey. My husband made friends with the butcher in whatever city we lived, and ordered meat in large quantities. Imagine his excitement when he saw that our Costco sold Kosher Empire turkeys at a good price. Imagine my consternation when he’d bring home three or four at a time and expect to find room in the freezer, when it was already stocked with challos, cake, frozen kugels, and soup. Help! But he always found room for them. Turkey fed a crowd, and it was his favorite.
Last year, two weeks before Pesach, I wasn’t feeling well. Little did I know it was coronavirus, or that my husband would come down with it a few days later. I gave my husband a shopping list for Costco. I still have it pinned to my bulletin board. It’s in his own handwriting: sugar, orange juice, aluminum foil, Dawn dish detergent, coffee, chicken bottoms, tissues.
One week later he was having trouble breathing, and was hospitalized. His levayah was on the 13th of Nissan. There were three turkeys and three roasts that stayed in my freezer that Yom Tov. My son, daughter-in-law, and I ate meals cooked with love by my neighbors for an entire week.
Three months later, I was coming home from a doctor’s appointment and knew I was due for a shop at Costco. I entered the store with a list, but bought so much more, having in mind all my children and their families who were now coming for Shabbos more often.
So there I was, with an overflowing shopping cart, hungry and thirsty, feeling very tired. I managed to squeeze all my purchases into the car and begin the trip home.
Then it hit me.
I’m all alone.
My husband won’t be there to smile and get excited about my purchases, or to find room in the freezer for the oversize turkeys and briskets I’d bought.
I have to do this by myself now.
The tears came fast and furious. I had trouble even seeing out the window. I finally made it home and pulled into the driveway. As I exited the car and pulled up to the back gate, a yungerman from the neighborhood passed by on the way to Minchah.
“Mrs. Samet, do you need help unloading your car?” he asked. And he proceeded to empty my car and navigate the many steps to the front door and into the house.
Thank you, Mr. Malach min HaShamayim. Thank You, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Who takes care of widows and orphans. I felt a big hug not just from a caring neighbor, but from the One Above who sent him when I needed it most.
L’ilui nishmas Yisroel ben Aharon Halevi.
Ahuva Holzer, Cincinnati, Ohio
Moving out of our cramped apartment in a short amount of time was tough. Add a newborn, two preschoolers, an unbearably hot summer, and an infestation of German cockroaches to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
But moving day was looming and we had to forge on. However, packing could only start after bedtime. And we were just so, so tired.
Somehow we managed to pack things into boxes. My friend Tova texted me: “Can we take your two big kids while you load the truck?” Gratefully, we sent our five-year-old and two-and-a-half-year old for hours and hours while the contents of our apartment were loaded onto the moving truck.
After the truck pulled away, we walked into the home we inhabited for five years. There was so much junk to get rid of and so much to clean. And it all had to be done by the next morning. We just wanted to sit amid the debris and cry.
And then another text from Tova: Can you guys come and hang out at our apartment with our sleeping kids, and we’ll clean up for you? We were stunned. Who does that? I couldn’t accept. This was my problem, not theirs!
But the next thing I knew, Tova’s husband, Moshe, was at our door. With his can-do attitude, high energy levels, and big smile, he plowed through every corner of that apartment, even dismantling some of the roach-infested furniture we were getting rid of and bringing it to the curb (fun fact: German cockroaches like wood. And they’d built a nest inside our dining room table).
To this day, I believe that without him, we’d still be sitting on the floor of that apartment. We’ll never forget Moshe and Tova’s selflessness that day, in an act that can only be described as... moving.
The Missing Piece
S.N., Baltimore, MD
May 2 is the date my husband and I became officially engaged. I was so excited, but at the same time, I was going through a maelstrom of emotions and confusion. My mother had passed away just the year before, and we’d been extremely close.
One of the things I remember her saying often during the final stage of her illness was that she was going to miss the best part — the dating, engagements, and the weddings of her children and the next chapters of their lives.
As I was dating, her absence was felt keenly. I was sure that had she been alive, we would have rehashed every date, and she would have been my sounding board when making the biggest decision of my life.
Our l’chayim was a bustle of so many people, as everyone was thrilled to share in our simchah. A few guests lingered well past midnight and it was quite late by the time we finished cleaning up from the event. As we were parting that night, my chassan asked if I was up for a “date” early the next morning.
I looked at him in surprise.
