Our Brothers in the Cold

A few days ago a homeless man died on the streets of Holon of hyperthermia. Neither his name nor his story were given more than a one line mention in the news.

Today five thousand people in Israel are living on the streets. Some have died and many have nearly died. A lot of these people were once “normal”; they had jobs, families and stability. They took out loans to purchase their homes, paid their bills and carried on fine. But things happened to them, as they often do in life. People lose their jobs, get divorced, become ill and can easily and quickly find themselves spiraling deep into financial straits. There are people who can pay for food, electricity or medication but not all three at the same time.

Public Housing (דיור ציבורי) was once available to help people with financial difficulties rent homes at reasonable prices. But over the years these government sponsored buildings were sold to people with big money and this option is rarely available anymore.

I was in London a few weeks ago and there were signs posted all around the city by the municipality announcing that anyone who doesn’t have heat should immediately call the number posted. This was in England. But what about Israel? Why do we tolerate people sleeping outside in the cold at night? We could all imagine how we would feel sleeping outside in the cold.

We often look at these people and judge them. And it is true that a lot of things might be wrong with them. They may have made mistakes. But even worse than judging them is feeling that we are separate from them. We view their problem as their personal problem. We abandon them not only because we judge them but because we don’t see their weakness as a reflection on ourselves. We don’t see their problem as our problem.

So how do we heal? In the Mishnah it is written: “May your home extend relief and may the poor be part of your family” (Avot, Alef;Heh). The intimate warm family feeling extended to others literally enables a miraculous transformation . In the Torah it’s written that the King should write and read a book day and night in order that his heart would not be aloof above the hearts of his brothers and hence cause the people to return to the exile on Egypt (Shoftim 17:19-20).

In another example, we learn from the story of Joseph and his brothers that due to feelings of superiority in a family, the family was brought to Egypt. The opposite is also true. By feeling the other as equal at the level of heart our feelings will help him return to his dignified stature and not to exile in Egypt, the streets or any other humiliating circumstance. Simply by exchanging warm family energy a belief is born; a belief that will plant new seeds in us- seeds that will blossom to produce a garden of limitless love .

Our capacity to feel for the other- that is the essence of our strength and the key to our salvation. When we learn to hug each other’s pain we will turn that pain into the power to heal.

We’re all blessed with the messianic spark; innocence ignites the spark and skepticism puts it out. When we discover the child in us that cries for another’s pain then we know we’ve been blessed with the messianic spark. So let’s bring our brothers to the warm. Let us make this an issue that every candidate for a knesset seat knows that this is an issue we deeply care about. We simply need to empower our candidates with our feelings for the homeless. In other words our feelings our contagious and uplifting at the same.

When we develop zero tolerance for people sleeping in the streets and convey that to our representatives by mail or whatsapp every day. Our emotions are powerful they are energy in motion. Chazal write that the messianic role it is written is to break through all barriers – דרכו של מלך לפרוץ גדר. In other words by feeling the cold physical and spiritual winds that our brothers feel we bless ourselves with the power to break through the barriers of the insensitive heart and replace it with an authentic sensitive heart that has the power to heal all of Israel.

See https://www.facebook.com/OurFamilyInTheCold for more information.

About the Author
Eli Yossef is an educator, lecturer and activist. He currently works with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Machon Meir and Machon as well as in Real Estate. Published works include “The Act” (1992) for which he won the Yair Prize.
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