Thursday, September 01, 2011

You won't believe what our painter did to us this week

It's been a manic week- between juggling the regular Yom Tov prep (which is hectic under ordinary circumstances) and managing the plethora of details that need attention so we can get into our new Jewish Life centre on time. And then there was the painter.

The paint issue has been a significant time-consumer this week. We need to paint the outside of the building before the spring rains come. While we're about it, it's logical to paint the inside and reduce the overall contract cost. So, we went painter-hunting. In reality, we had already tried- and rejected- two contractors (just too expensive) before the architect found Andre.

Andre seemed to be a decent guy (in our five-minute meeting), friendly and keen to help. He came, he measured; he left, he quoted. His quote seemed reasonable, so we were ready to roll, but I wanted to see if I could get us some paint donated. My attempt flopped, so we reverted to the original gameplan of paying for materials.

Well, Andre surprised us. On his own initiative, he contacted Plascon Paint to ask them to donate the paint. Our architect emailed him a nice thank-you note and added a typically mischevious message that, as sign of thanks, I would intervene with G-d on Plascon's behalf "to ensure their turnover would grow from strength to strength".

I thought it was quite funny.

Andre didn't.

Late last night, he emailed me, "G-d has been good to me all my life. I'll do this one for free."

Just like that.

Here's a man, he's not Jewish, he's not a member of the community, but he's willing to donate his time and services to help us. We often talk about how G-d will repay us for a mitzvah, especially tzedokah. To Andre it's clearly serious business. Do some work for G-d (or His people) and the blessings will come.

It's the month of Elul, an introspective time to weigh up just how real our relationship with G-d is. Traditionally, it's a time to go out on a limb and do more of what Hashem wants of us. The Rambam lists tzedokah as the first step in this process. In today's Tanya lesson (there's one for each day of the year) we discover that charity heals a wounded soul, as medicine does an unhealthy body. Just as you wouldn't budget what to spend on emergency medicine, the mystics recommend that you don't budget what you'll pay to "heal" your soul- especially before Rosh Hashanah. We could learn something from Andre. 

To quote my architect, in his reply email to me after I had forwarded Andre's undertaking to him: "May the whole Elul be like this." 



Anonymous said...

how to balance emotional disabilities with Teshuva.
Asking some with depression or a history of self harm to do

teshuva in a "positive way" can be like telling an acholoic

to have one drink on purim and then stop.
Fear of sin can exaggerate anxiety and agoraphobia. Looking

for ones weak points and faults (as is a first step in

Teshuva) can be terrible for a person who suffers from self

loathing, and hence self harm, eating disorders etc... The

How can someone with these types of issues navigate

Jewidaism, especially T'shbav, Yom kipor etc.
How do you balance it with "vchai bohem"

Rabbi S said...

Good point!

A few things:

1. Judaism strongly advises "Asei lecha Rav", to choose a mentor who understands you as an individual and guides you to do what is right for you. Without that sort of guide, a person could do "frum" things, like Teshuvah, in self-destructive way.

Obviously, the guide/ mentor needs to be someone you respect and who really cares about you.

2. Looking for weak points is not something you should do often- but Elul is an introspective season. Even when you look for weak points, the purpose is not to uncover every flaw that you have, but to identify an area that needs attention, so that you can formulate a game-plan to fix it.

3. The foundation of all Teshuvah is trust that a) You can change and b) Hashem helps you to change.

Teshuvah is not intended to be a depressing experience, but a very promising one instead. After all, the whole message of Teshuvah is that we are not trapped in our circumstances, bad habits etc. but are free to change and move beyond them.