Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )
With a mix of anticipation and trepidation, the parents tear open their son's first letter from sleep away camp:
"July 1, 2017
Dear Mom and Dad,
I wish I could say camp was fun. It's not. I always get picked last for the basketball games. It's colder than you said it would be and I'm cold at night. Also, the canteen doesn't have blue sour sticks.
Can I come home?
Your unhappy son ..."
Gulp. Hit the Psalms. Give another quarter to tzedakah. Hope for the best.
Pounce on the mailman the next day to see if things have improved...
"July 2, 2017
Dear Mom and Dad,
Don't have time to write. Camp is the best. Coach Kleinberg worked with me on my jump shot and I wasn't picked last. He let me take the last shot and guess what - I made it!! Chaim from Toronto is never cold. He might be a penguin. Anyway, he leant me his blanket at night so it's nice to be warm. Also, Yitzchak is now in charge of the canteen and there lots of blue sour sticks. Can I stay for second session? Your elated son ...
Hooray. Baruch Hashem! Hit the Psalms again. Two quarters to tzedakah. Who is this Coach Kleinberg and does he have a Chase QuickPay account?!? I'd like to wire him an "early" tip. Thank God for Chaim from Toronto - Hashem should bless him with all that's good in this world and the next. And get a letter out pronto to the Camp Director recommending that "Yitzchak at the Canteen" receive a promotion and a raise. Maybe I know a good shidduch for him ...
To pass the time on a lazy August Sunday, Mommy suggests that her kids operate a lemonade stand in their residential cul-de-sac. Financially, speaking it's a short-sighted idea and a by-product of Mommy's lack of economic forecasting. After all, the suburban side-road barely gets any traffic besides the local residents. But it's a nice, inexpensive and wholesome activity. Hours roll by. No one has even stopped. The ice has melted. The kids-turned-entrepreneurs are wilting.
Given the dearth of customers and the dwindling profit margin, Mom is busy preparing her "consolation speeches" to buoy her kids' broken spirits. "Our job is just to try. The rest is up to Hashem. You did your best and that's all one can do." Tomorrow, maybe we'll practice filing for Chapter 11! Wait. Hold the phone. Mommy hears the voices of elated children holding a stack of dollar bills. Seems a circa-1992 maroon Dodge Caravan stopped off and bought up the entire stock of lemonade.
Mommy wonders, "Who was that driver? Anyone get a look at the license plate? Thank you, thank you! You made my kids' day! God bless you and watch over you and keep you. Your Caravan should last another 100,000 miles and all your investments should be profitable ..."
"You shall surely give him [your fellow Jew in need] and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for because of this matter, Hashem, your God, will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking." (Deut. 15:10)
"You shall rejoice before Hashem, your God - you, your [household], the Levite who is in your cities, the convert, the orphan, and the widow who are among you ..." (Deut. 16:11) (Rashi: "If you will make Mine happy (i.e., the Levite, convert, orphan and widow, I will make yours [i.e. your household] happy.")
When someone - even a total stranger - bestows a kindness upon a loved one, we innately feel a deep-seated kinship and sincere debt of gratitude for his/her sensibilities which ultimately were responsible for easing the plight of someone very near and dear. Be it Coach Kleinberg's willingness to work on a jump shot that instilled much-needed confidence. Be it a thoughtful camper's willingness to share his blanket. Be it the canteen-supplier who lightened the spirits of a forlorn camper. Be it some unknown patron who (with a few minutes and a few dollars) injected a much-needed dosage of simcha, enthusiasm and positivity into Team Lemonade. These not uncommon summer vignettes offer a glimpse into what our chesed means - not just to the recipient thereof - but in the eyes of Hashem - our Father Upstairs.
Imagine a guest of yours walking home from a Shabbos meal. Satiated, s/he looks heavenward and says "Hashem, I just wanted to tell you that I had no idea where I'd be eating this Shabbos and a wonderful family invited me into their home and served a delicious cholent and even gave me a second piece of cake." Far be it from us to know the ways of Hashem, but it is entirely logical and plausible for us to at least estimate the love and appreciation and good-will Hashem would direct towards the hosts who took in his lonely "child" for this Shabbos meal.
Ditto for when we dance at someone's wedding - we are doing more than living up to social etiquette - rather, we are causing one of Hashem's children to rejoice. When we help another Jew who is having a rough go of things financially-speaking, we are helping instill confidence and optimism into one of Hashem's children. Can we estimate what a nachas that must be in the eyes of Hashem?
As the summer wanes and the Elul odyssey of opportunity approaches, may we answer the call to care - not just for one another - but for each one Hashem's children.