By Boruch Sholom Wolf for COLlive.com
By the grace of G-D, I broach this tragic topic as an outsider.
As a child, I imagined poverty as ‘Berel who couldn’t pay rent to his landowner and was on the brink of landing in the dungeon.’
It was greatly an abstract concept as relevant to me as Thomas Edison‘s antiquated inventions. It is abstract no more, and is intensifying with breathtaking vigor, r”l. The shame, challenges and heartbreak is unfathomable. I would like to attempt to present several points to alleviate the potency of this bitter reality.
1. If you’re in poverty, don’t allow shame to bog you down. There are many others currently in your situation. Your financial woes may not be your fault whatsoever. Though you should certainly try to uplift yourself out of poverty, please don’t allow pride to diminish your opportunity to be a beneficiary of welfare or the various chesed outlets, as you search for a viable parnasa. We pray to provide our families with dignity, but, Heaven forefend, if they are not provided for whatsoever, the repercussions can be tragic.
2. If you’re a child of parents in poverty, or of parents struggling not to fall into poverty, be considerate. Your parents’ love for you ought to be appreciated and cherished more than any materialistic pleasure that they can ever give you. Please don’t make requests of your parents that you know they will have to deny you with broken hearts. Expensive seminaries, weddings, Bar mitzvas and clothing may G-D forbid cause harm to your family more than any temporary gratification that it may give you at the moment.
If your parents are making ends meet nicely, thank Hashem and pray for these brochos to only flow continuously. Show compassion and empathy to your friends who are not so lucky to be as well taken care of.
3. If you’re making parnasa, please consider helping others whenever you can. Perhaps you can invite families for Shabbos that otherwise would have a bare table. Present your benevolence in a way that the beneficiary would never feel he is a recipient. Use your own imagination to determine where you can be of assistance, for if your heart truly aches for them, you will figure out ways to alleviate their suffering.
4. Perhaps the worst part of poverty is the demoralization it causes to a person. Show people that you care. There is no need for the checkout line at the grocery store to be more silent than a library. Take the initiative to ask the person near you that may be two social tiers ‘beneath you’, how things are going. This sacrifice of so called self dignity may uplift him more than you ever know. Offer someone a ride, stop people in the street to inquire of the welfare of their children and families. This won’t bring cash flow to their barren accounts, but it can cause a surge of self worth in a person barren of any self esteem. The Baal Shem Tov’s drive was precisely to uplift a generation of broken Jews who’ve fallen through the cracks.
5. To the people of Crown Heights: Consider belonging to a satellite community, i.e. the Shuls throughout, which make up the greater Crown Heights community. It’s hard for community members to look after each other if they are unaware of each other’s existence. Make sure that you belong!
May we all merit to have an abundance of blessings of health, wealth and family.