I recently read an article in the newspaper about a restaurant owner who is putting on a fund raiser to help a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer. The woman needed to move away from the area for treatment and that meant being away from her four-year-old and six-year old children. The restaurant owner is sponsoring a raffle to help raise money for spinal cancer research, as well as help be able to send her children to spend time with her. Check out the website at www.HarmonysHope.org ..
As it turns out, this women was at this restaurant fairly frequently and was always looking to find a way to help other people in need and see if she could get local businesses to contribute to the cause. According to the article, the owner saw her come in and noticed she was not her usual self, so he asked her what was wrong. He decided to help out.
As I was reading this, I thought about the different levels of tzedakah, charity, the exist in Judaism. The lowest level is when the donor knows who got the donation and the person who got the donation knows who gave it. This leads to a feeling of having to pay it back.
In the news story, I do not know if the people this woman tried to help know about it. Obviously, it was not completely anonymous, because the restaurant owner knew how she had helped others. Still, it reminded me of the movie, and the book, Pay It Forward. This is about a teacher who gives his class an assignment to help three people. The idea that when doing a favor for someone, you do not expect someone to pay you back, but you want them to pay it forward, to help someone else in need when possible.
This strikes me as very much a Jewish Concept. I think, especially as we head towards the High Holidays, we need to remember the importance of helping others and hope and believe that by us helping others, the people helped will help yet other individuals in need.
We are taught that when someone saves a life, it is as if saving the entire world. To take that a step further, as many of us may not be in a position to save a life, when helping a person, it is as if you are helping the entire world.