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When Pinchas Visited Hospice

Thursday, 25 July, 2019 - 9:35 pm


  Pinchas 5779

 Standing outside the door of the hospice home, in the hot evening sun of late-July, we were waiting for someone to answer our multiple knocks—on the door, on the patio slider with the drawn curtains, and even on the garage windows where we had detected movement moments earlier.


We were later than usual and were already familiar with the staff’s preference for no visits after six, but it wasn’t an unreasonable hour so I persisted, thinking, “Why should Leon* miss out on his regular visit and prayer just because of my oversight and the minuscule inconvenience for the staff?”


Earlier that afternoon I had been preparing for and recording our weekly Parshah podcast (finding lessons about judgment, motivation, and even kindness, in Pinchas’s acts of zealotry) and before I knew it the clock had circled around to 6:55, the departure-time for a much-anticipated summer-camp airport drop-off.


After a quick chagrined-reaction and assessment of possibilities, we had decided to load the car and make a quick stop-in to Leon on the way to the freeway.


Now, our plans were meeting resistance.


“We’ll ring the bell for a final time and count to five,” I told my son. “If no one opens, I guess we’ll have to leave.”


I rang, began to back down the stairs, and counted without too much expectation:


“1, 2, 3, 4, 5...


….6, 7, 8…”


“The door’s opening!”


 A scowl. An apology and promise to make it quick. Acquiescence. We’re in!


Leon got his visit. And Leon got his prayer.


(Since his neurological incident a couple of months earlier, Leon had missed only two days of laying tefillin, keeping up his prior daily commitment with our help and that of two dedicated, amazing friends. He wasn’t keen on missing a third.)


Later, in the car, I heard the rest of the story.


“Watching from the car, it looked like you were really trying hard to get in, so we started to recite Tehillim (Psalms) and the 12 Torah Pesukim-verses…. We were almost up to the end when the door opened,” said my wife and daughters.


Talk about team effort!


And then my son pointed out another detail I had missed.


“You said we’ll count to 5 and if nothing happens we’re done, but then you just continued to count 6, 7, 8….”


 Indeed I had.



 I can’t tell you for sure, but I think it had something to do with zealotry.


 Standing on those steps, I thought about Pinchas.


“I can’t just back down here because of my discomfort." (Believe me, it’s way easier to just shrug your shoulders and say, I tried, what else can I do?) “Let me at least count till 10, then it’s in Hashem’s hands.”


 And perhaps I thought about another  type of zealotry – the type the Rebbe taught us about and exemplified, a zealotry for “Love of fellow as yourself” in the way that actually looks, smells, and tastes like kindness and love, a zealotry that calls for going beyond yourself in order to deliver care, compassion, and acceptance.


It was radical care, concern, commitment, and courage, for the material and spiritual welfare of the Jewish people and world at large, that led the Rebbe to send messengers—against all conventional wisdom—to near and distant locations around the globe to nurture and tend to communities and individuals with dedication and love.


 It was extreme appreciation for the preciousness of each soul that was so obvious in his standing hours upon hours every Sunday, even in his late eighties, handing out dollars to encourage charity and speaking blessings for each visitor, giving each his or her full, in-the-moment attention.


 And it was an intense belief in my power and your power in bringing about a better world for us, a world that stands ready to emerge from behind crumbling walls of darkness and obfuscation into light and harmony, just waiting for us to open our eyes and accept it, with every possible positive and G-dly thought speech or action gifted to our hands to accomplish.


This is a zealotry of love that has special connection to this period on the Jewish calendar – the Three Weeks - when our increase in "baseless love" counteracts one of the less positive causes of this period.


 This is a zealotry that I witnessed, was inspired by, and that we can all easily embrace and embody.


Sound radical? 


 It’s easier than you think.


Try it and you’ll see.


 A happy and healthy summer, a good Shabbat, and extreme, radical blessings and success and sweetness all around,


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