18 Sivan 5779 / Friday, June 21, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Hidden Opportunities

Hashem gives us opportunities to go beyond ourselves, so we can train ourselves to be more aware of them when they suddenly pop up, like this past week at the supermarket…


I’m going to share a story with you that happened to me just a few days ago. But first, I want to be clear that the point of me sharing it is not to glorify what a great thing I did, G-d forbid, because it really wasn’t that great. I want to use this story as an example of how Hashem gives us opportunities to go beyond ourselves, so we can train ourselves to be more aware of them when they suddenly pop up.


Normally I do my big food shopping for the week on Sunday or Monday. Predictably, this big shopping is not enough to last me throughout the week, so I end up going at least two more times for another “small” shopping. I’ve been suffering with this problem for years, but how much can I buy at one time? I really don’t feel like pushing two grocery carts around the store, especially since it’s common knowledge in Israel that these carts have all-wheel drive, and pushing them straight is practically impossible.


By Tuesday, I still hadn’t had a chance to hit the market, so I took my two younger kids with me in the evening. Amazingly, they weren’t horrible, aside from the fact that they stopped me every three seconds with, “Imma, can you buy me this?” Not like any of you know what I’m talking about.


Over an hour later, we reach the checkout. I have a talent for picking what appears to be the shortest line, which really turns out to be the slowest line. I was getting more impatient by the second as I watched the line opposite me move while I still hadn’t been able to get even half of my groceries onto the conveyor belt.


There was a lady with only a few small items in front of me. Finally, when it was her turn to pay, she pulled out this crumpled up receipt with the ink literally bleeding all over it. You couldn’t even see the bar code. She started getting into an argument with the cashier over the fact that she believed it was a store credit, and the cashier said it was a receipt.


Well, you can imagine how fed up I was getting. Patience is not one of my strong points, especially at 7:00 at night when I should be home getting my kids ready for bed. The yetzer (evil inclination) saw this as an opportune moment to infiltrate my brain, and he did a pretty good job at it. “What was I thinking going out this late? Oy, Hashem! Why is this taking so long? I have to get home to my kids! Hashem, can’t You fix this already? (Oh yeah, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to work on my patience.)”


“What do you want from Me, lady?” Hashem replied. “You fix it!” “Huh?” I looked up at the store ceiling in confusion, trying to figure out what He meant.


Finally, after almost five minutes of standing there and trying not to explode while I watched helplessly as my kids ran in and out of the store, I opened my mouth: “Is it a store credit or isn’t it? It’s not a complicated question.” Oops. The minute I said it I felt terrible. I did a quick teshuva for that comment, but not to the lady, of course, because that would be too righteous.


A second later, my entire perspective on the situation did a 180. I took a better look at the lady. I could see by her uniform that she had just come from work, she was likely a cleaning lady, and she looked very tired. I then looked at the amount she owed and the groceries she was buying.  It was only about 35 shekel, which is around $10. And then it clicked. Now I understood what Hashem wanted from me! I took out some money and told the cashier that I would pay for her.


You can imagine how grateful this woman was. She came over to hug me and pour tons of blessings on me and the kids, who happened to be standing next to me when this happened. I hugged her back and said, “It’s my pleasure! I know you work very hard.” Of course, my best friend the yetzer didn’t want me to pat myself on the back, so he capitalized on my guilt for not having figured it out sooner. Well done, yetzer. Now be gone wit’ yo’ bad self.


Why did I mention what I said to the lady? Because the Torah says that as important as helping another person is, the manner in which you help them is also just as important. Making a person feel good is such a tremendous mitzvah. That’s why I felt it was important to validate the fact that she works, so as not to make her feel like a charity case. I hope it also gave her the feeling that Hashem is watching over her and is taking care of her.


Many times, Hashem gives us such easy opportunities to go beyond ourselves and help someone else. I think the problem is that these opportunities are deceptively easy - they’re easy because they’re easy, and they’re deceptive because they can be easily missed.


I hope this story inspires all of us (especially me) to go about our daily business with a more sensitive awareness of others. Instead of being so immersed in our needs, let’s open up a little space in our hearts to focus on someone else’s* needs.


* Exclusions apply. The term, “someone else’s,” was given only in reference to strangers, family members, friends, wives, and children. It does not apply to husbands. Sorry, guys! (You know I’m joking, right?)



* * *

Feel free to send Racheli your questions, particularly in the areas of marriage, dating, child-rearing and women's role; write her at racheli@breslev.co.il

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Great story
Tena Valenti3/17/2017 5:35:18 PM

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