Together We Stand

September 16, 2012 - 5:00 am

“You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape ”— Psalm 88:8

Psalm 88 is a description of the difficult exile that Israel will endure for thousands of years following the destruction of the Temple. The psalmist writes, “You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.” The psalmist is saying that Israel will lose her political allies. On the day of her destruction, no nation will help her. But the Sages teach that this verse has a deeper meaning as well.

The Sages explain that during the exile, people will be so overwhelmed by their own difficulties that they won’t be able to help out their friends. It’s bad enough to have to face the terrible hardships of exile, but the psalmist says that people will have to face them alone. He writes, “I am confined and cannot escape.” With no one around to help, people feel trapped. There is no way out of their troubles without a helping hand from a friend.

Many years ago, someone wrote a cute, but telling version of heaven and hell. The Lord shows a man hell. The man sees a room where a group of people sit around a huge pot of stew, but everyone is famished. Each person has a spoon, but none of them have elbows, making it impossible to get the soup into their mouths. The suffering is horrible.

Next, God shows the man heaven. The room is exactly the same – big pot of stew, plenty of spoons, and no elbows. But here, the people are well fed and happy. “I don’t understand,” the man says to the Lord. “Why are they happy here when everyone in the other room was miserable?” The Lord smiles and says, “Because here, they have learned to feed each other.”

It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way out of our own troubles is by helping out someone else. Everyone is busy, and we’ve all got our challenges, but it is critical that we set aside time to help others in need. The way out of our own darkness is by bringing light to others. When we help another person shine, we make the world brighter for us all.


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