This post is dedicated in memory of Golda Leah bat Efraim HaCohen. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By Elisheva Maline
He [Rabbi Akiva] would also say, “Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of G-d]. It is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in [G-d’s] image as it says, ‘For in the image of G-d, He made man’ (Genesis 9:6). Beloved are Israel for they are called children of G-d. It is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they are children of G-d for it says, ‘You are the children of the L-rd your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 14:1). Beloved are Israel for they were given a special article. It is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they were given a special article for it says, ‘I have given you a good purchase, My Torah. Do not forsake it’ (Proverbs 4:2).”
“Beloved are Israel for they were given a special article.” What exactly was this "special article"? In the early 20th century, in the city of New York, lived a man who waved the banner of adherence to the laws and directives of Judaism. His name was Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman and he was wont to say, “What does The Boss [G-d] want of me?” or “What can I do for the Boss?” His main claim to fame was a passion for hachnasas orchim (the commandment to welcome guests): whether it was Shabbos (the Sabbath), a Yom tov (high Holiday) or weekday, it didn’t matter, he cornered the market for this mitzvah. And when he moved to Israel, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef continued hosting guests. Nothing changed.
One Shabbos afternoon, one of his visitors, a mentally unstable man, decided he didn’t like the cholent. As the Rabbi was ladling out portions, the fellow threw his portion down the front of the host’s new frock coat. A table of thirty stopped to gape at him. Meanwhile, the man got up and ran for his life. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef gave chase, caught up and brought him back. The Rabbi apologized for giving the man something he did not like. Then, the host reserved his guest. Afterward, when his son exclaimed over the Rabbi’s unflinching attitude, the father replied, “If you have savlanus, you will have rachmanus (If you have patience, you will have pity).” Rich or poor, old or young, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman’s enthusiasm for serving the Boss never waned.
The Torah teaches us not to spill the blood of another person since each of us is created in the image of G-d. Now, not killing your fellow human being, that’s just good manners. It’s when you are ready to see the spark of G-dliness in everyone that you may find within that extra grain of patience usually absent when people are irritating (or whiny or grumpy or needy or talk too much or have annoying voices etc. etc.). Regarding the Mishnah in its entirety, the Rambam (Maimonides) points out the relativity of kindness. One good turn might seem like a molehill in the eyes of the doer whereas the receiver may see things differently. To him, the action may have a momentous affect. The power of a good deed usually lies in how the action is done; sometimes, it is simply good timing. Either way, the Rambam reminds us that when we do something for the other, whether it be big, small, easy or difficult, we should remain aware of the significance of our actions; after all, we are emulating G-d.