Judaism: Chesed: A Tribute to Larry Roth
Zeev SchwartzZeev Schwartz is the Director General of World Bnei Akiva.
“The World Is Built Upon Chesed”
In memory of Larry Roth z"l
The worldwide Yom Chesed will take place, for the very first time, on Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet. All Bnei Akiva snifim in Jewish communities everywhere will dedicate the day to doing Chesed. This worldwide undertaking clearly expresses our belief that “The world is built on Chesed” (Tehillim 89:3). The day is meant to provide a response to the phenomenon of individualism, the reality of alienation, and the current challenges of the “plasma generation.” Only by engaging in Chesed will we succeed in touching, feeling, and connecting with one another.
Chazal in Yalkut Shimoni (Hoshea 6, #522) expound:
“For I desire Chesed, not offerings” (Hoshea 6:6). God said, “The Chesed that you do with one another is dearer to Me than all the offerings which Shlomo offered.” . . . Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was once walking in Jerusalem, with Rabbi Yehoshua following him. Rabbi Yehoshua caught sight of the destroyed Beit HaMikdash. He said, “Woe is to us! For the place where all our sins were atoned has been destroyed.” Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai responded, “My child, do not let this disturb you. For we have another, equally good way to achieve atonement. What is this? Chesed.” Therefore the Torah says: “For I desire Chesed, not offerings,” and “I said the world is built on Chesed.”
There are many positives that technological advances have brought about. The contributions they have made to the world are beyond description. Together with the good, though, they also present us with many challenges. In a society which stresses that the good of the individual takes precedence over the good of the collective, and that the individual is at the center of the universe, we often connect and come into contact with others only in the virtual world (e.g., the iPod Touch). There is often very little personal connection.
A person can be connected and be friends with many people in a social network, but this does not reflect the real world.
The “likes” and “friends” from the world of technology will be of no help to someone who is trying to acquire the tools necessary to deal with others in real time – whether one-on-one or within a group.
Speedy technology has led people to expect perfection of products and services, which are available in high resolution in the plasma world. But when this same experience is translated into the real world, it causes frustration and disappointment. It can even lead to social dysfunction.
Single men and women experience difficulty allowing potential relationships to develop. This may be because they want and expect perfect “products and services,” and they want it right now!
In order to be responsive to the day-to-day needs of another person, one must come into contact in a way that is personal and non-mediated. We need to experience life face-to-face. Only in such a way can we preserve our ability to feel ourselves and others. When we come to our senses, healing as individuals and as a society, we will once again experience friendship which is real and not virtual. True friendship involves a living, breathing human being who is at our side in our life’s journey. For if we do not reach out to each other, we will reach the point where the expression “A friend or death” will become literal.
In the month of Adar, it is doubly important to meet the challenges of Chibur (connecting) and Chesed. This is a response to the words of the anti-semitic Haman, “There is one nation, scattered and separated, among the nations.” Only through shlichut and education can we gather up those who have been scattered and separated from each other. By doing so, we can preserve the unity and togetherness of our people as an Am Segulah (a special people).
It is only when the Jewish nation lives up to its specialness, accepting all our different parts and recognizing that we are all connected, that we can fulfill our destiny as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Only when all of the fractured groups within the Jewish people come together will we be able to spread the celestial light.
The worldwide Yom Chesed follows the end of shiva for Larry Roth, Nachum Eliezer HaKohen ben Yosef veEsther Rachel, z”l, who was taken from us suddenly and tragically. Larry personified Chesed and good deeds. He was a living embodiment of “The world is built on Chesed.” Everyone who met him felt his warmth, his love, and the radiance of his smile.
Larry Roth, z"l
Larry bridged worlds with his unique personality. He connected people to each other, to their Judaism, and to their Land. Like the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), he loved peace and pursued it, loved people, and brought them closer to Torah (Avot 1:12).
Larry made aliyah to Israel from Syracuse, New York. Among his many endeavors, he served as the chairman of the board of trustees of World Bnei Akiva, was among the founders and chairman of Torah Mitzion: the Religious Zionist Kollels in the Diaspora, and was very active in the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He was 70 at the time of his death.
Larry, during his lifetime, served as our beacon, showing us all the way. We are dedicating the Yom Chesed to his memory. May it serve as a living tribute to, and perpetuation of, his work and legacy.
May his memory be a blessing.