Nearly fifty years ago, a British pop group launched a song entitled, “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother…” a notion that Yidden have held sacrosanct from their very inception dating back to Avraham Avinu and his dedication to his wayward nephew Lot. Since then, the hallmark of the Jewish People has remained their unspoken yet tangible camaraderie for one another. Our history is laden with legendary tales of self-sacrifice and selflessness… not to mention the thousands of untold stories that play themselves out week-in and week-out in Jewish communities the world over.
Our family received an truly inspiring book entitled, “Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup” which will surely warm one up on a cold wintry night. A tribute to the late Rebbetzin Henny Machlis, the book’s five-hundred pages are dedicated to this Brooklyn native’s extreme degree of dedication to the well-being of every Jew – every human, really – who merited to know her and her illustrious family. Each Shabbas, as the book enumerates, the family hosted well-over 100 guests from every walk and stripe in their less-than-lavish Yerushalayim apartment. Not just the interesting personalities that one enjoys hosting but many, many undesirable guests who had nowhere else to call home and no one else to call family.
One guest by the name of Oren suffered from a mental-illness that rendered him a volatile and unpredictable persona (at best). Nevertheless, “Henny always treated Oren with endless patience and love….She had a lot of things going on in her life, but Oren could be here for hours talking to her, and she always made him feel important and loved. Not all people need food, but all people need love – love and attention and someone to listen to them …” (emphasis supplied).
“And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and they came upon the city …” (34:25).
At this juncture of the Chumash, aren’t we well-versed in Ya’akov’s family tree. Of course Shimon and Levi are Dinah’s brothers. They share the same father. It’s not like they’re second-cousins three-times removed. In response to this question, Rashi explains, “Because they risked themselves for her they are referred to as ‘her brothers.’”
True brotherhood – in the Torah sense of the word – goes beyond biological realities and shared upbringings. It is an emotional and psychological kinship that is honed through one’s thoughtfulness and actions on behalf of their fellow Yidden. That is ultimately the true benchmark of one’s depth of character and something for each of us to strive to achieve. For “not all people need food, but all people need love – love and attention and someone to listen to them.”