Paying attention to the homeless

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — Avraham was a model of chesed (kindness) and rachamim (mercy). His tent had a door on each side so that he could invite geusts wherever they might come from. These beautiful traits have been hallmarks of the Jewish people, handed down from generation to generation ever since, as the following account written by a young Jewish woman illustrates:

I was a student at Stern College of Yeshiva University in Manhattan. For the two-and-a-half years that I was there, I encountered many homeless people who sat on street corners and asked for money.

Although I tried to help all of these people as much as I could, there was a man named Kenny who I went out my way to help. The unique thing about Kenny was that although he was probably paranoid and schizophrenic, he always had a smile; his face always radiated sunshine. Even if I did not have money for him when I saw him, I always tried to say just a quick hello to him every day to let him know that I cared.

As soon as I finished my studies at Stern College, I left for Israel. Shortly after I arrived in Israel, my parents told me that they wanted me to fly back to New York to go to the graduation ceremony. Although I wanted to see my parents, I did not think it was worth us all of us going to New York (my parents are from Georgia) just for my graduation. But my parents said it would be a highlight of their life to see me at graduation, so I agreed to go with them.

After my graduation, when my dad, sister, and I were walking around Manhattan, I spotted Kenny. I had not seen him in about a year but we recognized each other.

Kenny jumped up when he saw us and said to my dad, “Sir, your daughter was always so nice to me and would give me money or just say hello to me whenever she saw me. She made me realize that people care and she would make my day when I saw her.”

After we walked away, my dad turned to me and said, “Wow, hearing what Kenny said was one of the happiest moments of my life. It meant much more to me than your graduation, because seeing Kenny and hearing what he said made me feel like a success. I then
realized that I did something right in the way I raised your sister and you.” [The foregoing true story is documented in Tradition Of
Kindness by Shmuel Greenbaum]

*

Dedicated by Frank & Merril Felber in memory of Abraham and Sarah Felber, Avraham ben Jozef and Sarah bas Shmuel.  Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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