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"Do you hear a knock at the door, dear?"
"Yes. Maybe it's the freezer repairman that we ordered. I'll get it."
The husband opens the door and finds himself face to face with the repairman.
"Good afternoon, sir. I'm from the Refrigeration Company."
"Good afternoon to you sir. Thank you for coming. The freezer that needs repair is over here. Would you like a cold drink?"
"That you very much, sir. I was just about to eat these cookies, and I could use a nice drink to wash them down."
The husband and wife look on in terror as the non-Jewish repairman pulls a bag of cookies out of his pocket. It is Chol HaMoed Pesach.
"Um, eh, Mr. Repairman, I don't know how to tell you this, but today is our holiday of Passover, and we are not allowed to eat cookies or even have them in the house."
The repairman stopped what he was doing.
"No problem, sir. Do you want me to leave? Do you want me to eat my cookies outside? You are the boss - the customer is always right. Just tell me what to do."
The question is:
What should the repairman do?
The answer is:
The Gemora (Pesachim 6a) speaks about this case. The prohibition against owning chometz on Pesach comes from the verse, "No chometz may be seen in your possession...in all your borders" (Shemos 13:7). Chometz may not be seen in YOUR possession; however, the chometz of others - non-Jews - may be seen. Therefore, the repairman and his chometz may stay in the house. The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 440:3 forbids eating the chometz at the same table together with a Jew. The Mishna Brura explains that perhaps crumbs will fall into the Jew's food. However, the non-Jew may eat his chometz in the Jew's home, even at his table, as long as everything is cleaned up very well afterward.
This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"Rabbi Gross, may I please speak to your about something important?"
"Surely, Reb Yehoshua. How can I help you?"
"I am in a very difficult situation, Rabbi Gross. I am having a conflict with my neighbor about apartment renovations. As a result of this, we are barely on speaking terms. I want to work it out, but we just do not have the right communication. In addition to that, an older person in my family is very sick, and I must take care of him. I am running from doctor to doctor, getting him tests and treatments."
"Rabbi, one of my sons is not doing well in the Talmud Torah. I need to find him a private teacher, but no one is available. In the meantime, he is falling farther and farther behind. To top it all off, my oldest daughter wants to get married, but we have not found someone suitable for her. Time is moving quickly, and she is not getting any younger."
Rabbi Gross listenes with a sympathetic ear. His warm eyes full of empathy look at Reb Yehoshua's sad face. Reb Yehoshua's spirit is crumbling under the stress of all of his problems. The load is too much for him to bear. Tears begin to well up in his eyes. Rabbi Gross puts his arm around him. He pats him softly on the shoulder.
"Everything will be okay, Reb Yehoshua. I feel for you. My heart is with you. Your tsorus (trouble) is my tsorus. Your problems are my problems. We will work them out together. Hashem will help us. Come; let us come up with a way to speak to the neighbor."
And so, Rabbi Gross sits patiently with Reb Yehoshua, and goes through each problem, step by step. Reb Yehoshua's heart lightens with every sympathetic word. He is no longer fighting his battle alone. Someone is with him to share his burden.
"Rabbi Gross, you are such a big comfort and help to me. How did you learn to be so empathetic?"
"Reb Yehoshua, empathy, or 'sharing another's burden' is a Jewish trait that goes back to the roots of our nation. The Shelah speaks about it in this week's parasha. In Mitzrayim, the Tribe of Levi was not enslaved like the rest of Klal Yisrael. They did not undergo the hard, cruel, labor. Although they did not suffer themselves, they were empathetic with the plight of their brothers. How do we know this? By the names given to the sons of Levi - Gershon, Kehas, and Merari. Gershon comes from the word 'ger' - stranger. The Levites were sympathetic with the fact that the Jewish people were strangers in a land that was not their own. Kehas comes from the word 'kehos' - blunt. The Mitzrim blunted the teeth of the Jews. Lastly, Merari is from the word 'mar' - bitter. The taskmasters embittered their lives. Although the tribe of Levi did not endure this cruelty, they were empathetic, and recorded this fact forever with the names of the heads of their tribe. This teaches us a lesson for all times - that a Jew must be sympathetic with his friend's plight. He should lend his ear to hear the other's problems, and his heart to feel the other's pain."
"Rabbi Gross, that is so comforting. One of the most difficult parts of a problem is feeling that you are all alone. Knowing that someone is with you gives you the strength to go on."
"Reb Yehoshua, let us move forward together, and face our problems with a renewed strength and confidence."
Kinderlach . . .
Your friend is nervous because he has a big test coming up. Comfort him. Encourage him. Learn with him and help him get a good grade. Your neighbor is down because he is sick. Visit him. Bring him a warm smile and cheer him up. Your sister is sad because someone hurt her feelings. Put your arm around her and give her a comforting hug. Listen to her while she unburdens her heart. Make her feel that she is not alone in her problem. These are all ways to be empathetic. Empathy is a wonderful middah, kinderlach. Lend your ear. Lend a comforting hug. Lend your heart.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2013 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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