Just Worry About Yourself

I find it appropriate to share this beautiful song from Abie Rotenberg’s Journeys V Album, and not just because it’s related to Pesach.

It tells the story of the Rebbe of Skulen, who after WW2 managed to bake a batch of matzas for the Jews of his area, and told everyone that since there was so little, each person could only get one.

A boy showed up saying he was the son of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and requested three for his holy father.

The Skulener Rebbe at first was distraught that, post-war, a Jew could see himself “above the rest.” But ultimately the Rebbe judged him favorably and complied.
On Erev Pesach, the boy returned and said, “Was my father correct to be concerned that you gave away all the matzos, leaving none for yourselves?”

The Skulener Rebbe replied yes — they did give them all away. And so the boy said back to him, “Here are the two matzos my father took — to save for you.”

This story is beautiful in its own right: the Skulener Rebbe’s selflessness as well as his withholding of judgement towards a fellow Jew, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe’s sensitivity and his willingness to appear cruel in order to go out of his way for another.

But I believe this story has a deeper modern day relevance; in a time when some Jews see other Jews doing things they disagree with, perhaps even consider heartless and cruel — can anyone have the ability to look beneath the surface, to understand that not only may others be acting correctly, but they are in fact selflessly doing what is best for the other? And when it is so difficult to comprehend with our finite perspective, can we give others the “benefit of the doubt” that their actions are for a greater good?

Honestly, politics are not my thing. But holding true to Jewish values, all of them — whether it be Torah learning, protection of Jewish life, chessed, tzedaka, commitment to observance of mitzvos, living in Eretz Yisrael, teaching Jews who have lost their religious connection, upholding Jewish communities outside of Israel — can be respected as part of a larger ecosystem that is our nation. Our nation which is like no other. We “dwell alone”, and hopefully by now we have learned, we live by a different set of rules. Rules that are “above and beyond nature” — so can we go above and beyond our own nature for each other? Can we learn to focus more on our unique functions in this system without worrying so much about what the other guy is (or isn’t) doing?

In a time when we’ve got more than enough enemies on the outside, I sure hope we can. And in the merit of our Ahavas Yisrael, our love for all Jews despite our differences, may we experience the redemption of Pesach in its truest sense.

Hope you enjoy the song — it’s worth listening to.

About the Author
Mindel Kassorla is a magazine columnist, graphic designer, and Judaic Studies teacher who moved to Israel sixteen years ago. She and her husband Naftali both teach in various Anglo women’s seminaries across Jerusalem and enjoy hosting students for Shabbos from all backgrounds. They also act as a “Shadchan Team,” guiding singles towards marriage and towards a better understanding of themselves.
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