Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lonely At The Top

R' Eisenman

It can be lonely at the top; although you would never know it by looking at Shimmy Greenberg (name changed).

Shimmy was not formally a member of my Shul; however, he came quite often for Mincha/Maariv and we had become friends over the years.
Shimmy lived on the ‘other’ side of town where the homes were large and the lawns were manicured and well-kept. I knew that he was also a generous supported of the local Tzedokah organizations.

Shimmy was unstinting in giving of both his time and his money; he enjoyed a reputation as a doer and as a person who you could count on.
Shimmy was an expert in alleviating the pain and suffering of those who are in difficult and desperate situations; especially those who had no one else to turn to expect him.

Most striking about Shimmy was his smile; it never left his face. Even when discussing a painful situation, Shimmy would remain calm and smiley. That was just the way he was; cheerful and happy.

One day he was raising money to help defray the costs of a Chasunah for a Ba’las Teshuva who had minimal financial sources. He went back to the Shadchan and asked her for a list of all of her successful Shidduchim; he wanted to reach out to them to raise funds.

When the Shadchan hesitated, Shimmy replied with a smile, “If one begins a Mitzvah, one has to finish it…” The Shadchan realized she had been bested and supplied the list.

Shimmy could be counted for more than just money. Countless people in the neighborhood went to him to pour out their hearts and share their problems with him.

He was a great listener; he could listen for hours to someone without ever interrupting them.

Shimmy had a talent for listening which I never saw as perfected in anyone else with the exception of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt”l.

I recall how when I was privileged to speak to Rav Shlomo Zalman he made me feel so relaxed and so comfortable that I was sure I was doing him the favor by spending time with him!

So too, when Shimmy listened to a broken person pouring out their sorrow and their pain, he was totally “there” for them.

He never interrupted the person and even after they finished he would patiently and thoughtfully answer the person with the exact chosen words.

He would never say to the person in a cavalier and careless way, “Oh, that’s nothing; forget about that, just count your blessings and go on.”

Each person’s problems were his own and each person’s struggle was his.

I was therefore surprised when one day Shimmy called me and asked me if we could go for a walk in a park as he had something very important to discuss with me.

I cleared my schedule and Shimmy arrived at the appointed hour and off we went for a stroll in the park.

After a half hour of small talk Shimmy asked if we could sit down on a shaded out of the way park bench; we sat and Shimmy removed his sunglasses. I could see his eyes were red and as soon as he looked at me he began to cry like a baby.

After almost 15 minutes of unmuted sobs, Shimmy regained his composure.

He looked at me and said, “You know everyone comes to me to pour out their problems and everyone needs to me to be available at all times. And I love helping people…however, sometimes it gets to me and I just needed someone to cry to. I feel so lonely….”

I reached out and cried with Shimmy and as his eyes connected with mine, I saw my reflection looking back at me.


Reminds me [E.E.] of a story from Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen, and it goes: “Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown, Pagliacci, is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor, I am Pagliacci.’ ”