April 17, 2024
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Rabbi Makovsky Helps Bring Chesed Into Our Everyday Lives

Excerpting: “Living Chessed,” by Avrohom Asher Makovsky. Mesorah Publications Ltd. 2023. Hardcover. 343 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422632864.

(Courtesy of Artscroll) Chesed. It’s in your hands. (And in your smile. And mouth. And feet. And in countless other ways.) From the Talmud to the Rambam to the Chofetz Chaim — and many other Torah sources — we learn how to deal with even the most challenging and turbulent times: la’asok b’Torah v’chessed; to busy ourselves with Torah learning and performing acts of chesed, kindness, to others.

Of course, we all try to be “nice” to others, but to fill our days and nights with chesed? Many of us imagine that to be the task of the great men and women who head up the organizations, create the gemachs, raise the millions to feed and clothe the impoverished. But while that is certainly vital, a new scintillating book, “Living Chessed,” shows us how we “ordinary” people can also be “gedolim in chesed” just by grabbing the countless opportunities to help our fellow Jews.

In “Living Chessed,” Rabbi Avrohom Asher Makovsky shares with us many Torah sources that talk about chesed, inspirational insights and guidance and, above all, stories of how chesed — even something as small as a compliment, a smile, or a hug — can transform the lives of both the one giving and the one receiving the chesed. In brief, readable chapters, we will discover the best segulah of all — not hurting someone’s feelings. We’ll read about how the Tzemach Tzedek “opened” the gates of heaven by racing home to help another Jew in business. How a man fulfilled his dream of having children by opening a free loan gemach. We will enjoy — and learn from — story after story of people who took the opportunity to help someone, often with something as simple as a compliment or even just a smile.

“Living Chessed” will show us how we can, indeed, “live chesed” throughout our days, enriching the lives of others. And enriching our own lives as well.

The following is an excerpt from the new book.

  • • • • •

Everyone’s Protektzia

One of the biggest challenges in fulfilling “v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha” is knowing what another person needs. If the measure of the mitzvah is to do for others what you would want them to do for you in similar circumstances, then, clearly, we need to know what the other person’s circumstances are. If we don’t know someone is hungry, we cannot think, “Well, if I were hungry, I would want someone to offer me food.”

The true experts in ahavas Yisrael somehow end up being privy to others’ hidden needs. Perhaps Hashem shares this information with them because He knows that they will rise to the occasion.

Rabbi Zeev Rothschild was one of those people. He quietly took upon his shoulders burdens that few others even knew about, guided by the words of Pirkei Avos (1:15), “Say little and do a lot.”

Due to the great chessed organizations of our Jewish communities, there are many places for people to turn for help in times of need. In addition, there are many askanim and rabbanim who give their heart and soul to helping their fellow Jew. However, there are people who are on the fringes of the community, who don’t feel comfortable knocking on the door of an askan or rav. There are also those with challenges that don’t fall within the scope of the regular community organizations.

Who do those people have to help them? Who is able to love them “kamocha,” understanding their need and knowing how to fulfill it? For many in Lakewood and no doubt, beyond, Rabbi

Rothschild was that person. Here is one instance this writer witnessed personally:

My wife had a friend who had become extremely anxious about a flurry of legal actions being taken against Lakewood families. Innocent people were being targeted, and she worried that despite having done nothing wrong, her family could be next. She confided in my wife that her anxiety was keeping her awake at night. My wife told me about the situation, and I wished I had some way of allaying the woman’s fears.

I thought of R’ Zeev Rothschild. I knew his name as a major askan who was involved in helping to stop the witch hunt that was going on, and I decided to call him. We had no prior connection whatsoever, but he picked up my call and listened as I explained the situation. He told me that someone he needed to speak to had just walked in, and he would call me back in 10 minutes.

Rarely does someone as sought after as Rabbi Rothschild call back. It’s almost assumed that the caller will have to keep trying until the askan has a few spare moments to talk. But that wasn’t

Rabbi Rothschild. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. He told me to relate to my wife’s friend that the problem had been solved. There would be no more arrests and she could relax. “If she’s still nervous, tell her she can come to my house at 8:00 tonight and I will personally assure her.”

He was there for every unprotected Jew. He answered their calls and he called them back. If you were a Jew in trouble, he was there. For the person without “protektzia” he was the connection.

Later, the author was privy to another glimpse of the lengths to which “kamocha” can go.

I was talking to someone who I knew had no parnassah. I asked him how he managed to care for his large family. He told me the bank had put his house up for auction because he had fallen far behind in his mortgage payments, but Rabbi Rothschild attended the auction and bought the house. “He lets me live there rent-free,” the man told me. “He also lets me take $2,000 worth of groceries a month from his store (NPGS in Lakewood) to feed my family.”

An essential point to understand about baalei chessed such as Rabbi Rothschild is that their love of chessed is an expression of their love of Torah and mitzvos. They do chessed with love to serve Hashem to the very best of their abilities, just as they learn Torah and keep every other mitzvah with energy and a passion to do so properly, down to the last detail. Rabbi Rothschild was a talmid chacham, an expert in many areas of halachah including shechitah, mikvaos, matzah and kashrus. The grocery chain he founded never compromised where there was the slightest question of kashrus. In his chessed, he held himself to the same standard.

It is no wonder that our gedolim in Torah are gedolim in chessed.

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