Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk



"Ein Warmes Stuebchen, Ein Warmes Sueppchen"

A Warm Soup, A Warm Room


"A warm room, a warm soup", is a cliché that one hears spoken in many languages with different words.  The connotation is that if we as humans have those comforts we will be satisfied. Liza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY echoed the words when she sang: All I Want  is a Room Somewhere. Of course the saying “Eyn Kemach, Eyn Torah” connotes that without nourishment we are incapable of learning (the Torah)! Unless we are living under the proverbial bridge without food or shelter a room and soup are not enough to sustain us.  From birth on we strive.  We strive to walk, to talk, to be understood. In the schoolchild who has difficulty we can see the class clown who calls attention to himself by this means.  As we grow we want to be recognized for who we are,  for our uniqueness, for our very being. As Jewish men and women the emphasis on achieving is exceptionally strong.  Those who are not lawyers, doctors or astrophysicists seek alternative status by becoming synagogue presidents or other officers in order to be recognized, to be important, to have the feeling of making a difference.  We want to be lead sheep, not one of the herd.

Community is one way of belonging.  The church or the synagogue is one way humans join a select group.  Joining gives people the opportunity of belonging, to add to their unique identities.  It can under certain circumstances seek out the least of these, an opportunity for the more wealthy to feel superior compared to the erstwhile constituent who sits in the proverbial “Schnorrer bench” (beggars row).

The old or near old can be seen in relatively large numbers in many traditional religious sanctuaries.  It may be one of the very few places where they are still seen as individuals rather than folks with little identity and no name. Unless they are special, the old in our society for the most part have lost their status.  Their offspring have either left their parental city or if they have not, with exception, either ignore their parents, direct them/dominate or denigrate them and reverse roles, creating helpless, “burdensome creatures” who would do well being out of the way.  This is especially true if they are poor and frail and no longer of  visible assistance  (there are of course many exceptions).

In Nazi Germany those who were annihilated first were the chronically ill, the disabled, the developmentally handicapped and the old.  These were people who no longer counted, who were expendable, who consumed goods and services instead of contributing.  The Germans took glee in their sadistic accomplishment of annihilation, of terror, of  murder.  They were not subtle in their feelings and actions.

 As human beings and as religious Jews with a conscience, let us not forget to help those who need us, to respect our brethren, our old, our poor, the “insignificant”, and let us give them recognition which they deserve just as much and possibly more than we do.  

Shalom and Lehitraot.

Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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