He explained that he knew that it must be so hard for me not to have my mother present at this simchah. Therefore, he’d arranged to take a day off and borrow a car… so that we could drive four hours each way to visit her kever together. Each year on May 2, throughout the last two decades, I remember not only a special date on the calendar, but a most memorable gesture of kindness.
A Caring Barber
We were in the middle of a very long coronavirus lockdown, which had come on the back of a five-week quarantine. My 11-year-old son was learning via telephone for some time when the good news arrived: His school would be opening the very next day.
My son was very excited. He’d once again be with his classmates and get to know his new rebbi better.
That evening, I asked my older son if he’d give his brother a haircut. Our machine was a little faulty, and to our horror, the piece covering the blade fell off. My son was left with a bald spot. He son was hysterical and didn’t want to continue with the haircut. I finally convinced him that we couldn’t leave the job halfway done. I told him I would finish the haircut.
Horror of horrors, the piece fell off again, and he was left with not one, but two very obvious bald spots.
My son was in tears, and I was at a loss for what to do. No way was my son going back to school the next day. It would probably be two weeks before he could step out of the house. With the taste of freedom so close, we were terribly disappointed.
After two days of being home and wearing a cap over his head, we decided to let the rebbi in on what was happening. The rebbi said he was an expert at giving haircuts and had helped many people with similar problems. He told us he’d come to our house and speak to our son. I was extremely skeptical. Our son wouldn’t even take off his cap to go to sleep lest his siblings see his botched haircut.
The next day, the rebbi, long white beard and all, came over. My son, a little shocked to see him, invited him in. They went onto the porch and spoke for some time. When the rebbi left, my son told us that he would be coming back tomorrow to fix his haircut.
True to his word, the rebbi came over again. Over one bald spot he placed a bandaid, and he layered the hair around the other so the contrast between the bald spot and the rest of his head was less obvious. A larger kippah helped, too.
The next day, my son rejoined his friends in school. A month later, the rebbi came back to the house to give him another haircut, which made the bald spots blend in even better.
We’re so grateful to this rebbi. His chesed was done in such a warm and unassuming manner, like it was the most natural thing in the world that a rebbi comes over and gives talmidim haircuts in a time of need.
The Hug That Held Me Together
May as well get that persistent lower back pain checked out, I naively thought, all of 14 weeks pregnant. As soon as Shabbos is over, I’ll book an appointment.
But over Shabbos, the pain worsened, and Motzaei Shabbos found me in Shaare Zedek hospital.
I shouldn’t have looked while they did the ultrasound. But I did — and immediately saw that my baby had no heartbeat. I was so totally unprepared for that news, I found myself hovering above, watching my physical-self stumbling out of the ultrasound room, as though the shock had detached me from my body.
My hovering-self watched with mild disapproval as my physical-self fell to her knees in the hospital corridor and started to cry loudly. My hovering-self watched the other couples in the waiting room hunch toward each other. Please not us, not that, not us.
I’d never been so alone in my life. And no one was going to approach me in this coronavirus world.
It was my hovering-self that first saw her coming down the corridor. She was running toward me, wearing sensible shoes, taupe tights, and a Shabbos suit, her short sheitel and nondescript handbag flapping as she ran. Sarah, the doula I’d used for my past births.
My husband, stuck at home with the kids and unable to support me, had called her. She was out the door before he finished speaking, Sarah, this wonderful chassidish mother of 12 and grandmother of many more. My out-of-body experience ended as she enfolded me in her embrace, literally holding me together.
She carried me through the rest of that nightmare evening, and at four in the morning, insisted on having her husband drive me home — about an hour’s journey. I protested, telling her that I had money for a taxi, but she just bundled me into the back of her car and she and her husband took me home.
As with my previous births, she refused to be remunerated or gifted, calmly telling me that there are some things no woman should face alone.
Sarah, you should be gebentsht.
Mordechai Weiss, Israel
In the era before Waze and cell phones, my wife and I were driving to a wedding in South Jersey where I was to be the mesader kiddushin. The kesubah was on the back seat of our car.
All was going smoothly up until we reached one of the major tollbooths on the Garden State Parkway. It was the beginning of rush hour. I slowed to pay the toll when, quite unexpectedly, the car died. Not just a flat tire or a dead battery. No more engine. Dead!
Horns were blaring. People were yelling at me. I was frantically trying to figure out how to solve this emergency, but no idea came to mind.
