Counting the Omer with Annette and Len Hamm
Day 37 — Bearing the Burden with the Other
Nosei B’ole im Chaveiro • נושא בעול עם חברו
By Dr. Jeffrey Amer, Syosset, NY
Many years ago, I saw a film in which each character had to choose the day or scene in their life that they would have to relive for eternity in the afterlife. They could choose just one moment and no other. I don’t think the movie was that good, nor do I remember its name, but I do remember that my wife and I had a discussion afterwards about what we would choose. My wife was disappointed as I did not choose the day we met, our first date, or our wedding. Not even the day our children were born. Even though these were seminal and joyous occasions, I would choose the time I sat by the bedside of a dying young patient of mine with her parents. I was there for the better part of the day, mostly silent, occasionally holding the hand of the mother.
At the time, I had not yet discovered Mussar, and I was not aware that what I was doing was “sharing the burden with the other.”
If Mussar is a practice by which we try to bring out the absolute best version of ourselves, then for me, this was it. Sadly, this opportunity has presented itself again, with my father as he died, and recently with a very dear friend. My actions were essentially the same — the burden was shared for the most part in silence and with no sense of time passing or the need to do anything else. These were not easy moments for me, and they were clearly harder for the other, but each was one of the few moments in my life that I can look at my actions and feel I did something good on an exalted level. (Of course, even sharing this with a wider community in some way takes away from the purity of the action, as now I have to feel that maybe I am looking for praise.)
My example is extreme, but I think if you were to look into your heart and consider when you are most elevated, it will not be when you are serving yourself, but when you are involved in service of the other. And what better way to serve the other, than when they are burdened?
I thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and may we all continue to succeed in reaching great heights as we proceed through this period of the Omer.
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