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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Choosing the right pallbearers

Daf Yomi Kesubos 72


“Nobody cares about me!” complained Rachel, “I’ve been ill and haven’t been to shul for weeks now, and you’re the only person to call me, Rabbi.  Why does nobody ever come and visit me?  Why does nobody offer to help me?”

I thought back to a conversation I had with Rachel a number of years ago.  We needed volunteers to help out with our Chanukah carnival and so I gave her a call.
“I don’t volunteer anymore,” she replied.
“Why not?” I asked, quite surprised at her firm response.
“Well, many years ago, I once helped out with a community project and I didn’t get so much as a thank you from anybody for all my hard work.”

The Mishnah states: One who takes an oath prohibiting his wife from going to a shivah house or a wedding, must divorce her and pay out her kesubah entitlement, since he is keeping her locked up in the house.
The Gemara asks: It makes sense that we are concerned for her being locked up regarding her inability to attend weddings, but what’s the problem with prohibiting her from attending shivah houses?
The Beraisa taught: Tomorrow she will die, and nobody will eulogize or bury her.
Similarly a Beraisa taught: Rabbi Meir would explain the verse in Ecclesiastes, “It is better to go to a shivah house than to a wedding, in that it is the end of every person, and the living will take it to heart.”   What will the living take to heart?  Matters of death.  When you eulogize others, others will eulogize you.  When you bury others, others will bury you.  When you weep for others, others will weep for you.  When you escort others to the grave, others will escort you.  When you bear the pall of others, others will bear your pall. 

It’s almost a cliché, but the way you treat others, you can expect to be treated yourself.  If you want others to call and visit when you take ill, make sure you are visiting the sick today, while you are healthy.  You want others to pay you a shivah visit when you lose a loved one?  Make sure you’re going to their shivah houses.

I knew this fellow who became ill and anytime people would ask him how he was doing, you could expect a ten minute response detailing every ailment in his body.  Nobody really wanted to hear all the minute details, but they listened.  Not only did they listen, but he was never short of visitors and people bringing him food and taking him to the doctor.  Why?  Because when he was well, he was always there for others.  He was an incredible community volunteer.   He was always trying to help people personally.  He might have been a little socially awkward, but everyone knew that his heart was in the right place.  So when his time of need came, everyone rushed to be there for him.


While you certainly should be helping others because it’s the right thing to do, remember that what goes around comes around.  One day, when you may need the assistance, they will be there for you.  May you merit being that person that everyone can always count on, personally and communally!