And then he appeared.
“Can I help you?” a young bochur yelled from his car as he inched his way past me. In a panic, I explained to him that I needed to get to a wedding… fast. And then, in the middle of this noisy, busy highway, he reversed his car until he was right behind me. I put the car in neutral, and we started to ride down the highway, his car pushing mine from behind. I had no power steering or power brakes. (Don’t try this at home.)
After a few minutes, he directed me to a highway exit, and continued to push my car until I coasted into the parking lot of his office. I opened my car door to speak to my savior, and he nonchalantly tossed me his car keys
“Drop the car off here when you’re done,” he said.
“Don’t you even want to know my name?’ I asked incredulously.
Using his car, we made it to the wedding safe and sound. Afterward, we drove the car back to the parking lot and locked the keys inside. I was never able to use my car again. And I was never able to track down the person who exhibited this most memorable kindness.
Unless you count the times that he’s visited our Pesach Seder, of course.
Angel in Antwerp
Leah, Brooklyn, NY
Lugging my oversized blue carry-on suitcase all over the slippery sidewalks of Antwerp was getting tiring. I was cold, wet, and in desperate need of a good coffee.
After a few detours, I stumbled upon an unassuming dairy restaurant called Mama Mia. The atmosphere was cozy and homey, and I was drawn to the family behind the counter. There was a mother, who was clearly the owner, and a daughter, around my age, who was serving customers.
As I leisurely sipped my coffee, the mostly heavenly tasting one I’d ever had, I began talking to the owner. I explained that I was on a 13-hour layover from New York to Israel, and I was trying to keep busy for the next few hours until my next flight.
The owner took one look at me and said, “Come to my house to nap.” I looked at her like she’d just fallen off the moon.
“I’m serious,” she insisted. “I have an empty bedroom because my son is in yeshivah, and I can wake you up and take you to the train afterward.”
I was convinced. After closing the restaurant, she picked up her children and introduced me to the rest of her family. Once we got to her apartment, she offered me another cup of coffee, food, and snacks. She set me up in her son’s room, and I instantly fell asleep for a precious hour and a half.
As she’d promised, she woke me up and walked me to the train station. On the way, we stopped at a bakery, where she got me a fresh, hot roll for the train ride, although I kept insisting I was fine.
Once we arrived at the grand train station, she practically held my hand until I was safely on the train to Brussels. After a quick hug, she disappeared into the smoke of the screeching train.
Thank you to my angel in Antwerp, Mrs. Shaindy Steinmetz (Mermelstein). You taught me that no matter where a Jew ends up in the world, we’re all family.
A Pasuk and a Piyut
I was spending Pesach with my extended family at a yeshivah dorm in Rechasim we’d rented. There were many adults and even more children, baruch Hashem. You can imagine what a fun, hectic Yom Tov morning it was.
Then I suddenly heard, “Last call for Yizkor.”
I became frantic. I’d never missed Yizkor. I quickly dressed, and as I was leaving, saw my mother and three sisters also running to shul. By the time we found the women’s section of the shul, we’d missed it.
I felt I’d let my father and sister, who we’d lost a little more than a year apart from one another, down. “I’m sure there must be other shuls,” I announced loudly. “I’m going to try to find a different Yizkor.”
We went from shul to shul to shul trying to catch a later Yizkor. Our efforts weren’t successful. I had to admit defeat and get back to the kids. On the way back, we noticed a small shul and a group of men outside. We thought they must be outside for Yizkor. We rushed into the tiny women’s section, when a man walked in and asked us if we needed anything.
“We’re here for Yizkor,” we replied. He said he understood. The next thing we knew, the entire minyan stopped and there was quiet. The chazzan asked us for the names of the niftarim.
In the most beautiful Sephardic tune, he started singing different pesukim and piyutim. The entire kehillah joined in. We’d never heard anything so beautiful.
We left that tiny shul with tears in our eyes.
Later, someone told me that Sephardim don’t have the minhag to say Yizkor. But when those men saw four of their sisters in need, they gave us a kindness that left an impact like no other.
The Loveliest of Landlords
The Bergers, Queens, NY
Shortly after the birth of our twin daughters, despite the outpouring of gifts and support we received from family and friends, we found our finances facing the harsh reality of the increased expenses we now faced.
During that very busy time, my wife and I moved into my parents who live around a half hour away from us in Brooklyn. I was going to be working in a day camp down the block from my parents’ house.
