by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Sometimes a single idea can change a person’s entire life. Friday night, there were five seminary girls coming for dinner. One of them called at the last minute and asked if they could bring another girl, whose Shabbos dinner plans had just fallen through.
“Sure, there is plenty of room.” I told her.
“The problem is that she is in a wheelchair. I can carry her up the stairs, but can we bring the wheelchair into the house?” the girl on the phone asked.
“Of course you can? What’s the problem?”
Friday night she carried Sarah into the house and put her on a chair at the dinner table. Although Sarah has a normal head, the rest of her body is severely dwarfed. She is about two feet tall and has very short arms and legs. She has never taken a step in her life. But, as I said, her head, her brain, and her face are fine.
Unless you have been by me for Shabbos, you may not understand what goes on here. Surely, I want my guests to have a good time, to eat and drink and have a party, but as I tell them, more importantly, I want them to grow spiritually. Why did G-d give us Shabbos? If it was only to rest, then we should stay in bed the entire 24 hours, like some Jews used to do. But, no, Shabbos is a spiritual time of favor. G-d wants us to rest from our physical work on Shabbos, so we can be attentive to our spiritual work. This is what Shabbos is for.
What usually happens is, they have a good time, and I end up pushing them any way that I think it will help. So, in the middle of the meal, without any warning, I pointed my finger at Sarah, and with a little mock sternness, I shook my finger at her and said, “Don’t you be lazy! You have work to do.”
The girl who was taking care of her quickly turned away. She didn’t want to see how she thought Sarah would react to my statement. After all, this is not the normal way someone talks to a girl who has never been able to take one step in her entire life. She is a severely disabled girl who rarely speaks to others. The girls were really surprised that I would talk to her like that. I mean, what can you expect from her?
I went on, “You, of all people, can help others to be happy. Look at you. You have been smiling and enjoying yourself very much tonight. You are happy to be here and sharing this time with us. You can go up to other girls who are sad and say to them, ‘You’re sad? What do you have to be sad about? Look at me, and I’m happy!’ You can help others more than anyone I know.”
She beamed. Her life changed on the spot. No longer was she just a sad, sad case with nothing to do. Now she had a lifetime of work ahead of her. It is her job to make people happy. And she is not going to be lazy about it, either.
After Shabbos I received an email from the girl who was taking care of Sarah. She said that when they left my house, Sarah “was quiet for a long time, thinking,” but then they went to another Shabbos dinner where there were lots of guests, and Sarah made a speech about how by her becoming religious she led her entire family to becoming religious. The friend added that, “She has already opened up more than I have ever heard her open up.”
Hurray for Sarah. But she better keep busy. She has a lot of work left to do.
Here is the letter that I sent to her.
Please tell Sarah how happy she made me (and a bunch of other people, too). When she gave her story over to that group of people Friday night she changed a lot of Jewish lives. She should know that when she speaks, everyone listens. A lot of those people had not only their Judaism strengthened by Sarah’s speech, but also the idea to help others with their Judaism was planted in them. Now, they are going to go on to help bring other Jews home, and all this will happen only because Sarah taught them a great lesson.
Sarah, thank you.