לזכות ידיד נפשי משה יהודה בן פעשא דינה
לזכות ידיד נפשי ר' הערש יונתן בן ר' מרדכי אפרים
It is really amazing. There are close to 7 billion people on the planet [besides the millions of aliens who inhabit other planets:-)] and countless more animals, yet most people spend over 99 percent of their time thinking about only one person!! If one is aware of his thoughts [called today "mindfulness"] he will realize that he is focused on his needs non-stop. I am hungry-tired-have to relieve myself-have to send an email-have to text my wife-have a meeting in two hours etc. etc. When he thinks of others it is only as they relate to him. I need to feed my child, I need to say excuse me as I gently push by this man etc. etc.
There has been a civil war raging in Syria for about 5 years. Close to a half a million people have been slaughtered. Why doesn't the world care? It just kept going on and on and lives were destroyed but rest of the world is busy with other things. [Now the news reports that it's over. Hard to believe. Evil people are never finished killing and hurting].
We Jews may not be worried because when Arabs are busy killing each other, they don't have the leisure to kill us. Yeshayahu Hanavi said [19/2] וסכסכתי מצרים במצרים - "I made Egypt quarrel with Egypt" which can be a bracha for the enemies of Mitzrayim - the Jews. [But see Yeshayahu 16/11 - עַל כֵּן מֵעַי לְמוֹאָב כַּכִּנּוֹר יֶהֱמוּ וְקִרְבִּי לְקִיר חָרֶשׂ. The Navi became physically ill over the destruction of Moav].
But what about the rest of the world? What about the UN? Every one of those half a million people has a grieving family. But life goes on. As Avery Brundage said after the 11 Israeli athletes were killed in Munich in 1972 "The games must go on".
That is this whole world. Everybody is busy with himself and his own narrow world and all too often - games.
To quote from a news source:
"Where are our supporters?" asked Radhwan Salem, 60. "Believers in humanity, I don't understand how can the entire world watch this and do nothing. Oh, God, help us."
"We are not afraid of death, and we have no demands," said Salem. "We only want freedom for us, and to rob it from Assad. I have lived my life in this city, I raised my children and their children here. I am ready to give my life defending my family."
Abdulla Saleem, 39, a doctor who is living in the bombed out remains of a building, said via WhatsApp, "They are killing everyone. ... My friends are doctors, who were providing the only possible medical care to the injured. Now they are butchered. Everyone is dying. I will soon die, too."
There are loads of gory pictures on line. You can see them for yourself.
We all know that in 1939-1945 the world was well aware that thousands of Jews were being gassed to death and suffering indescribable torture - but barely a peep.
The word in Hebrew for cruel is אכזר. Rav Hirsch says that it is a composite of two words אך זר - just strange. That is the world. Not my problem. Those are "just strangers". There are HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people who can't even get a clean drink of water or a satisfying meal. But the people who have limitless food and water are oblivious.
The Maharal says that when one has רחמנות - mercy, he feels as one with the subject of his mercy. That is the opposite of אכזריות. It is not a stranger's problem. It is MINE. The gemara promises that if we have mercy on others then Hashem will have mercy on us. Since we felt connected and at one with others, Hashem will "return the favor" and do the same for us.
כל המרחם וכו', דבר זה ענין מופלג, שכל מי שהוא מרחם על הבריות מרחמין עליו, ודבר זה בארנו, כי מדת הרחמנות מצד שהוא מתקשר ומתאחד עם אותו שהוא מרחם עליו, ולכך האדם מרחם על בנו מפני שדעתו קשורה בבנו, והאוחז במדה זאת, הוא דבק במדריגה שבה מתאחדים ומתקשרים דברים המחולקים, ומדה זאת אינה לחצאין, עד שבמדה זאת הכל אחד, מדת התאחדות אינה לחצאין, שאם היתה לחצאין דבק במדה שכל הדברים מתקשרים מתאחדים, ובשביל זה הוא מרחם על הבריות כאשר מתאחד עם הבריות ודעתו קשורה בהם. וכאשר הוא דבק במדת התאחדות שכאשר דבק במדת התאחדות בכח מדה זאת שבה הכל אחד, וכמו שהוא מתקשר במי שצריך לרחמנות הוא העני, גם כן השי"ת מתקשר עמו. הרי גם כן יש מרחמים עליו בשביל האחדות הזה... וכאשר תבין בחכמה כי מדת הרחמים מקשרת הכל ביחד, ומזה תבין הדברים אשר רמזו חכמים והם דברים גדולים מאד. (חידושי אגדות שבת קנ א)
Who isn't guilty of אכזריות? A man gets up in shul after davening and tells his story: His wife has cancer, two of his children are special needs and he is drowning in debt. He walks around the shul to collect. Deep down - we wish he hadn't come. We have our own problems and don't want to have to deal with his. We hand him a dollar to assuage our guilt conscience and quickly move on with our day.
We have our own problems.
That is why so many people are suffering around us. If people would have רחמנות then most of people's problems would be solved.
I wonder how wealthy people can sleep at night. Such an awesome responsibility. Hashem blessed them with so much money and now they have to decide how to best improve other people's lives. Is he giving enough? Is it going to the right places? Can he help in ways other than merely writing checks? Maybe he has connections that can help? Maybe he can visit or call and show his care?
If we are not sleeping at night it is usually because of our own problems - not those of others. Even if one has no money [or less - as does the person fortunate enough to be writing this essay] - he can still think of ways to help others and to think less of himself. It is incumbent upon us all. I don't think our job is to help the situation in Syria. I KNOW that our job is to help each other.
Let us become more merciful, let us feel at one with others and take their suffering to heart. Let us try to change the world and in that zchus Hashem will change our world and redeem us from this bitter galus.