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- October 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm #13164
My daughter, Sabra, is having her Bat Mitzvah this Saturday, October 10 and she references Mitch’s book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, in her speech. Sabra really loved the book so I thought you might be interested in how meaningful it was to her!
“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.” That’s how my favorite book begins: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (who lives in Michigan by the way). It’s a story about a man named Eddie who was a maintenance guy at Ruby Pier, an amusement park. One day, a ride breaks. A little girl is sitting under it. Eddie tries to push her away before the ride falls on her. He feels her hands, and then nothing. The ride falls on Eddie and he is dead. But this is not the end. It is the beginning of his learning in heaven and his search for the answer to his question about whether he was able to push the little girl out of the way and save her life.
My Torah portion ends the Torah. It is about Moses taking the Israelites to the promise land. In my portion, God shows Moses the land, but tells him he cannot cross there. Moses then dies. This is the end of Moses’s life. But it is the beginning of life for the Jewish people in a new home and as free people.
Moses knew he was saving the Israelites by taking them to Israel, but he couldn’t have realized how many people that number would become 3000 years later. So not only did he free those people but their descendents for generations to come. That’s a mind-boggling number when you think about it.
Irena Sendler was a nurse in Poland during the Holocaust. She saved 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto by giving them to Polish families and changing their identities. 2500 is a huge number of lives to save but it doesn’t end there. Those kids that she saved had their own kids who eventually had their own kids and on and on, which means she really saved a whole lot more people than she thought, even though she felt she didn’t do enough.
Eddie in The Five People You Meet in Heaven felt like he had wasted his life just being a maintenance person at an amusement park. But because he kept the rides safe, he really had a super important job and actually saved thousands of lives every day.
So what we do out of goodness makes a way bigger impact then we know at the time. But the opposite is also true. 1.9 million kids were murdered in the Holocaust. But that number is really much, much larger when you think of about those kids having kids who would then have kids over many generations. If you kill one person, you are killing that person plus any kids that person might have had and of course affecting all the people who loved and cared about that person.
There is a famous quote in the Talmud that says: “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
But it’s not just over generations that what we do matters. There are little things we can do every day to make our world a better place. Simply being nice to someone is a bigger thing than you might think. If you’re nice to someone, they are likely to be nice to someone else who then is more likely to be nice to another person. And the opposite is also true. If you’re mean or hurtful to someone, that person may take it out on someone else and be mean to them and so on. What we do matters a lot more than we know at the time.
So you don’t have to do something huge like save people’s lives to make a really important positive impact in life. Small kindnesses become big positive forces. We don’t need to know who we’re affecting as long as we do it from a kind place in our hearts. When Eddie was in heaven he met people he didn’t even know he had impacted in his life. Sometimes it was in a direct way and sometimes it was in a less direct but still important way. He asked everyone he met if he had saved the little girl but they wouldn’t tell him until he got to the last person. They wanted him to know that you don’t have to save a life to make a really important difference.
So remember: being kind in small and big ways goes a lot farther than we can know at the time.
Oh and if you want to know whether Eddie saved the little girl’s life in The Five People you Meet in Heaven…Read the book. I highly recommend it!
I would like to thank Rabbi Levy and Cantor Annie Rose for helping me with my Bat Mitzvah and for demonstrating how easy it is to be kind to others. I would also like to thank my mom and dad for loving, supporting, and always encouraging me, my sister Aviva for having a big heart, and my pets Wendell, Harlan, Marcel, and Morrie for being unconditionally loving. And a general thank you to all the kind people I know!
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