Esor Ben-Sorek

Kindness to a Stranger

We are commanded in our Torah to be kind to the stranger for we must remember that we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Throughout our liturgical literature we are reminded of the need to show kindness to a stranger.

A few days ago a stranger whom I never had the pleasure of meeting, a wonderful gentleman from Hadera, wrote a passionate and heartfelt reply to one of my recent articles.

His words were a tribute to me and to my writing and he wished me many more years of writing articles for the TIMES OF ISRAEL.

Among his many compliments, Mark wrote that he particularly enjoyed my “uplifting spirit”.  How I wish it could be true. My spirit is quite far from being uplifting. This past year has been a nightmare for me. I took care of my beloved wife of 56 years for the nine months she endured suffering from pancreatic cancer. I did not leave her bedside and got too few hours of sleep, always checking to be sure that Rahel was breathing.

At the moment of her death, I closed her eyes, kissed her lips, covered her with a sheet, lit a candle at her bedside and screamed so loudly that I awoke my neighbors.

It is exactly one year since her death and burial on September 23, 2016 (20 Elul) and I have not been able to fully recover from my great loss. Even now, I cuddle her pillow from the bed in which she slept and died. It gives me some comfort while it is being soaked with my tears.

Friends tell me that I need to return to the world of the living, sympathetic friends, but not empathetic. They see my face but they cannot see the turmoil which rumbles in my body and takes control of me. My pain cannot be shared.

Mark’s reply letter is a masterpiece. He can see into my soul and he understands me and my pain. But I do not want to disappoint him….for my spirit is still remotely far from being “uplifted”.

My children read Mark’s reply and they were emotionally responsive. Each one asked for a print-out of his letter that they could treasure for his praise and genuine compliments to me from his warm Jewish heart. He has shown great kindness to a stranger. His mitzvah has touched my heart more than anything else because his words came from a stranger to a stranger.

Kindness is such a beautiful gift. I treasure it. Would that each one of us could exemplify more kindness in our lives as we try to bring kindness into other lives.

It costs nothing to smile to another human being, to hold an outstretched hand, to speak words as our rabbis have taught us “dvarim she yotzim min ha lev nichnasim el toch ha lev”… words which come from one heart enter into many other hearts.  Hadera’s Mark’s words are now embedded in my heart.

Isaiah our prophet proclaimed: kol omer kra… a voice says “cry out”,  v’emar ma ekra… and I reply “what shall I cry?” And the prophet continued: Al tira ki imcha ani…”do not fear for I am with you”.

I believe that God is with me but I cannot hear His words of comfort. So I think that God must have sent Mark from Hadera to be His spokesman for his written words have brought me much comfort and I shall forever be grateful to him.

He wrote as a stranger showing kindness to another stranger without realizing the power and effectiveness of his words which touched my heart.

I am reminded of a saying in the Talmud which has immense truth.

“It is not how much we have lived but how much we have accomplished. It is not how long we have lived but how well we have lived”.

The parable is a reminder that we live in deeds, not in years.

On Yom Kippur I shall make a special blessing for a special man in Hadera. May he and his family be blessed with good health and long years of life.

His words remain in my heart and shall remain there until my heart no longer beats.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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