What God Really Wants from You




Did you ever see a friend cry and not know what to do? Did you want to do something and then didn't? Or did you not even think that it was your responsibility or your "business?"

I am writing this in hope that a difficult experience will be turned into something that will help us to better understand our relationship with the Almighty and what He wants from us.

This story happened to me:


I attend many shiurim (Torah classes) and meet many students of Torah in the process.  After a recent shiur I was treated so disrespectfully by another student that I wanted to cry. Instead, I went to where the other students were standing. I was face to face with one of them. She asked if I am reading her face, which is something the students know that I do. I answered that I am upset about how someone treated me and at the moment am so upset that I cannot see.


Another student said something to me and then I saw the person who treated me disrespectfully. I asked if I could speak with him for a moment privately. When I explained to him how disrespectful I felt he was, I was further assaulted with more words of disrespect. The shock of it caused me to burst into tears. And then, I cried and cried. I couldn't stop the flow of my tears. Everyone in the room saw and heard.



I tried to tell the person in charge of the shiur what happened. I could see that he did not want to hear it, probably in fear that he may become guilty of hearing Loshon Hara (bad speech). I explained to him that I had read in the work of the Chofetz Chaim, who wrote the laws of when and how to speak, that he is permitted to listen to a person who is in distress. He let me speak. His wife offered me some water. I was too upset to drink.



I went home sure that someone from the class would call to see how I was. I did get emails from several in the group. But none of them asked me if I was okay. Each email was a request for a copy of the recording of the class. One of them did address my suffering and wrote that s/he hopes it will be a kapora (atonement). S/he then wrote that s/he can't talk because s/he is going to sleep and added that I will be blessed if I send a copy of the recording. The other emails did not mention me or my crying.


The next day came and went as well, as did the day following, and not one phone call from anyone who saw me cry. I found myself checking my email and messages every free moment I had. Nothing!


I wondered how these people can be students of such a Torah as we have, and see a person cry without so much as a kind word. We are, at this time of year, learning the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet warns Bnei Yisroel that the Temple will be destroyed if we do not change our behavior.


It is written in the first paragraph of another prophet, Isaiah (1:11). He tells us that God does not want our worship, our sacrifices, our Sabbath, our new moon, even our prayers.


He tells us, "Your new moons and fixed seasons fill me with loathing"



Why was the Temple destroyed in the first place? It was not because we did not worship correctly or enough.


Isaiah continues in chapter 1:15

Though you pray at length, I will not listen.

Your hands are stained with crime...



And a few lines after that:

Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice

Aid the wronged



Can it be any clearer what God wants from us? The passage says "Aid the wronged."  


It says to help those who were wronged. It tells us that without doing that, God "will not listen."


It's not only prayer that God wants from us. He wants us to do good. And don't get me wrong. Prayer is really powerful and effective. I do it all the time. But it has to be accompanied by treating another person well for God to "listen." It has to be with helping "the wronged."


What does God want? Why did He destroy our Temple? The answer that the  Gemara (Yoma 9b) gives is that the Temple was destroyed because of "Sinat Chinom." That is that we did not treat each other with kindness. We had baseless hatred - hate for no reason. So what are we to do about that? What is the antidote for hate for no reason? It is Ahavat Chinam - love for no reason.


Rabbi Simcha Weinberg taught that God forgives us the way we forgive others.


I must conclude from that, that God will behave toward us the way we behave toward others? If we have kindness, mercy etc to each other, then He will have that for us.


What does God really want from us? Is it that we speak to him correctly - or does He want us to take care of His children?


Why did the students of Rabbi Akiva die in a plague? "It was said that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of disciples  ....... and all of them died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect."  Yevamot 62b

Can we hear that? Rabbi Akiva's students died because they did not treat each other with respect.


