49 Steps Towards a Kinder Heart – The Month of Iyar – Chabad.org

Posted By on May 10, 2020

Imagine you can open your eyes to see only the good in every person, the positive in every circumstance, and the opportunity in every challenge. The Lubavitcher Rebbe

This year, as we count 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, the global pandemic makes us feel vulnerable and uncertain about our future. Yet perhaps this anxiety can be channeled into developing a muscle of empathy, compassion and connection to ignite our world with healing and transformational energy.

As I continue to learn and embrace my Jewish heritage, I realize how profound the idea of a Perhaps this anxiety can be channeled into developing empathylistening heart is. Thirty years ago, my family immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union after spending two months as stateless refugees in Austria and Italy. We were exhausted from the emotional, physical, financial and psychological strain of our journey.

The first two weeks in America, we stayed with friends who came to the United States three years before our arrival. We used all our funds to rent our own apartment. My father went to work the day after our arrival so that we could make ends meet. Back in the Soviet Union, he was a respected professor in a prestigious university. However, our inability to communicate in English narrowed employment opportunities to a bare minimum.

Both of my parents went to work at the local bakery, earning minimum wage and working 12-hour shifts to make enough money for food and basic necessities. We felt lost in our new and unfamiliar world. Our journey, however, was made easier and brighter by generous and helpful people whom we met along the way.

We arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1989, in the middle of the school year. Baldi Middle School required documents to accept me into seventh grade.

My father and I took a bus to the local administrative office. It was the end of November, but the weather was unusually cold. When we finished filling in the paperwork, we left the building and were surprised to see a heavy flow of snow accumulating on the ground. We were not dressed for this weather and waited at the bus stop, shivering. A long time went by, and I could no longer feel my toes; still, the bus was still not coming.

There were almost no cars on the road, but suddenly a white car appeared. A man rolled down his window as he pulled over next to us. We didnt understand the words of this kind stranger, though his gestures transcended any language barrier. We climbed inside his warm car, trying to convey our gratitude. His authentic kindness infused us with the feeling of hope and determination. While I had not yet read the famous quote of the Rebbe, I experienced its transformational power on that cold November day. A kind stranger used the opportunity to respond in my time of need, creating eternal Gdly consciousness.

During these Omer days, every night as we add one more number counting up to 49 days, we are given We are given the opportunity to climb a ladder of self-growthan opportunity to climb up a ladder of self-growth and refinement. While it was almost impossible to learn Torah during the Communist regime, Jewish people were known for their warmth and empathy. Years later, I was fascinated to learn that Torah begins with the letter bet and ends with a letter lamed. The two letters combine togetherto create the word lev, Hebrew for heart. Judaism emphasizes our need to develop a heart that listens.

There was another incident three years after our immigration that left a mark on me. I was 16, working in a fast-food restaurant. After my shift, I walked to my bus stop as I did every day. Suddenly, out of nowhere a black cloud completely concealed the sky. Within minutes, I was watching a severe thunderstorm attack everything in its way, a gusty wind sweeping me off my feet. I held on to a nearby tree, frightened and wet. Then a bright lightning illuminated the top of the tree. I was in danger and needed shelter.

Suddenly, I heard someone yelling. I saw the door of a house nearby open; a lady was waving and calling me. I ran towards her, but before I reached the porch, the storm spontaneously ended. I smiled at her and turned to walk back to the bus stop. I was still shaking, completely drenched and very cold. Just then I heard a car honking and when I looked back at the house, I was surprised to see that this concerned woman was signaling me to get in her car, offering me a ride home.

My English was still limited, but I understood that she was worried about me and wanted to get me home as soon as possible so I would not get sick. I humbly accepted her generous offer. The 15-minute drive home was a lesson on profound compassion and sensitivity. Kindness often doesnt require grandiose gesturesjust simple, compassionate acts.

Years later as I embraced my Jewish heritage, I learned that every Hebrew letter corresponds to a number, creating numeric equivalence for each word. The numerical value of good heart, lev tov is 49. The 49 days of counting up from Passover to the giving of the Torah on Shavuot is the time designated for personal growth and character transformation.

The heart that listens and empathizes with the needs of others, transforms our world by creating eternal Light and Gdly consciousness.

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49 Steps Towards a Kinder Heart - The Month of Iyar - Chabad.org

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