Sunday, December 09, 2007

להודות ולהלל לשמך הגדול

Drrrrrrriinnggg! I looked at the phone with contempt. “Which moron could it be now? Can’t they leave me alone at least on Sundays?”
- Hello
- Hi, Joe?
- Yes?
- Hi, this is such and such, how are you?
- Oh, Mr. Such And Such, how are you feeling? Is everything OK with you? “Good, I actually liked him. But what does he want from me? Now?”
- I’ll be in a little later; I’d like to talk to you a little, is it OK?
- Yes sure. Are you coming back? Did anything happen?
- No, no, we’re having a Hanukah party in the auditorium. You sure know about it. “Of course I know.” I think to myself, “But why do you need to remind me about it now? I have nothing to do with it.”
- Sure, sure, so I’ll see you later.
What on earth does he want from me? Probably some Hanukkah presents for the kids, I thought.

After the usual how are yous, how are you feelings and some small talk, he hands me over an envelope. I tried to protest, but he was adamant. “You really shouldn’t,” I told him, “I just did my job”. No, no, he protests, I feel you went out of your way for me. There was barely any truth to this, as we just made sure he got his meals in his room on time, and when his wife would come to visit he’d get an extra portion. Big deal.

The point is, he probably never made what I make now. And it would have been a lot easier for me to give him that sum than vice versa. But people who don’t have it easy are more appreciative.

When my kids calmed down a bit, after coming home from zaidie’s Chanukah party, with tons of presents galore and more tons of nosh in their stomachs, I sat them down and told them Mr. Such A. Such’s story. He had only one son, with severe mental retardation. Ditto for his second wife. They would never have any grandchildren to give presents to. They never knew the joy of a kid coming home with a scorecard. To take their children to the park. To tell them a story. To come home or leave a home filled with children’s laughter. And he did very much appreciate what was done for him. He remembered me after several months. He thanked me just for doing my job. I wasn’t doing my job for him, he knows this, yet he felt obligated.

Many things are said about Chanukah. Resisting Hellenism, the oil miracle, Torah Shebeal-Peh… but what we insert in davening is להודות ולהלל – to thank and to praise. And that includes perhaps not only the Chanukah miracle, but any and all daily miracles that we take for granted. Maybe a time to reflect on what we really say in ברכות השחר.

I don’t want to take these $50. If you have or know an organization that looks out for lonely people or that visits people in hospitals, let me know. I’d also like to thank the YU guys who came on Purim to make a party for the patients.

Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore.” Game not over!

© Joseph Izrael 2007

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