Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Power of Chessed

There is a very great level of unity that can only be achieved when we selflessly help our fellow Jews. Such pure devotion, however, is generally only seen in those rare individuals who have transcended the natural human tendency toward self-absorption. By overcoming this deeply entrenched flaw, their acts of kindness can have profound effects on the emotional and spiritual life of their beneficiaries.

Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l once recalled that the non-observant communal head of his town was surprisingly close to him and the boys in his yeshivah, and went out of his way to help them at every opportunity. He was always astounded by the paradox of a powerful man who opposed the Torah path, but would nevertheless go to great lengths to help them. Rav Elya zt”l once asked him about this inconsistency, and the man’s answer took him completely by surprise.

He said, “You were close to the Chofetz Chayim, and as a young man, I tried to enter his yeshivah in Radin. My heretical views came to light right after I took my entrance exam, and because the administration saw me as a threat to the other students they told me to buy a ticket for the next train out of Radin. Since it wasn’t leaving until the next day, I asked to sleep in the yeshivah. Permission was denied, but I was invited to sleep in the Chofetz Chayim’s own home. The only space available was a small loft above the Gadol’s room. The night was bone-chillingly cold, and I couldn’t sleep. The Chofetz Chayim obviously thought that I could, for after midnight, the door opened and he quietly entered my room. He removed his own coat and laid it over me gently, and then went back down to his studies. And that coat has kept me warm to this day!”

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