We ended up staying there for the duration of the summer. Needless to say, we were shocked when our landlord told us that he wasn’t allowing us to pay rent for the two months that we hadn’t been staying in the apartment. We weren’t that surprised though, because that’s exactly the kind of thing our landlord would do.
However, we were very surprised when a friend of mine from yeshivah who’s also friendly with our landlord approached me several weeks later asking me if I knew if my landlord had found a new job.
I was incredulous that I’d had no idea he’d been unemployed. And yet still, he’d done us this enormous kindness!
Simy Neiman, Spring Valley, NY
There’s an anonymous woman somewhere in England who calls herself Mrs. Cohen. I’m not sure if that’s her true name, as no one in Gateshead seminary seems to know who she is.
On Thursday nights, girls in Gateshead seminary get Shabbos packages from loved ones in Stamford Hill, Golders Green, and Manchester. A car rolls up to the seminary building, bringing the girls goodies from home.
Being that my daughter studying there is from the United States, she just oohs and aahs at all the goodies the girls get, and hopes that someone will share their booty with her.
But one week she got a package from a Mrs. Cohen. Excitedly, she opened her box of goodies: there was a Mishpacha magazine, nosh, kugel, cakes, and other delicacies, carefully packed. Turns out that every week, this Mrs. Cohen sends a package to a different overseas student, and on Erev Yom Tov, to all of them. They were told that Mrs. Cohen had herself been a lonely overseas student in the seminary, who knew what it was like to look on wistfully as the other girls received packages from home.
The girls (and their parents) would love to call or write this woman a thank-you note, but have no idea who she is.
Do you have any idea?
Chaya Werfel, Jerusalem, Israel
Already during our engagement I discovered that my chassan, Joe, loved to read.
Several years after our marriage, we moved to Har Nof. Around nine years ago, Joe was diagnosed with cancer. He never left for a treatment without a sefer or book in hand. At home, he somehow managed to finish the two books I’d borrowed from the local library before I’d managed to begin even one.
“You should open a library with all of our Jewish English-language books,” he’d often comment.
A few months after my dear husband was niftar, my neighbor from across the hall came over. “Let’s open a lending library in memory of Joe. We can call it ‘Joe’s Corner,’ ” she suggested.
After we stacked all the books from my house on the shelves and received a couple of donations, we still didn’t have enough for a library. Joe’s first yahrtzeit was coming up, and we hoped the library would be up and running by then.
A few days later, I received a call from a Mrs. Shulman.* The Shulmans wanted to donate books to Neve Yerushalayim and Neve had sent them on to us.
“How many books are we talking about?” I asked tentatively.
“We think between 200 and 300.”
“Absolutely!” I cried.
Now we could open our library in time for the yahrtzeit.
The next day, my neighbor met Mrs. Shulman at the store, and Mrs. Shulman related the following: “My husband and I are book lovers, and we had a huge collection. We’d been looking for an apartment near our children for a very long time.
“I had a talk with Hashem. I told Him I’d donate all our books to a library in need and perhaps that would be a zechus to finally find an apartment. Within two weeks of that talk, we found the apartment of our dreams right near our children.”
“How many months were they looking for an apartment?” I asked her.
“Eleven,” she answered.
That morning, we’d received their 11 boxes of books! And it was now 11 months since Joe’s petirah. As I started to unpack the first box, a chill ran down my spine. I looked upward and whispered “Joe, this is for you….”
L’ilui nishmas Yosef Eliyahu ben Mordechai.
Friends Are Family
D.D. Gordon, Israel
It was a cold, wintery night, and I was very busy feeling sorry for myself. I was in Yerushalayim with my husband and two small children, 6,000 miles away from the rest of my family, and my little sister was getting married that night.
I knew I should be counting my blessings. After all, I was living the life I had only dared to dream about in seminary. My husband was in kollel, we were living in Yerushalyim Ir Hakodesh, and I was, baruch Hashem, expecting my third child.
Yet, as I sat in my living room, imagining everyone getting their makeup and hair done, all laughing together, the only emotion I felt was sadness.
It was 1998, before the days of cellphones, so I was home with no way to participate and no way to share in the simchah.
The phone rang and my neighbor Gila called and asked if I could come over for a minute to help her. Happy for any distraction, I quickly made my way over to her apartment and knocked.
