A well-to-do American Jew who had spent many years in a small town, moved to the city and was made chairman of the Ritual Committee of a large synagogue. Before the High Holidays, it was his duty to engage a cantor.
When the transaction was completed, the cantor inquired: “How about a Shofar?” “Look Mister, you may be a great cantor, but don’t put on airs with me,” snapped the new chairman. “If I, a rich man, can drive my own car, then so can you — and without a chauffeur!”
That might be a cute joke, but when you think about it, the connection between the shofar and the chauffeur has lot of truth to it. For many, the ram’s horn that is blown in Shul is quite like that tuxedoed fellow sitting in the front seat of the limousine.
We hire a chauffeur so that he can do the driving for us while we sit back and relax. And, in much the same way, we go to shu and let the Chazzan daven for us or blow the shofar while we sit back in our seats and just take it all in. Some things have become a spectator sport.
But that’s not the way it is supposed to be. We can’t go through life being spectators.
After Eliezer meets Rivka, Rivka runs home to tell her family about Eliezer. Lavan the brother of Rivka invites Eliezer in “Vayeishev l’fanav le’echal”. He places food in front of him and Eliezer refuses to eat until he explains the purpose of his being there. "I will not eat until I am open with you. Avraham has sent me here to look for a Shidduch for Yitzchak. I must speak my words and tell you the unbelievable story of my journey."
When someone sees someone else doing an injustice, either physically or verbally, immediately we jump. Our minds are racing and strategizing how to end it or even reciprocate. And when they see we are colder in our demeanor, we are no longer comfortable even going over to say a good Shabbos, each side wondering what’s up. Things can explode, or things can remain uncomfortable. Why? Nobody is willing to communicate.
“Ad asher im dibarti lach” — "I don’t want to start lunch until we are clear as to what’s going on." Communication. Openness. When we are humble and confident enough to go over and talk, it takes on a whole new tone.
Why? First of all, most of the time it’s our imagination. We all know this is true. But when it comes L’maaseh, it’s not easy. It’s hard to get active.
There was a widow with four young children who lived in Israel, and life was difficult. One day she calls a plumber for all the leaks and provide an estimate price of the job. After a short while of walking throughout the house, the plumber returned with the job description. It would take a few days to fix the house in entirety and cost a hefty price. The plumber reassured her that his price was the most reasonable there was, but even so, it was much too expensive for her at the moment. “I don’t have the money right now,” the mother said, “but I will make you a deal. By the time you finish the job, I will see to it that you have all the money. I will borrow if necessary.” Listening to the woman’s arrangement, the plumber agreed to take the job.
Beginning the work, the plumber noticed the four orphans in the house. He could not help but imagine what life must be like for them. As he continued to work, his heart went out for her in pity. He convinced himself that he would not take any money from the family. “But what should I do?” he thought to himself. “I already told her the price; I can’t change my word now.” But then he came up with a brilliant idea.
After finishing the job, the plumber approached the mother with the bill. “I have something to tell you,” he said. “I looked into the matter and discovered that there is an approved special program from the city hall. You are entitled to receive help from the government. Just sign here and I will get paid. And don’t worry, I will make more money in this way than had you paid me. You don’t have to pay anything. Go enjoy your house.”
Hearing such great news, the mother and her children were beside themselves. “You mean I don’t have to pay anything?” “That’s right,” repeated the plumber. The children too were shocked. They were worried how their mother was ever going to pay the bill. But now, all their worries turned into smiles.
Twenty years later… this plumber’s small company had grown to become a large corporation. Being hired for a big project, he headed to Petach Tikvah to a building warehouse where all sorts of plumbing and housing supplies were stocked. Figuring out all the materials needed for the project, he made a list of all the items and gave it to the warehouse workers. He intended to receive an estimate of how much everything would cost, whereupon consider if there were any cheaper prices. “Okay,” they said, “we will look over your order and call you back with the prices.”
The next day as the plumber awoke, a huge plumbing supply truck pulled up to his house. Not remembering that he had ordered anything, he quickly headed outside. “What is this?” he asked the driver. “I am delivering a shipment of plumbing supplies.” “You must have the wrong address,” said the plumber, “I didn’t order anything.” “It says right here you that you did,” explained the driver as he pointed to a piece of paper. Look, it says that you paid in full and that I am supposed to make the delivery today.” “I never made an order!” insisted the plumber. “I asked for an estimate. I was comparing prices. I didn’t put in a final order nor did I pay a penny!” “I am very sorry sir,” said the driver, "but I have a long day ahead of me, and I am only making the delivery. If you have any problems, go down to the office and speak to the owners.”
Frustrated, the plumber raced to the office. Entering inside, he headed straight to the secretary’s desk. “Excuse me,” he said, “but I just had a shipment of plumbing supplies delivered to my house. The problem is that I didn’t order anything and I didn’t pay for it either. Can you please confirm this?”
Looking up the plumber’s information, the secretary said, “It seems as if everything has been taken care of. It says that you paid in full and the delivery is supposed to be made today.” “I don’t understand,” impatiently exclaimed the plumber. “I did not make any order!” Standing there dumbfounded, the plumber could see that he was not getting anywhere.
“Listen”, said the secretary, “why don’t you go upstairs. Maybe they can help you.” Walking up the stairs, he hoped that this attempt would finally sort out everything. As he opened the door, he saw two men comfortably seated in an office. “Hi, how can we help you?” the men asked. “I just had delivered to my house a large shipment of plumbing supplies which I didn’t order. There must be a mistake. I asked to receive prices on your materials. Your stuff is out on ht street if you want it back?”
Looking back at the man, one of the owners spoke up. “Don’t worry. We have a special arrangement with city hall. Everything has already been paid for.” Standing there confused, the owner continued, “Do you remember us? We were those little kids whose mother you helped twenty years ago. Yesterday, when you showed up in the store, my brother and I recognized you right away. This is our way of paying you back. It’s all from City Hall.”
Such a simple thing. Nu — we can see a woman in Tzaar, either sympathize, be a spectator, or get involved. Those little decisions to actively help another and think of them in their moment of plight reverberate for years.
We can’t be spectators to Mitzvos. We love seeing our friends and family members succeed. We love seeing Torah, and our schools, and our Shuls succeed. It’s not enough to say “I hear such good things about what your doing”. We need to get involved!
Eliezer the servant of Avraham reaches the well with his camels and entourage, he’s standing there and waiting. People are walking by and looking at this group standing there and they keep walking on their way. A young girl, by the name of Rivka is standing there, see’s a group by the well not drinking, she doesn’t recognize them, they’re visiting and look like they can use help. Maybe they need something! If they’re standing by the well, they probably need water. Why aren’t they drinking? What’s going on? But one second- why don’t they drink themselves? Nu- what’s the difference? Let me see if I can do something for them. And this young girl, Rivka, merited, because of this machshava and good intention, to become the mother of Klal Yisrael.
Why did all of this happen? Because of feelings for others. Why are they standing there? They look lost and they may need help. Maybe they’re missing something? A person who cares enough about someone doesn’t wait to be asked but asks how they can be of assistance, and is worthy of being a person to be Maamid Klal Yisrael.