Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #37, “Sharing another person’s burden.”
For a friend in trouble, even if I cannot lend him a large sum or offer advice; even if I lack the training to step in when he is ill or depressed; even if I have no other resources for him, such as living quarters or professional talents; even so, I can always listen. I can free up my time. I can “be there.” I can share in his burden.
Empathy and friendship aid in the acquisition of the Torah because the Torah requires them. It’s circular. I acquire the Torah that teaches compassion by being compassionate.
So central is this trait that the Talmud says that if a Jew is not compassionate, then his Jewish ancestry is in question! Every Jew can be compassionate — every Jew can acquire the Torah.
There is no time limit to sharing in another person’s burden. It can be for an hour, a day, year or a lifetime. No reward is to be expected.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin asks:
Why does the Hebrew blessing recited after eating a simple food praise G-d for having created “many souls and their deficiencies?” Deficiencies? What is praiseworthy about deficiencies? Rabbi Lapin says: Every person, regardless of financial or social status, has a deficiency that someone else does not have. Conversely, everyone has something special that someone else is deficient in. We all need to be helped by another person, and we can all help each other. We are all interdependent.
We can all share in another’s burden.
The 37th way to acquire the Torah: Sharing Another Person’s Burden.
- Way #1, Study;
- Way #2, Listen;
- Way #3, Articulate Speech;
- Way #4, Understanding of the Heart;
- Way #5, An Intelligent Heart;
- Way #6, Awe;
- Way #7, Fear;
- Way #8, Humility;
- Way #9a, Joy;
- Way #9b, Purity;
- Way #10, Serving the Sages;
- Way #11, Interaction with colleagues;
- Way #12, Exchanges with students;
- Way #13, Deliberation;
- Way #14, Scripture;
- Way #15a, Mishnah;
- Way #15b, Limited Business Activity;
- Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations;
- Way #16b, Portion Control;
- Way #17, Limited Pleasure;
- Way #18, All nighters;
- Way #19, Limited Conversation;
- Way #20, Limited Entertainment;
- Way #21, Slowness to anger;
- Way #22, A good heart;
- Way #23, Faith in the sages;
- Way #24, Acceptance of suffering;
- Way #25, Knowing one’s place;
- Way #26, Happiness with one’s lot;
- Way #27, Have a filter;
- Way #28, Claim no credit;
- Way #29, Being beloved;
- Way #30, Loving the Omnipresent;
- Way #31, Loving G-d’s creatures;
- Way #31b, Loving acts of charity;
- Way #32, Loving reproof;
- Way #33, Loving integrity;
- Way #34, Shunning honors;
- Way #35, Loving integrity;
- Way #36, Taking no joy from issuing halachic rulings