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Joseph and his brothers had a rocky relationship. Over the years there had been some pretty bad times. They resented him and thought he maligned them to their father. For his part, Joseph didn’t help matters when he shared his grandiose dreams that cast him in the role of king …

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Home » Tazria

Tazria: Touched By Kindness

Submitted by on April 20, 2009 – 3:28 pm2 Comments | 2,240 views

Am Ordinary Event

The other day something happened that meant little when it occurred, but upon reflection came to mean a great deal. I was entering the post office with a mountain of envelopes balanced precariously in my arms. Taking in the perilous state of my load a girl of perhaps nine offered to help. Touched by kindness and her uncommon courtesy I thanked her kindly, but demurred.

On my way out of the Post Office she asked if she could interest me in chocolate covered almonds. touched-by-kindness-innerstreamI realized at once that she was collecting for a cause and though I had to refuse her non-kosher almonds I made a donation toward her cause. This time it was her turn to be taken aback and she thanked me for the kindness of my free gift.

In the car I felt a little guilty; I was not entitled to her compliment. My generosity was the product of her thoughtfulness not my kindness; I had given it out of gratitude. Had she not broken through my earlier reverie I would not even have noticed her. Rather than regard her as a real person with hopes, dreams and aspirations, with needs, interests and concerns I would have viewed her request as a passing nuisance to be avoided. Rather then regard her as a girl so driven by a cause as to stand under the hot sun and solicit perfect strangers I would have regarded her as just another person after my money.

To be fair I think the shoe fits equally on the other foot. Had I not staggered under my load at that moment she might not have regarded me as a real person with a pressing need to mail his letters, but as just another mark; a potential consumer of her product.

Her thoughtfulness changed all that; it turned our causal encounter into a meaningful exchange. I realized that she was a real person and not just a passing prop on the stage of my life. She (hopefully) realized the same about me.

A Grand Stage

As I mulled over our interaction I realized that something even more dramatic had occurred at that moment. It was not only about us recognizing each other as real human beings; it was about expanding our respective horizons to include others. When I first emerged from my car, my only reason to enter the Post Office was to mail my envelopes. To her, the purpose of my entering the Post Office was to present her with a potential consumer or donor. We were each wrapped up in our own little worlds. Our encounter helped us realize that the world is larger than the respective sagas of our individual lives. There is a stage far grander than any one parochial need; on this stage sits a grand maestro, who conducts a symphony of events each supporting the next, each intertwining with the next and each fulfilling one more element of the Divine ultimate goal.

We each play a role in the fulfillment of this goal and for the purpose of that fulfillment we were both meant to meet. Our meeting was greater than our individual interests. In fact, so grand and transcendent was its purpose that neither of us knew its true meaning. It is like a musician who produces a melody so beautiful and moving that even s/he cannot discern its full magnitude.

Who knows, perhaps the purpose served by our encounter was to bring us to this very realization. Perhaps G-d intended to bring two strangers together who would have every reason to pass each other like ships in the night, but who paused long enough to realize that the stage on which our lives are played out is greater than ourselves. We exchanged not a single further word; but the impact of this meeting was deep.

Beneath The Outer Layer

Tearing the veil off our seemingly prosaic life to reveal the depth of purpose that lies beneath is the quintessence of Jewish living. Our raison D’être is to endow daily life with higher purpose. To channel our every encounter into our service of the Divine and to recognize that our shallow perception of life’s purpose masks a depth of infinite meaning.

Removing this veil is the essence of circumcision; a mitzvah that is performed by removing the foreskin and uncovering what lies beneath. Circumcision is not limited to the physical organ; The Torah also instructs us to engage in emotional circumcision by removing the foreskin of our hearts. (1)

The heart’s foreskin is the veil of narcissism that casts a selfish shadow on our lives. It is the false notion that the world revolves around us. My needs and goals are superior to all and must therefore command all available resources. With this attitude it is nearly impossible to serve G-d with a full heart. G-d becomes a mere resource that provides for my needs.

Removing the foreskin around our heart enables us to worship with a full heart. It enables me to discover that life is a grand stage set by the architect of creation. On this stage there are innumerable actors; each playing out a different script. Each has aspirations and each has needs. Each thinks that their needs are the sole reason for the entire stage. Yet when the heart’s foreskin is removed and the truth is revealed each actor discovers that they and their needs are in fact subordinate to the highest cause of all; G-d’s cause.

Circumcision is critical to the spiritual development of a Jew. It reminds us that there is always another layer beneath the easily perceived. It reminds us to peel away the veil and peer at the following underlying truths. We each play a role in G-d’s master plan. Each contribution is vital, each is indispensable, but each is merely a small part of the greater whole.

By serving G-d to the best of our ability, by committing ourselves to His cause and attaching ourselves to Him intellectually and emotionally we transcend our natural limitations.

By serving a cause greater than ourselves we in fact become greater than ourselves. (2)

Footnotes

  1. Though physical circumcision is naturally not
    applicable to Jewish women, the form of emotional circumcision is vital
    to women as well as men. In this second form, men and women play equal
    roles.
  2. This essay is based in part on Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas Milah.
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2 Comments »

  • Anonymous says:

    Rabbi Lazer – This random meeting with a 9 year old girl is a marker, or milestone, that has been placed there by G-d to deepen your awareness and perception. It is a trigger to greater things because it has opened up something greater inside you. An Eternal Essence that is always there yet often 'asleep'. By focussing upon this Essence and allowing yourself to enter it you will know and understand far more about your entire life and purpose here on Earth. I am anything but knowledgeable, however I presume that this Essence is the manifestation of G-d inside us.
    In fact, as you go on to explain, it has already awakened you to the intrinsic strengths and infinite wisdom behind the Mitzvah of Circumcision. I somehow feel that this experience will go on further to reveal even more to you. May you find your way to this Inner Wisdom that has beckoned you through a simple 'chance' encounter !

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your wonderful story and experience at the post office with the nine year old girl. I gained insight and prayerfully I will remember always that its not just about me. I had just returned home from volunteer work and running errands. I had stopped briefly at one of the one price stores and was briefly preoccupied with me. I had gone to a check out line that was empty and the supervisor had told the cashier to open back up. Well my assumption was that its an empty line I'll get waited on and out of here quick. However things are not always as they appear. I was informed by the cashier that she had rung up items for a man that had gone to the bathroom. I thought that seems rather foolish to ring up someone and they're not there when others are waiting. I was willing to wait briefly without saying anything but I got impatient eventually and mentioned that it wasn't fair to those in line now who had to wait indefinitely while someone went to the bathroom. The cashier stated the man waited in a long line and then had to go to the bathroom, which is understandable. I was told to try the other line since it was moving, so I left and told the two others behind me they may want to move also. I proceeded to the other line talking to the customer behind me and then informing the new cashier how it made no sense to ring someone up who was not there. I was thinking all along a better way to have handled it would have been to wait on the man first when he returned instead of holding up a line for someone who was not available to pay. Then it occurred to me well this cashier obviously had not thought the situation through she just didn't want the man to have to get in line again. I felt a little ashamed as I went to my car, because even though I didn't get actually rude I was only concerned about me and not the cashiers feelings for the man in trying to help him. I definitely need the foreskin of my heart cut off so I can be of better service to my Heavenly Father. God Bless You for the inspirational words.

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