Join Rabbi Weiss for the Hakomas Matzeivah for his Rebbezin this coming Sunday, June 10 at the United Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island, at 11:00 a.m.
By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
The Medrash tells us a fascinating story. Someone once came to his Rav and inquired whether the zarzir, a bird commonly translated as the starling, is kosher to eat. The Rav admitted to not knowing so he recommended that he investigate who the zarzir hangs out with. The man started doing some birdwatching and found that the zarzir was always around the raven. So the Rav told him, as is cited in Masechtas Chillin, “Lo l’chinam holaich zarzir eitzel oreiv – It is not for naught that the starling hangs around the raven.” Rather, just as the raven is not kosher, so too the staring is not kosher as well.
From this story of the sages was formulated the popular adage, “You can discover much about a person from seeing who their friends are.” If a person hangs around shady characters, he or she is likely to be a shady character as well. On the other hand, if a person keeps the company of ehrlicha people, then it is likely that he or she is also an upright person. If a person hangs around athletes, he is probably athletic and if he hangs around nerds, he’s probably a nerd.
But, what can you say about my Rebbetzin – who was friendly with all types of people from the greatest Rebbetzin to the community kvetch, or the neighborhood nogoodnik. What does that say about her? I believe that the answer is that it says about her that she wasn’t interested in herself, but rather in every other person. The Torah commands us that the Chasida the Stork is a non-kosher bird. The Gemara reveals that the Stork is called chasida the kind one-because it is kind to its friends. The Gemora explains further that the reason it is not Kosher is because it is only kind to its friends and to no one else. We are not suppose to just have our own cliques but are expected to be nice to everyone. My Rebbitzen upped the ante by being not only nice to everyone but was friendly to one and all!
In a similar vein, the posuk says in Amos [4:13], “U’magid l’adom ma seicho – And will tell a person what was his conversation.” From this verse, the Gemora develops the idea that from a person’s conversation, you can determine the nature of the person. A devoted mother is always talking about her children. A busy realtor is always talking about real estate, and a dedicated talmid chacham is always talking about learning.
What did my wife talk about? Whatever the other person wanted. She would talk about clothing to one, carriages to another, wedding plans to a third, retirement strategies to a fourth, jokes to a fifth, cataracts to a sixth, travel to a seventh, and the list goes on and on and on. Her conversations again revealed that her very essence was that she was into the next person and not herself.
Chazal give us another barometer to determine the character of another person. It teaches us that you can discover the character of a person by inspecting how they deal with three things, “B’kiso, b’koso, ub’kaaso – How they behave with their money, when they drink, and when they get angry.” My wife never ever drank, and she very rarely got angry. But how she behaved with money was the true litmus test. When I would ask her if she needed something, she would say with complete sincerity, “Moish, you give me everything.” But then she would say with a smile, “But if you want to give me some money… This child needs this… I could buy something for the grandchildren,” or, “I think I’d like to participate in this hachnasas kallah or help this single mom.” She would always say that if she played the lottery (not that she ever played) and won a million dollars, she would give $100,000 to maaser, $100,000 to each of her six children, and then to our shul, hatzoloh, bikur cholim, tomchei Shabbos, etc. She would never ever say she wanted anything for herself. Once again, her very essence was for the other person.
This is the true reason why Hashem created the world, as we say in the famous posuk, “Olam chesed yiboneh – The world was built to do kindness for others,” and it’s why the founder of the Jewish people, Avraham Avinu, set the tone for all of us, by being a pioneer of chesed, of kindness. May it be the will of Hashem that in our lives we find in our hearts a lot of room for the needs of our loved ones, our friends, our associates, and all who cross our paths, and in that merit may Hashem shower his kindness upon us and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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