17 Sivan 5779 / Thursday, June 20, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Saving Lives in Five    

Saving Lives in Five

In a moment of utter despair, Avremi put an end to his own life. Bawling and bellowing, the Rosh Kollel thundered, "Who of us can say, 'Our hands did not shed this blood'…"


True story; I wish it weren't…


No one ever heard a eulogy like it. The Rosh Kollel, the head of a prestigious Torah-learning center for married students and rabbinical candidates, chastised the entire student body and faculty as well. No eye was dry and no lip could refrain from quivering. Twenty-three years old is no age for death, especially with a promising future, a special young wife and a four-month old baby son.


Avremi, now being laid to rest, was one of the very best boys in the kollel. He was well on the way to becoming a promising Torah scholar. But, no one knew his difficulties. No one knew how his father-in-law's bankruptcy affected him, with the sudden rude awakening to mortgage payments, medical bills and mounting responsibilities that he just didn't know how to meet. The proverbial straw that broke his back was the grade of 78 that he received on a critical final exam. In the high-pressure, high-competition atmosphere he learned in, an average below 80 in rabbinical law was not only unacceptable but also considered a failing grade.


In a moment of utter despair, Avremi put an end to his own life.


Bawling and bellowing, the Rosh Kollel thundered, "Who of us can say, 'Our hands did not shed this blood'?[1] How do we atone for such egocentric attitudes that we can't even sense a fellow human – much less a brother – in distress? Hashem is teaching us a painful lesson that we are all accountable for…"


"What is the lesson?" continued the Rosh Kollel, where the only sounds that pierced the tense silence was an occasional sob or uncontrollable wail. "If only one of us would have gone beyond his own self-concerns and noticed the frown on Avremi's face that fateful morning, smiled at him or put a caring arm on his shoulder and asked him what was wrong, giving him the priceless gift of empathy and a sympathetic ear, we could have saved his life!"


I don't want to reveal who the Rosh Kollel was and which Kollel it was. No need to embarrass anyone, especially when any of us could be equally guilty. But I heard this story from one of my own beloved and esteemed teachers at the Aish HaTora Rabbinical Kollel where I graduated from, who witnessed this first-hand. For nearly thirty years, this story has been deeply embedded in my mind and heart.


Stop and think how life periodically crashes down on each of us – welcome to the physical world. Sure, the only way to weather such challenges is with emuna, or complete faith, but even when a person devotes his or her entire being to strengthening faith, it doesn't come easy.


Hashem put us in a world with other people to to pattern ourselves after Him and act with compassion and loving-kindness, for Hashem says, "A world of loving-kindness shall be built."[2] In other words, He expects us to do the construction.


With the above in mind, I decided that it would be most fitting to have this essay conclude our "Feel Fine in Five" series. We arrive at a staggering, far-reaching irrefutable conclusion that each of us is capable of saving a human life in a mere five minutes. It doesn't require a medical degree or even a first-aid course. All it requires is a bit more concern for our fellow human.


My esteemed friend Lt. Col. Yoni Zagdanski is a regiment chaplain in the US Army. After coming home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, he was my guest on a live broadcast. He said that the number-one cause of US fatalities in Afghanistan is not the Taliban, but suicide.


A few minutes of a caring ear, an understanding smile and a hug on the shoulder is sufficient to save a life. Even if there are a thousand people on base or in the yeshiva, all it takes is one.


Look around you. Maybe the Almighty wants you to be that one person who cares enough to encourage someone else, to grant him or her the gift of five minutes of your time, and perhaps save their life. Our sages say that when you save a life, you save an entire world.[3]


May God bless you in every single way.


Yours with deepest friendship, Lazer Brody



* * *

We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.


[1] Deuteronomy 21:7

[2] Psalm 89:3

[3] Sanhedrin 37a


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