Emails, Whats Apps, and short film clips abound these days, and sitting at home for weeks and months, one has plenty of time to read and watch and think about clips that are meaningful, about stories and acts that inspire.
One mail that made the rounds was about a man who stood on line at the end of the day for the leftover Pfizer vaccine, defrosted vials that clinics allowed for people willing to wait so they wouldn’t go to waste.
The nurse asked the man seated before her, “Which arm do you prefer for vaccination?”
The man responded, “Left.”
“Which arm do you put on your tefillin?”
The man responded, “Left.”
The nurse continued gently, “I recommend you get the shot on your non-tefillin arm. Donning tefillin on the injection site might be uncomfortable. It may disturb your concentration and your sincere connection and devotion to prayer.”
Aviva, a close friend, was asked to remain seated for half an hour after she was vaccinated. Aviva is allergic to some drugs, so although she was given permission by her doctors to be vaccinated, the nurse had her wait half an hour following the vaccination to be certain she didn’t have a negative reaction.
Sitting on a bench in the open-air, outside the health fund clinic, Aviva witnessed a Russian woman dressed in a sweater and slacks waiting her turn to be vaccinated. She also noticed a man, black beard and a black fedora, waiting his turn to enter the clinic. The woman was highly impatient and complained. She was angry and vocal, taking out her frustration on all those in waiting. A woman standing nearby advised her to chill out, but she kept up her tirade.
The man in black then spoke up softly about the miracle of the vaccine, the wonderful health system we are so fortunate to have, the privilege to be among the first in the world to be vaccinated as opposed to citizens in countries for whom the vaccination is not yet available. Shortly thereafter he blessed her, that she and her family remain healthy, that she be blessed with healthy productive years, and that she be showered upon from Above with love and prosperity and everything she would wish for herself. The tense mood suddenly lifted, and the woman smiled through teary eyes as she thanked him and answered Amen to all the blessing.
A Hebrew-based alphanumeric code that assigns numerical value to a name, word, or phrase based on its letters is known as “gematria.” Hashraah, defined as inspiration, holds numerical (gematria) value equal to 511. “Halimud v’hamaaseh” defined as “the study and the deed” is also equivalent to the number 511. Study, research, examination – say, for production of the Covid-19 vaccine – and performing the act, the deed, allowing oneself to be vaccinated by amazing health fund teams, in areas set up specifically to vaccinate millions of Israelis, creates positive inspirational heart beats.
Rishon Letzion Rav Ovadia Yosef’s zt”l grandson was interviewed on a morning radio program. The interviewees were curious about his decision to join the IDF at the late age of 41. Yonatan Yosef explained that he had always wished to join the IDF and it was “better late than never.” He was excited to have finally been accepted to a special unit of the Homefront command, along with 100 other mature men. He spoke about other members of the Yosef clan who served in Israel’s army: his uncle, who had served for 17 years, and even a nephew of the Rav who had served in the Air Force. It was heartwarming to hear him say, “The IDF is not strange to the Yosef family, and the Yosef family are not strangers to the IDF.” He seemed certain that if his Grandfather was alive today, he would be greeted with a “chapcha,” the warm back slap that his Grandfather was known for, followed by an overgenerous blessing that would surely be forthcoming.
After the outrageous behavior of demonstrators in various Israeli cities and towns against police enforcement of Corona rules, my niece and nephew, Chaviva and her husband Yitzchok, a couple who are part of the Haredi community in Bet Shemesh, drove down to their local police station and honored the police with a big batch of Chaviva’s home-baked cookies, thanking the police for their efforts trying to keep the peace. Chaviva’s act, one that came directly from the heart, from her understanding that the police are meant to protect us (sometimes from our own foolish selves), left me and many family members in awe and praise of her conduct.
And then my daughter-in-law Moriah sent me a link to the Jerusalem Municipality public library’s Corona initiative. A new project for the “over 65” generation who cannot borrow books because the libraries are closed. The libraries have hooked up with local youth who are prepared to deliver books to the elderly at home. Reading books is one of our strongest ties to the world outside our doors and windows, and to our children and youth at every age level.
This leaves me to reminisce about a 1950’s TV program “Life Begins at Eighty,” that brought an impressive number of “over 80s” to be interviewed weekly, people who proved their ability to inspire the audience, opening hearts of younger people to retirees who continued to enjoy an active life. My grandchildren have often asked me, “So when are you planning to announce your candidacy for Prime Minister?” And I used to answer, “Only after I hit eighty!”
Healthy youngsters generally look up to older generations of learned leaders and scholars, to parents and grandparents, and for those who are inspired by elders, they discover there is mutual veneration. Admiration for children and grandchildren, students, soldiers, and volunteers who, thank G-d, are in ever growing numbers in Israel, generates bonding of hearts.
The first and greatest of our leaders was Moshe Rabbeinu, appointed by G-d at age 80 to lead His people and serve Am Yisrael 40 years in the desert, readying the tribes for nationhood. Moshe’s leadership task was not easy. Not easy for Moshe, the greatest of teachers and leaders, and not easy for a people wandering in the desert without sufficient faith and trust in their leader. But all extreme difficulties were overcome once the people joined together, Am echad b’lev echad – One nation as one heart.
Life can often feel overwhelming. The news, if one keeps up with it, is devastating, depressing, and disappointing. A heart inspiring event, like those above, even from a simple source, helps us stay the course, and adds a level of hope to daily life. During these tense and difficult times, focusing on the positive, seeking strength from courageous and generous individual acts and deeds, from dreams and hopes of elders, as well as from youngsters, is how we remain high on the inspiration scale.
Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa said, “Kol shemaasav merubin michocmato, chochmato, mitkayemet” – Anyone for whom his deeds are greater than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure.” (Avot: 3:12) Behavior during these critical times requires concern for public safety, and an abundance of inspirational deeds to impact our return to good health, mentally and physically.
We have the wisdom to make our deeds count, yet we still need to exercise our social skills adhering to the laws of the land, to change G-d’s judgment against us through performance of deeds that count in our favor, to regulate the rhythm of our heartbeats.