A Good Heart

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Esches Chayil 

There are many problems in our world, especially in our Jewish world.  There are wars, there are wars within wars, and there are crimes, some solvable and others not.  There is anti-Jewish propaganda, self hatred, and much more.  There are advertisements and flawed advertisements.  There is conservatism and there is liberality.  Choices are endless, but as humans we are flawed, we are misled, we don’t know what the right choices are. Choices are often made from a lack of knowledge, from ignorance.   Despite all of this, there are those who feel comfortable “within their skin.”  They have chosen what is right for them and for humanity.  We have much to be thankful for.  Most of all we can still see the sunshine, the snowflakes falling miraculously from the sky, the many devices that make life easier.  We can turn on the washer and with one flick our clothes are clean.  We can cook with foods that we don’t have to process – no more plucking chicken feathers to enjoy a good meal.  We can keep things either hot or cold with the help of the automatic stove or refrigerator.  We can reach our work or our families with automatic transportation and do not have to expend energy to walk for miles to reach our destinations.  There is much, much more. 

There is the negative effect of all of our modern day inventions.  With a flick of a finger, we can turn on methods of mass destruction; with our electronic devices, we can damage the reputation, the character, of a fellow human.  We can, with a lack of caution, cause much pain and even death with our automobiles.  Everything has its consequences in one fashion or another.  Life today is easier, but is it?  We don’t rely quite as much on intimacy and friendships.  We can get some of that with machines, with instruments, as well.  We don’t need to borrow a cup of flour from a neighbor when the grocery store is minutes away.  We can ignore our neighbors since we feel self contained.  Close friendships have diminished and dependency has lessened as our culture and our inventions have become more and more intricate.

Out of all this there is the “Esches Chayil” or her male counterpart.  It is the person of worth.  We will here give an example of one such human being who has always remained the same throughout her nearly ninety years.  She is a woman who was born to an observant Jewish family, the only female offspring in a middle class Jewish family.  She followed the ten commandments as best as she could, honored her parents as long as they lived, learned Hebrew, attended college to become a Hebrew teacher, found the love of her life during her learning years, was married and raised three children together with her spouse, who was also in the field of Jewish studies, in which vocation he earned his livelihood.  They were happy together living “the good life,” the life they had been taught and experienced by their parents, their forebears.  All was well until one day their oldest son, while helping a friend (to change a tire on the road), was killed.  Their grief was close to insurmountable.  This very bright, loving young man who had barely reached maturity was no more.  Their pain and their tears lasted a long time.  They could never bring him back, and the joy, the pride that they had experienced through his existence, was blotted out.  All of their lives they thought of him and they went on giving to their two other children, their friends, and their neighbors.  They were a remarkable pair.  They had the same and more hardships than others, but they kept their faith and extended themselves to others.  Avrom, the husband and father, had to change jobs a number of times, leaving cities and friends to earn the living for his family.  Ida was an excellent nurturing mother.  She raised her son and daughter as she knew from her own upbringing.  When her husband became very ill and she could not lift him, she was by his side in an institution and spent her days in the nursing facility until he died.  She continued to volunteer in helping the residents of this place, comforting her brethren and their families.  She gave of herself fully and completely.  There is nothing that this human being would not do to make life easier for those who were fortunate enough to know her.  She was never a woman who indulged in self pity, and gained strength from assisting those in need.

In our ever changing world of electronics, estrangement, turmoil and confusion, let us appreciate the Ida's of our day, and let us emulate her courage, her devotion, and her lev tov (good heart)!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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