The foundation of the entire purpose of man is to have a good heart and a pure heart” -Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
Having a good heart, teaches the Baal HaTanya, is the entire purpose of humankind. It also happens to be the number one thing that I ask people when they tell me about a prospective match. I ask them, “Do they have a good heart?”
We usually think of a good heart as somebody was kind and compassionate to other people. The person who is thinking of others, the person who is looking after the welfare of those who are in need. Why is having a good heart such an important element of relationship, and why is this one of the purposes of our life? I will explain, but first I will share with you some observations and a story that happened this week.
So much of Judaism is built about relationships. So much of who we are and why we are here on this earth is all about relationships. Relationship with God, relationships with our parents relationships with our friends and loved ones. Every relationship has with it the potential for misunderstandings conflict, jealousy, and a whole host of other emotions. Relationships also have the potential to lift us up, to raise us from the dust, to bring us to a place of Joy and satisfaction and gratitude.
Ultimately the extent of joy and happiness in our life is determined by the quality of our relationships. This is not my opinion, this is based on the research of scientists who study human happiness. But we didn’t need these scientists and researchers to tell us something that we are a new from the Torah. But it helps today to have that kind of reaffirmation. It helps to know that the scientists and the researchers have determined that the quality of your relationships in great measure, but not exclusively, determines our overall happiness in life. And when relationships are in crisis usually a person is in crisis.
This week I met a Jewish woman who lives here in Los Angeles, and came into Pico Shul looking for help. Her hair was growing back as she just finished another round of chemotherapy. Linda (not her real name) poured out her heart to me.
Hello my name is Linda, I am a cancer survivor and now I am possibly facing a different type of cancer! I am asking for help for my medical needs and recovery time for a major surgery I need to have ASAP! I have excessive bleeding and have blood transfusions which can lead to life threatening hemorrhaging! My mother recently passed suddenly and there is no money left because her monthly medical expenses were very high to keep her live for the last 13 years! There is only my 94 year old father and I left and I need to help him out also, we have no other family! After my surgery and recovery period, I plan to go back to work! Please help get me through this very difficult time! Thank you!
For the last 13 years she’s been caring for her elderly mother. This was her livelihood and sustenance. Her 94 year old father is in an assisted living facility. Suddenly, two months ago, her mother passed away. Not only was her mother the center of her life, but caring for the mother was one of the ways she supported herself. Now with her mother gone, and her cancer returning, she’s been living in a car and sometimes at a Korean spa.
She urgently needs a major operation, and her insurance will cover the operation –– If she can keep paying the premiums. Because she is sick, it’s so hard to find a job. She is trying to get SSI to help pay some bills. But when she walked into the synagogue she had $5 inner wallet. I’ve seen the letters from doctors, and I spoke with others that know her.
This is one of the those cases where if we don’t act, we will be collecting for a funeral, and not an operation. She’s only 54. She has a so much more to give and do in this world. But Linda needs us now to help her out. It is our goal to raise $20,000, which will pay six months of insurance premiums, food and to rent a local room so that she can recover from the operation.
So why is having a good heart such an important element of relationship? Wouldn’t it be enough to just have respect for one another? I respect you, I value you, you respect me and value me. When you need something I make sure you have it when I need something you make sure I have it. Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t that make a great relationship?
It makes for a good partnership, but I’m not sure it qualifies for a good relationship. Because the minute one of those parties is not able to fill their side of the equation, what happens? Do they get left behind? Does the other person lift them up or say, “I’m not getting what I want so I’m knocking to give you what you want or need.”
The measure of a person’s heart is what we do for people who are not able to repay us in kind. There measure of a person’s heart is very similar to that of the heart of a parent who cares for the well-being of their children knowing full well that their child cannot reciprocate any of the Love that they are giving them now. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll get that love back someday in the future. It’s not like they’re putting the love, in a love bank, and then it’s going to get interest, and that automatically they’re going to be able to draw on that when they get old.
A good heart is a heart that looks after the good of others. And why is this so critical to our lives? Because it’s what gives us joy. Helping another person is one of the fastest ways of bringing joy to the world. When you see a person smile, when you see your child smile, when you help them up, when you give them the ice cream cone replacement, when you cross the street with them, when you give them a $20 bill and they bless you up and down, and you see that person smile, that brings you great joy.
God did not create us to be sad creatures, isolated, looking out only for our own needs.
God created us to enjoy life, the nourish others, to have good hearts.
So please my dearest friends open your heart.
Open your heart for your friends and loved ones.
And please open your heart for Linda so that we can help her get her life-saving operation. Not only will be you have been to save a life, but you’ll be helping your own life knowing that you were part of such an important cause such a good cause.
God bless you and Good Shabbos!