To my great shock, the door opened to reveal a packed room, my friends and neighbors, a beautifully set table, and blaring chasunah music. My friends ushered me over to a decorated kallah chair and began to sing and dance for me as though I was the kallah.
The fun lasted through the evening, and when I finally made my way home to my own apartment, I was overcome with emotion by the knowledge that I really wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by love on all sides — my natural family far away in America and my friends in Eretz Yisrael, where friends become family.
Tzippy Becker, Yerushalayim
My dear friend was fighting for her life. The thought of losing her was devastating. I davened for her and tried not to think that she may not make it. Visits to her were always misleading. Although she’d occasionally mention the annoyance of certain side effects, she looked so good, so full of life, it was hard to remember she was sick. Her focus was always on the visitor.
During one of our conversations, I mentioned I was going through a hard time with my kids. It felt like it was more than I could handle.
“But how can I complain to you about this when you’re dealing with so much?” I asked her.
“I think hardships with children are even harder than what I’m going through. I’ve had those, too,” she answered.
Not even the cliché “everyone’s struggle is hard for them.” She actually felt my struggle was harder. I can’t say I agreed with her. My struggles were a normal part of life. Her struggle was a fight for her life.
Later that evening, there was a knock at my door. It was a delivery man with a package for me! There was a beautiful basket, and in it was a book, a cute insulated cup, a few herbal tea bags, a set of soap and lotion with a pretty sponge, a relaxing CD, and a neck pillow.
My friend, my very sick friend, had sent me a custom-made package to lift my spirits because I was going through a hard time….
Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us, but that precious package and all it says about her will always be with me.
L’ilui nishmas my dear friend Devorah Weiner a”h
A Patch of Kindness
My sister had a child who had an eye operation when he was 16 months old. During one of his follow-up appointments, she was told that one of his eyes needed to be patched for an hour a day. My sister, a busy working mother with a bunch of kids, couldn’t manage to do it because her son kept pulling the patch off.
The doctor coldly and bluntly told my sister, “Well, your child will soon be blind in that eye.”
My sister met her next-door neighbor, Ruti, and tearfully recounted the pitiful situation.
The next morning there was a knock at the door. It was Ruti. “Hi,” she said briskly. “Give me Moishy and his patch.”
Before my sister knew what was happening, Ruti had taken Moishy back to her apartment. She sat for an entire hour holding him and playing with him, distracting him every time his hand moved to take off his patch.
Her children — she was also a busy woman with a large family — asked her, “Why can’t Moishy’s mummy do this?”
“A mother can’t force her little boy to do something uncomfortable and unnatural, against his wishes,” Ruti replied. “Only a ‘fremder’ can do this.”
After an hour, Ruti returned a happy little Moishy with his patch still on.
And, says my sister, his strong will to pull off the patch had been broken. And he allowed her to put it on every morning with no fight and no fanfare.
A small deed, a caring neighbor, an hour of tender loving care, and eyesight saved! It’s six years later, and my sister still cries when she tells this story.
The Bus Ticket
Sara Steinberg, Brooklyn, NY
Thirty years ago, I was a graduate student in my early twenties. My parents had recently made aliyah, fulfilling a yearslong dream, and I relocated to Manhattan, sharing an apartment with another frum student. Though my parents were nervous about leaving me, in an incredible turn of Hashgachah, I was introduced to my future husband just a few short months later.
His parents had also made aliyah, and he was learning in BMG. Shortly after our vort, I planned to spend Shabbos in Lakewood with my chassan. I made my way toward the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a busy Friday afternoon.
Though I had checked the timetables for the bus schedule beforehand, I underestimated both the Manhattan traffic and the maze of subways and bus lines I had to negotiate.
I finally found the correct bus terminal, but my heart sank when I saw the number of people on line to buy tickets. The line snaked forward ever so slowly. Nervously, I checked my watch again. It was getting less and less likely that I’d make the bus. Could I take the next bus? Impossible; I’d arrive after lichtbentshen.
Go back to my apartment? My roommate was away for Shabbos, so it wasn’t a very exciting plan; besides, the thought of not showing up in Lakewood made me cringe.
I looked around, desperate for another option. Suddenly, a tall frum man approached me. “Do you need a ticket for the Lakewood bus? I have a spare. Here… take it.”
“But don’t you need it?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” he replied kindly. “I have one for myself. I always buy an extra ticket. You never know when someone else will need it.” Relief washed over me like a warm blanket.
