There are so many things we can do - not the least of which is pray!! For ourselves, and others! My husband said he saw in the Gutnick Chumash regarding the parasha of Vayera that the Sdom residents were held responsible for not giving tzedaka because their laws actually prohibited it so they were in violation of one of the 7 mitzvot Bnei Noach, that of setting up courts since their justice system was corrupt. B"H mi k'amcha Yisrael; our nation tends to excel in the realms of tzedaka and chesed and so do many other nations and their members today. Let's keep it going!
A Daily Dose of Kindness
While I was on Jury duty in Brooklyn Criminal Court many years ago, I was worried that I might get sequestered and not be allowed to attend daily prayer services.
Since I had heard of cases where court officers escorted jurors to prayer services, when it was my turn to state if there was any reason I could not be a juror, I told the judge that I would be happy to serve on the jury, but I attend prayer services every day, and asked if the court would allow me to do so if I got sequestered.
The Judge was furious with me and started quoting several verses from the Bible about Abraham pleading to G-d to save the inhabitants of the city of Sodom for the sake of 50 righteous souls. When he finished reciting the verse for the sake of 10 righteous souls he exempted me from jury duty.
This week is the week we read the Torah portion that the Judge had quoted many years ago. On Monday morning I found myself pleading before G-d to spare my electricity during the rapidly approaching hurricane.
It's a bit crazy for me to compare this to the story of Abraham pleading for the lives of the inhabitants of Sodom, since my prayer seemed, at the time, to be purely selfish -- I had lost power for three days during last year's October snowstorm and didn't want to lose it again.
I made a deal with G-d and said "Since I'm not working today, I could have enjoyed sleeping later and doing things around the house. But instead G-d, I am waking up early and praying in the early morning and I pledge to study Torah till noon. In exchange for this I ask that you please spare my electricity."
On Monday night I was working on my computer as the storm was approaching. Every few minutes I checked the weather website to see what the maximum wind speed would be and when it would start to diminish.
As the wind started picking up speed, and I heard it howling outside, every few minutes the lights in the room flickered and I was sure I would lose electricity. Once again I made a deal with G-d, I pledged to only do things on the computer that would help other people.
When I went to sleep the wind speed had peaked at 56 miles per hour and gusts were probably much more than that.
When I woke up Tuesday morning and I realized that my house had been spared from the devastation that struck the houses all around me I was grateful and pledged to do whatever I could to help others who had lost their electricity.
I sent out emails to our community email list encouraging those with power to pitch in to help those without power. Within a few hours I found that others in the community had already organized a response to the storm and were matching those who needed warm lodging, freezer space and meals for Shabbos, with those who could provide it for them.
I used this "matchmaking" service to offer my spare bedroom and the large amount of ice I had prepared in case I lost power to whoever needed it. But no one called and I felt sad that I could not help.
But slowly I found myself being able to help more and more people. I gave away my ice and kept making more ice. I made announcements in synagogues telling people who to contact for help and encouraging those with electricity to help those without.
When one man told me his wife could not find an internet connection, I offered my WiFi and my computer and within a few hours half a dozen people were doing their internet work on my dining room table and one had brought a spare computer for others to use.
Every few minutes I had to find another spare electrical outlet for my guests to recharge their cell phones, laptops and electric shavers, until every outlet on the first floor of the house was filled.
Then people starting calling about the spare beds and I was able to feed my new house guests as well as the dining room WiFi users.
And then I realized that maybe the reason G-d gave me power was not because of my selfishness, but rather because he knew I would use the power to help others.
It just so happens that the Biblical story which teaches us the kindness of Abraham to strangers is the story that begins this weeks Torah portion and the story of the selfishness of Sodom is the story that immediately follows it.