Because You Can

It’s that time of year, when my father sponsors a se’udat hoda’ah kiddush in shul. Every year he hires Moshe’s Bakery to cater the kiddush. “They are tzaddikim,” my father says.

Although my city’s current Jewish population can easily support several kosher bakeries, it was significantly smaller only a few decades ago in my city’s inchoate stages. At the time, there were two family owned bakeries, Moshe’s and another one we will call Avi’s. One night, Avi’s Bakery was destroyed in a fire. Recognizing that the profit from the bakery was Avi’s family’s sole source of revenue, Moshe’s Bakery opened their kitchen to Avi’s staff free of charge so that they could continue to bake and sell their products. Moshe’s Bakery put its competitor back in business

I would imagine that the thoughts that went through Moshe’s head must have been something like this: Avi is a fellow Jew who needs help. Since I am in the same business as he is, who is better equipped to help him than I am?

It’s a different way of thinking, one to which most of us are probably unaccustomed. It’s ridiculously linear, simple to a fault. It says, I will help you because I can.

An acquaintance once treated me obnoxiously. When she called me a week after the incident, I was sure she was calling to apologize. I was stunned when after a perfunctory, “hi, hello, how are you?” she proceeded to ask for a favor. Not wanting to perpetuate our disagreement, but not really wanting to help her either, I called a teacher for guidance. I explained to her how hurt I was by this individual’s actions and how this person was now requesting my assistance. “Help her,” my teacher immediately responded. “Why?” I asked. “Because you can,” she said.

Hearing that engendered something of a paradigm shift in my mind. Sometimes we need to help people not because they deserve our help, because it’s easy for us, because it will bring us any benefit at all, or because it’s the right thing to do, not even because we are beautiful, selfless, altruistic individuals, but because we can, because they need help, and we can help them. What better reason do we need?

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