How Far is “Going Too Far” For a Kindness?

Illustration (Image credit: Wix)

How far is “out of your way”? How far do you go for a friend - let alone for a stranger?

Moshe's actions were definitely not circumscribed by the parameters: “the sky is the limit.”

His friend, who was having surgery on the second day of a Jewish Holiday on which one is not allowed to travel, needed only to remark that he was afraid of going through surgery on a day when no family could possibly be with him. Hardly giving it a second thought, Moshe and his wife walked ten miles from their home to the hospital where the surgery would take place. They left their home at 4 a.m. so they could be with his friend for the surgery, and stayed with him until after the surgery was completed.

Afterwards, of course, they had to walk another ten miles back home. The least of their inconveniences was farming out their children to others on a day on which families looked forward to relaxing and spending together.

Words are too poor to capture the depth of gratitude that suffused his friend’s being. How does one truly delineate in human language the actions of angels?

When Moshe's neighbors’ son, a firefighter, was lost in the tumultuous conflagration of events that ensued on 9/11, Moshe didn't sit at home. Accompanied by two distinguished rabbis whom he alerted to his neighbors’ situation, he went to visit them on a Friday night.

Friday evening is when traditionally observant Jews bask in the serenity of the Shabbat that they look forward to the entire week, but for Moshe and the two rabbis it was spent visiting his non-Jewish neighbors. Any measure of support and comfort that they could engender to Moshe's neighbors was worth it to them. The neighbors’ appreciation? Again, it defied expression.

Are these the sole incidents of extraordinary kindness that Moshe did? Most certainly not! They are merely a smattering among many others, known and unknown. Just enough to let you know that such an exalted soul lived among us.

So how far is “going out of your way” for another? For a friend, a stranger, a relative? Is there a limit that's too far off, too inconvenient, too challenging?

Spontaneously flying off halfway around the world to accompany a cousin for burial in Israel from the United States and returning immediately - is that too far? The consolation and gratitude that Moshe's escorting this cousin generated is still an astonishing and comforting action for the cousin’s family, nearly a decade later.

Walking or flying made little difference; if you were Moshe there was no limit. Every step for a dear friend or complete stranger was worth his effort.

It is curious that Moshe's Yahrzeit (the anniversary of his passing) is the same date as the venerable 18th century Kotzker Rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, who embedded in every fiber of his exalted soul the dictum: "It’s not what you say, it’s what you do." They shared the same Yahrzeit date and the same guiding modus operandi in their being.

There is a classic adage that says, "From Moshe to Moshe, there was no one like Moshe." It is said referring to Moses, the eminent leader of the Jewish people during the Exodus from Egypt; and to Rabbi Moshe Maimon (Maimonides or the Rambam), the highly renowned 12th century Jewish scholar. Having had the enormous privilege to have known Moshe and see him in action, I can't help feeling the he too belongs among the great Moshes.

How do you measure limits, inconvenience? If you were Moshe, there was no limit. Even the sky did not define his limit, because every step that he took on behalf of others were stepping stones to eternity.

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...הָרִימִי בַכֹּחַ קוֹלֵךְ מְבַשֶּׂרֶת יְרוּשָׁלִָם הָרִימִי אַל תִּירָאִי אִמְרִי לְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה הִנֵּה אֱלֹקֵיכֶם! (ישעיה  מ:ט)

...Raise your voice with strength, herald of Jerusalem; raise it, do not be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your G-d!"

(Isaiah 40:9)

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© 2017 by The Jerusalem Herald, a division of Yashar Communications