revealed to Avraham that He planned to
destroy the wicked city of Sodom. Avrahom did
not merely take this as intellectual information
that was removed from him. Avraham thought about
the actual people in the city. As such he
pleaded with Hashem that there must surely be
some righteous individuals there, in whose
collective merit, the city could be spared.
Appreciating the other person's point of view
with compassion and understanding, is a
fundamental Torah concept which will enhance our
lives and the lives of those around us, as the
following true story illustrates:
A woman was
walking with her friend. They witnessed a mother
berating her young daughter in a brutal manner.
The little girl was cringing and you could see
the terror on her face. The woman approached the
mother. She said with sincere concern and
respect, "I can see that you care about your
child, and it's obvious that she has done things
to get you angry. I also have children and
sometimes lose my temper. I have some ideas that
have helped me.
You know your
child better than I do, but perhaps my
experiences can be helpful for you also."
the mother, who seemed just moments ago to be a
terrible, evil person, calmed down right before
their eyes. "I thank you for your offer. I feel
at a total loss. I hate losing my temper. But I
do it over and over again. I would love it if
you could give me some tips." Indeed, the
frustrated mother, with a little help from her
friends, went on to make great strides, becoming
a more fair and effective parent.
who had observed this whole scene, later asked
privately, "All I wanted to do was tell off that
horrible mother. I was fuming. No child should
treated like that. But if I did tell her off, it
probably would have accomplished nothing — maybe
even made things worse. You on the other hand
with kindness and compassion, and brought about
such an incredible turn-around. How did you know
to do what you did?"
would have had a clue what to do or to think,"
replied the woman, "But some time ago, I heard a
story about Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, ztz"l,
[known as the Chofetz Chaim] that changed my
entire perspective. This amazing story has
guided and inspired me ever since:"
burly, gruff looking, man who had served in the
Russian army, entered a Jewish Inn and ordered a
meal. When Jewish boys were drafted, it was
usually the end of Yiddishkeit, religious
observance, for them. The army brainwashed them
to worship Mother Russia rather than G-d. He
and ate in a most disgusting manner — stuffing
an entire chicken down his mouth. It was
revolting that this man, a Jew, could conduct
himself in so
repulsive a manner, not to mention the fact that
he did not recite a bracha (blessing) or wear a
yarmulke (ritual skullcap) while he ate.
and the others present were sickened and
embarrassed by this display; though none dared
say anything. The Chofetz Chaim happened to be a
guest at that Inn. He saw the young man and
slowly approached him. Everyone wondered, what
would the Chofetz Chaim possibly say to this
man. What could he say? Surely this oaf would
not listen to any rebuke, even from such a holy
Chaim asked the man, "Is it true that you served
in the Russian army?" "Yes," snorted the man,
bracing his defenses for the oncoming
tongue-lashing he was fully expecting.
began the Chofetz Chaim, "How did you manage to
keep your Jewish identity in those
circumstances? So many Jewish boys entered the
army, only to eventually give up their Judaism.
They are forced to serve for 25 years without
any kosher food, Jewish holidays, or any other
vestige of Judaism. Yet, when you could have
easily gone to any Inn, you chose a Jewish one.
You still identify as a Jew. I don't know if I
could have done what you did. You are an
inspiration. Where did you find the strength?"
caught off guard and clearly moved, looked
straight at the Chofetz Chaim, "It was so hard,
they did everything to pound it out of us — to
denounce and forget that we were Jews."
"It is a
miracle that you made it through. Now you can
begin to learn the Torah and observe mitzvos
(religious duties) that you were deprived of all
how can I possibly do that," the soldier, now
sobbing bitterly, responded. He continued
through his tears, "I want to return to my
heritage, but I am so far removed. Surely it
isn't possible for someone like me to learn."
the Chofetz Chaim, "It is still possible. It is
always possible. I can show you how." As the
soldier spoke to the Chofetz Chaim, the stones
on his heart began to melt. Had the Chofetz
Chaim not understood and appreciated this man's
perspective, this amazing episode never would
happen was: from that day on, the former soldier
began a path to repentance and as the years went
by, developed into an observant, well learned
Congregation Kehillas Torah, San Diego, CA