As the accomplished life of Rav Yaakov Gold came to a close and his son entered the mourning period of shiva, numerous relatives and friends paid a condolence call to comfort the family and offer words of support. A few days later, in walked a man looking for Yaakov Gold’s son. “I must tell you,” he said, “that your father was someone very special. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I just wanted to personally tell you this.” Moved by the kind words of someone he had never met before, the son listened quietly as the man went on to detail exactly what he meant.
“It was a number of years ago that my mother decided she would make the trip to shul on the day of my father’s yaartzeit. It was only after sitting through the entire morning prayers that she began to head back home. She arrived at the bus stop in Queens, New York, though at the time it was pouring rain. With no other option available, my mother took a seat amid the freezing cold and pelting rain. She sat waiting for the next bus, but even after a long wait, no bus had come.
“But then a man pulled up. It was your father. ‘Where are you going?’ he said. ‘The Lower East Side,’ my mother replied. ‘Really? I am also going that way. Can I offer you a ride? It is awfully wet and cold.’ Happily taking up the offer, my mother left the biting cold and entered inside the warm car. “When your father eventually arrived in the Lower East Side, he said to my mother, ‘You know, I also have a yaartzeit today and I also live here in this neighborhood. If you would like, next year on this day I can bring you back and forth from the shul.’ Having just uncomfortably experienced what it meant to wait in frigid temperatures, my mother was elated to hear that she would not need to undergo such a process next year. And so, she graciously accepted the offer.
“Indeed, that was what happened. Every year, on that day of my father’s yaartzeit, your father helped my mother travel back and forth. Your father continued to do so for a number of years, until my mother passed away. I cannot tell you how much she appreciated it.”
By now, Yaakov Gold’s son was in tears. “You don’t know how much you just comforted me,” he said. Unsure what had moved the son so much, the man stood there curious.
And then the son spoke up with a big smile. “Let me tell you something. My father never lived on the Lower East Side, and the day my father had yaartzeit was not on that day. But now I understand. When he saw your mother sitting on the side of the road, he came up with an idea. I am sure that my father figured that if he would tell your mother that he lives in Boro Park and taking her to the Lower East Side was out of his way, she never would have considered troubling him. So suddenly, my father had a yaartzeit on that day and suddenly our house moved to a different location. But that was who my father was. When he saw someone else’s need, it became his need.”
Here was someone who looked outside of his own personal comforts and took responsibility for a fellow Jew. That is how we ought to view our relationship with all of our brothers and sisters. We are one large family for whom we go out of our way to help. But, in truth, it is not “out of our way;” it is on our way. Going out of our way is exactly what leads us to our true destination of diffusing divisiveness and disharmony and infusing love and care. It is precisely this attitude which will dispel the cold darkness and cast a warm, shining light into all of our lives. ~ R’ Shlomo Farhi