As I scrambled to pay him back (which he absolutely refused), I said, “Thank you so much, Mr., er, Rabbi…?
“Greenwald,” he replied. “But please, call me Ronnie. Everyone does.”
Years later, as I learned more about the legendary Rabbi Greenwald zt”l, his small act of kindness came as no surprise. The lesson of not only doing a chesed, but preparing for it before in case it will be needed, has stayed with me always.
Growing up, I wasn’t the recipient of much kindness. My parents — coping with depression and other personality disorders, a fallout of their own difficult upbringings, and contending with their resulting dysfunctional marriage — had little emotional space for a sensitive child’s needs.
My father’s spotty employment did little to alleviate the household stress, and though money can’t buy happiness, it can buy clothes, shoes, school supplies, and the plastic charm necklace a little girl needs to fit in with her class. It can also fix windows so they don’t rattle in the wind, keep the heat and electricity on, and fix the ceiling that caved in over a bedroom.
I eventually learned to keep both my emotional and physical needs to myself (even from myself) to prevent the inevitable disappointment when no one would come through for me.
When I started high school in a new town where no one knew me, I took the opportunity to “rebrand” myself. I was smart, fun, and tough. Talented, charismatic, and no, I don’t need any help, thank you very much.
The culture in my new school didn’t encourage teachers developing relationships with students, and it was uncool to talk to teachers outside of class. But hey, I was doing great, I didn’t need help from anyone anyway, academically, socially, or emotionally.
After graduating, I was accepted to a premier seminary, then to a coveted college program, and started dating. I had plenty of dates, and some serious almosts, but I never seemed to be able to get past a certain point in my dating relationships. I didn’t make the connection to my determination never to be vulnerable.
I had already gone out with my newest date a few times, and I had vacation from college, so we decided that for the next date I would travel to his city and stay with friends. It snowed the night after I arrived, a good few inches, and the next morning, I got dressed, ready to clear the snow off my car. When I got outside, I saw that someone (my date and husband-to-be) had already cleared it for me!
Though it doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it probably took him only ten minutes, no one had ever shown me a kindness like that before.
That unsolicited, “unnecessary” act of giving for the sake of giving began to thaw my heart, and became the first of hundreds of little kindnesses over the years between my husband and myself.
A Reader, NJ
No one had to ask why this night was different. At the tail end of a debilitating bout of coronavirus, I’d been unable to participate in any of the Pesach cleaning, cooking, or other preparations. My household had been thrown into chaos.
When Seder night arrived, we breathed a sigh of relief, looking forward to brighter days ahead. As one of our sons got up for his turn to say Kiddush, as is the minhag in our community, we paused, apprehensive. We knew he had a hard time with the words, and guiltily remembering that no one had had the time or headspace to go over Kiddush with him.
To our surprise, we suddenly heard his clear pronunciation of the familiar words, recited perfectly with the cadence of a well-practiced song. We all answered Amen heartily, and everyone’s smiles and praise made him feel incredible.
During a quiet moment, I marveled to my husband that he’d found time to teach our son Kiddush, and so well too. But he responded that he’d definitely not had the time for that during the pre-Pesach chaos.
Later, our son told us that Mrs. Kaplan, one of the resource room teachers at school, had called the house several times a week, and went over Kiddush with him, line by line, day by day, so he’d be able to say it properly at the Seder table. There were several times when Mrs. Kaplan had to make numerous attempts to get through, as with all the distance learning, there were few free phone lines in the house.
Thank you Mrs. Kaplan for your quiet persistence and uplifting chesed.
Rose-Ellen Leventhal, Yerushalayim/Toronto
It was the bar mitzvah of our oldest son.
My husband had passed away four years earlier, leaving me a widow with a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old, and two-year-old twin boys.
My late husband’s friend and roommate from yeshivah came with his wife from Los Angeles to celebrate and help us through the difficult celebrations.
Irwin and Tania presented me with a gift. It was a very beautiful gold necklace, accompanied by the explanation that it was “the minhag” in their community to gift the mother of the bar mitzvah boy.
I believed their story, in the moment. Only later did I realize they were bringing me the gift that my late husband would have given me.
I’ve cherished that kindness for 25 years.
There were so many additional stories we wanted to share with you, but space didn’t allow for it. Look out for more heartwarming stories of kindness in upcoming Spark & Spirits columns.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 727)
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