I would like to dedicate this week’s column to a special cousin, a young mother of six beautiful children who tragically passed last week.
Nechama Dina — or Chomie — was known for her great hospitality, welcoming guests from all walks of life into her home in Antwerp, Belgium, at any time of day. She would offer them a place to stay, a warm meal, her friendship and a sense of belonging. May Hashem watch over her beautiful family and bless them with happiness and the ability to perpetuate her legacy.
Immediately after the Giving of the Torah, before G-d commanded us to observe Yom Kippur or build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the first thing that G-d commands us is to treat others in a moral and compassionate manner.
The Torah tells us: “You shall not oppress any widow or orphan,” and then goes on to say, “If you oppress him, [beware,] for if he cries out to Me, I will surely hear his cry” (Shemos 22:21-22).
The Torah enjoins us to be very careful and sensitive when dealing with orphans and warns us that should an orphan cry out to G-d (to complain about us), he or she will be answered immediately.
The orphan, as far as the Torah is concerned, has a direct telephone line to G-d.
Now, why is G-d so sensitive to the suffering of orphans? The answer is found in King David’s book of psalms, in which G-d is described (68:6) as the “Father of Orphans.”
Every child in the world has parents who care for and protect him or her. But who cares for and protects orphans? To that question, G-d answers, “I am the “Father of Orphans.”
Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1834-1882, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe), got married at a young age, but his young bride took ill right after the wedding and died a short time thereafter. Some two years went by and they started suggesting matches for him.
Rabbi Shmuel had two female cousins, Gittel and Rivkah, two sisters who had been bereft of both their father and their mother. The suggestion was brought up to create a match with his first cousin, Rivkah.
The idea worked out, and when the engagement was finalized and they had held a party, the older sister, Gittel (who was also like a mother to her younger sister), said the following to her grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel: “We definitely made a nice shidduch here! If my father were alive, he could not have expected a better mechutan than you. … But you got the best deal, since your mechutan is the ‘Father of Orphans’ — may He Himself bless you with good fortune!”
All too often we Jews can feel like orphans in our world. Sometimes it seems the whole world is against us, whether it’s ISIS or other Jew-haters, whether secretly or even openly. A Jew can get depressed and feel like an orphan with no parents to stand up and defend him while everyone else has someone who will fight for them. Only the Jewish Nation has no defender.
As the verse in Eichah (Lamentations) states, “We were orphans with no father.” However, the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 30:8) says it is incumbent upon us to remember that G-d is the “Father of Orphans” — he is the Father of Israel, and he shields and saves the Jewish Nation from all their troubles.
Indeed, let us remember and take to heart who our true Rock is, He who neither slumbers nor sleeps. PJC
Rabbi Mendy Schapiro is the spiritual leader of Chabad of Monroeville. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.