But why was that such a grave sin? It had to do with the fact that they were students of Rabbi Akiva.  How could a student of a rebbie like Rabbi Akiba ever treat another they way they did. That is what their rebbie stood for - loving one as you do yourself. Had they not been his students, it might have been more understandable. But that was what their rebbie stood for. He was the living epitome of Ahavat Chinam. And they were doing Sinat Chinam. They were not there for each other.


In the same way it is hard to hear words of Torah and not love and respect every human being, in some way, from the street person to the Godol (great rabbi). There is something beautiful about each person even if it is simply at the soul level. Our struggles are beautiful to see, I imagine even more beautiful in the eyes of Hashem.


So when everyone saw me crying that night and not one of them called me the next day and not even the day after that, I have additional tears inside. I cry now because these people are hearing the same Torah that I am, and are even emailing me for the recording of it ... but not even seeing or hearing my tears.


For me, this happened twice in one night and then continued for the next days. But I must be aware that this happening during the anniversary of the destruction of our Temple. How will we earn it back? What is the Torah we are learning? Where is that Torah that is being taught going? How could a student of Torah be so deaf to a woman, a fellow student, crying in the same room with them? How could a student of Torah have assaulted me in that way in the first place?


Torah has to be not just learned. It needs to be internalized in order for it to ours.


What is Ahavat Chinam? - It is caring about a person.



The people who were present in that class have called me often for help. But when I was crying, not one person reached out to me. I am fine. I know how to reach out to Hashem and to my rabbi. Time heals as well.


We must be aware that the way we treat others will be the way Hashem treats us.


Hashem wants us not so much to daven as he wants us to treat each other with respect. These students that I learn with are working at getting close to God. In working so hard to get close to God, they may be forgetting about other people. They may be missing that the way to get close to God is to help His children.


So, what is the right thing to do when we see someone suffering? How would I have liked to be treated during and after my hurt tears?


For one, I would have greatly appreciated a call saying: "How are you? Are you okay?"


The one student who did email me and addressed the fact that I was crying thought enough to write me that s/he can't talk because s/he is going to sleep. S/he must have known in her/his soul that the right thing to do would be to speak with me. Why not wait till s/he wakes up the next day and call? Why tell me before I even ask that you cannot speak with me?


S/he asked for a copy of the class recording. When giving a kindness to someone who is in need, don't ask for something for yourself. It is like saying "but." It cancels out the kindness. It becomes about you and not the other person.  In Hebrew, one of the words for "but" is "efes." That word means "but" and it also means "zero."  In other words, "but" is equal to zero. When we say "but" it makes everything before the "but" into nothing. When you turn a kindness into a request it cancels out the kindness.


We can learn how to treat a person who is suffering from the laws on how to treat a mourner. A mourner is suffering from losing a dear one. That is great suffering.


We learn from those laws never to say to the mourner "It is for the best or it is okay."We leave those conclusions to be made by the mourner. We are told to just sit with him and be there for him and let him talk about whatever he wants.


The same can be said for a person who is hurting.


When someone is upset, it is not helpful to say it should be a kapora (atonement) without first listening to them and feeling with them and being there for them. A person must first express how they feel and have you listen. Then, perhaps they may see the blessing in it. There is a blessing in all things that happen, just as there was in this happening to me. But that realization needs to come from the person suffering, not from the visitor or friend. It won't help if it is from you.  


Let the person suffering lead the conversation. Just be there for him. You don't need to say much. Until the pain is expressed, the person will not be able to hear you anyway. He may just need to share. If after he shares, you don't know what to say, you can say nothing and just be present.  Or you can even tell the person that you don't know what to say. Be authentic. He will appreciate that and feel comforted.


wish that I had been treated that way. I have to take whatever happens to me and use it for something good. My wish is that you read this and you that are there for another.


The promise from God is:  "I will overturn their mourning to joy. I will comfort them, and I will give them joy that will be greater than their former pain." Jeremiah 31:12


May we treat each other so that this shall happen.


Wishing you comfort, friendship and the willingness to be there for another.


Copyright Chana Klein 2009


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