Chesed Part IV: “When opportunity knocks?”

Today is one of those days when knowing another language is truly a gift.

תהלים פרק מא
:לַמְנַצֵּ֗חַ מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד
אַ֭שְׁרֵי מַשְׂכִּ֣יל אֶל־דָּ֑ל בְּי֥וֹם רָ֝עָ֗ה יְֽמַלְּטֵ֥הוּ יְקוָֽק׃

French Translation:
Psaumes 41
(1) Au chef des chantres. Psaume de David.
(2) Heureux celui qui s’intéresse au pauvre! Au jour du malheur l’Éternel le délivre;

Translated then into English: “Happy is he who interests himself to the poor. On a day of evil, the Eternal one delivers him.”

I was looking for a good translation, and none of the English translations I saw conveyed the meaning of the word מַשְׂכִּ֣יל , which the French version translates as “s’intéresse”, “interests himself.”

This is Psalm 41. It opens with the unusual Biblical word לַמְנַצֵּ֗חַ, which is usually translated as “For the conductor”, or the French “For the Song Leader”.

The praise that opens this psalm is not merely that those who tend to the poor are happy, or fortunate. It is the one who proactively interests himself that is “Ashrei”, which is not only happiness, but as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch translates, “forward-moving.” Many good people internally congratulate themselves for the kindnesses they do. And I hope they all continue to be kind, to extend themselves. I hope to be like them.

This Music Master, to use a phrase coined by Hermann Hesse in “The Glass Bead Game”, doesn’t just play music; he masters it.

There is a person who, when asked if his family can host someone for Shabbos, graciously and immediately says “Yes, of course!”  Then there is another type of person who doesn’t wait to be asked if he can host a lonely and not-popular individual for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal. He goes to the rabbi, or the gabbai, or Shul president, and asks, “Is there anyone here who you think would appreciate an invitation for Shabbos or Yom Tov on a regular basis? Can I have his number so I can call him, and not wait for him to muster the courage to call me?”

There is a person who meets someone who רחמנא ליצלן is going through some difficulty, perhaps a family illness or worse. Or better yet, he is making a Simcha, with dozens of relatives coming in from all over the world. The person utters the phrase, “Call me if you need anything.”
לֹא-נָבִיא אָנֹכִי, וְלֹא בֶן-נָבִיא אָנֹכִי: “I am no prophet, nor am I a prophet’s son.” (Amos 7:14) but I’m pretty sure that there will be no call.

A person who wants to master Chesed, (נצח שבחסד) will say, “Do you have anyone I can pick up at the airport for you?” and/or “I have an extra room; do you have family or friends you need to put up?” and/or “I’m going shopping later. What can I pick up for you while I’m there? Coffee? Grape juice?” Better yet, this master-in-training will find out who in the community is currently beset by additional burdens such as those examples, and call them and say those things.

I know of a group of young adults who were looking to be helpful. They purchased some car chargers and advertised, “If your car battery died, call us and someone will give you a boost.” They purchased Shiva chairs, and advertised, “If anyone is sitting Shiva in this community (but the funeral was held in another city, so the local Funeral Home is not involved), we will deliver Shiva chairs, and then pick them up at the end of Shiva.”

One does not need such a robust imagination to conjure up other examples of how to do this, and not only for community, but for your spouse, children, parents, neighbors.

“When opportunity knocks?”  You go knocking on opportunity’s door!


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