Looking Beyond the Words

This week marked the 77th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Goldman otherwise known as the Holy Reb Shlumka from the town of Zviel now known as Novograd-Volyns’kyi in Ukraine.

Rabbi Shlumka, in addition to being a great scholar, was also known for his extremely pious, generous, and humble behavior. He always left the door to his home wide open so that any person who was hungry would find bread and jam out on the kitchen table to eat. Different homeless people slept on his couch every week.

I was reminded this week of a story that my Rabbi HaRav Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l once told our class.

It was known that people who could not have children would come to Rabbi Shlumka for a blessing. Rabbi Shlumka would pray for them immediately after purifying himself in the Mikvah.

One Friday afternoon, as per usual, there were many people waiting outside the Mikvah to ask him for his blessing. Suddenly a local person appeared and began to hurl insults at him. “Do you think you are some kind of miracle worker? You act like you are so high and mighty. Well, do you think you are much better than us? His rantings went on and on for several minutes. Reb Shlumka did not say a word and seemed unaffected by his insults and mockery.

A few minutes later, the Rabbi called over his gabbai (assistant) Reb Eliah Roth and gave him an envelope filled with money to send to a certain person’s house. He told his assistant what he had just witnessed. “Do you think a person explodes like that for no reason?”

“We all know how financially stressful the situation is now for everyone. It must be that it is Erev Shabbat and he doesn’t have food for shabbos. Run quickly and make sure to get him the money while the grocery stores are still open.”

One of the poor man’s children later confirmed the story, explaining that his parents got into a huge fight over his father losing his job. His mother then kicked his father out until he was able to bring them food for shabbos.

As we enter the sixth week of the Omer, we enter the week of Yesod, centered on bonding or relationships. Bonding is the ultimate emotional connection. While the first five qualities (love, discipline, compassion, endurance, and humility) are interactive, they manifest duality: the lover and the beloved. The emphasis is on an individual’s feelings, not necessarily on mutuality.

Bonding, on the other hand, is a complete fusion of the two. Without bonding, no feeling can be truly realized. Bonding means connecting, not only feeling for another but feeling attached to him/her. Not just a token commitment, but total devotion. It creates a channel between the giver and receiver. Bonding is eternal. It develops an everlasting union that lives on forever through the perpetual fruit it bears. Bonding is the foundation of life. The emotional spine of the human psyche.

Bonding channels all five previous qualities into a constructive bond, giving it the meaning of “foundation.” Whereas all other human feelings are individual emotions, separate stories of a building, each a necessary component of human experience, bonding channels and integrates them all into one bond which creates a foundation upon which the structure of human emotions firmly stands. Yesod completes the spectrum of the first six emotions. Bonding, an effective bedrock of the emotional psyche encompasses them all, making it constructive and everlasting.

Chasidus explains that there are many different levels of how and why people bond with others. One must be very careful to bond in a healthy and loving way. One should be careful to bond in a way that is mutually beneficial. Not to suffocate the other by being overbearing either.

One of the most popular pitfalls in a relationship is that when one gets hurt, criticized, or insulted by his or her friend, husband or wife, or sibling he/she immediately gets defensive. Some people will immediately lash back in order to protect their ego.

Other people have a bit more self-control, probably stemming from a healthier level of self-esteem, and are a bit kinder.

They hold themselves back from verbalizing what they really feel however they block out anything negative words in order not to get hurt. This allows one’s friend to fully vent and has some added value.

The ultimate goal, however, explains Chasidus is not to fall into this superficial trap. Work hard to look past the anger and frustration and understand that your friend is hurting. What caused this pain and what can you do to help him/her?

As a side note, it is important to emphasize that this relationship can only survive and thrive in this type of lashing out is a rare occurrence. If one’s friend has fallen into a constant disposition of anger then one must be aware of not allowing oneself to become a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship. 

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

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