Life Tastes Better When Shared

by Rabbi Ze’ev Smason

Brock Boeser piled up 60 points as a freshman on the University of North Dakota hockey team, won a national championship, and was a first-round draft choice of an NHL team.  But the Vancouver Canucks, who drafted Brock, landed themselves a prospect with a lot more than just on-ice depth.  This past Saturday night Brock took Baylee Bjorge, a big fan who was born with Down syndrome, to her prom.  Baylee created a Twitter account and asked Brock if he would go to the prom with her. But Baylee’s mother, Katie, shut down her social media accounts, unaware that she had asked Brock to the prom.  Brock tracked down a mutual friend to get a phone number for Katie, and texted her asking if he could still take Baylee to prom.  Katie didn’t know much about Brock, though. She asked her oldest son, “Who is this kid?”  “He said, ‘Are you serious? He’s one of the best hockey players in the country.”  Katie said: “I just couldn’t believe how he went way out of his way to track us down.”

During Baylee’s prom, the 19-year-old hockey player was “bombarded” with teens asking for his autograph and photos, but he made sure it was all about Baylee. Katie said, “I told him, you should leave, it’s going to get crazy and he said, ‘It’s okay, I’ll do whatever Baylee wants.’  He’s just incredible. I can’t say enough about him.”   As flattered as he was, Brock wasn’t looking for the attention. After word got out about the date, he was surprised by all the media fuss. “I didn’t tell anyone about it really, except a few of my friends,” he said. “It was just something I wanted to do from the bottom of my heart.”  As for Baylee, she continues to relive the memories from her prom night, smiling as she thought of her two favorite moments from the evening. The first was when their names were announced during their entrance parade, and the crowd went wild.  “He also spun me around at the grand march,” giggled Baylee. It was a “signature move” that she and Brock came up with together.

The Torah provides guidance how we should treat those with disabilities: Ethics of the Fathers says, “Do not look at the container, but what is in it.” (4:27)  Genesis states that each of us is created B’tzelem Elo-him, in the Image of G-d. (1:27)  And if someone with a disability is being mistreated or bullied — “Speak up for those who cannot speak…speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” (Proverbs 31:8)   Even if we have nothing material to share with someone who is disabled, we have in our possession something far more powerful to share; love and respect. Kudos to Brock Boeser, a top-notch hockey player and a champion human being.

Parshas Kedoshim    Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27
The portion begins with G-d’s command to the entire nation of Israel to be holy, emulating the supreme sanctity of G-d Himself. The Torah goes on to delineate a multitude of mitzvos through which we can achieve sanctity. We are commanded to revere our parents, to guard Shabbat from being desecrated, and to refrain from the worship of idols. G-d instructs us to leave various gifts from our harvest for the poor and downtrodden, including the edge of the field and the sheaves which were unintentionally dropped while being gathered. We must maintain justice, have honest dealings with our neighbors, refrain from gossip, not stand by while another’s life is in danger, and not hate another in our heart.

One of the most famous mitzvos in the Torah appears in this week’s portion: “You shall love your friend as yourself.” We are commanded to admonish our neighbor if he does wrong, and forbidden to take revenge or bear a grudge. The portion continues with a listing of the punishments to be meted out against people who transgress and participate in various forbidden relationships. Parshas Kedoshim concludes with the commandment, once again, that we be a holy and distinct people from among the nations of the world.

Rabbinic Ruminations
Does chocolate taste better when shared? Absolutely. We all intuitively know this and now research backs it up. Sharing an experience with another intensifies it. According to the study’s lead researcher, Erica Boothby of Yale University: When people are paying attention to the same pleasant thing, whether the Mona Lisa or a song on the radio, our research shows that the experience is much more pleasurable.  In the study, participants rated chocolate as tasting better when they ate it at the same time as another, rather than when they ate it by themselves. The results suggest that undergoing an experience with another person — even if we do it in silence, with someone we met just moments ago — seems to intensify that experience.

A second study in Belgium surveyed 466 Belgian students, asking them how often they ate home-cooked family meals during childhood and their current prosocial behavior, or altruistic acts towards others. Those who had shared meals more frequently in childhood scored better for altruistic behaviors, particularly giving directions to strangers, offering their seats on public transportation, helping their friends move, and volunteering.  Researchers found a difference between “sharing a meal” and sharing food, however. Simply grabbing dinner with friends and ordering your own entrees didn’t have the same bonding effect.  But when food is served “family style” or on a large platter meant to share, we seem to engage with our more prosocial selves.

From our father Abraham we inherited not only true ideas but also wonderful character traits. His love of people expressed itself in many ways, not least in hospitality, which he practiced daily to perfection. The story of the three angels who came to him disguised as wayfarers, is well known.  The Torah tells us that he and Sarah prepared a banquet for the visitors, and encouraged his entire extended family to join them for the meal.  Our Sages have noted this as an example of a wonderful quality which we should emulate.  Chocolate — and life — tastes better when shared.

Quote of the Week
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. — Winston Churchill

Joke of the WeekT
he beloved rabbi was on his deathbed, and life was slowly ebbing away.  Around the bed was a group of his saddened students, anticipating their great loss.

One said, “So pious, so pious!  Which of the many commandments of the Torah did he fail to keep?”  And another mourned, “And so learned. The vast commentaries of the rabbis of the past were imprinted on his brain!”  Still a third said, “And so charitable, so generous.  Where was the poor man whom he did not help?”

But as this outpouring of praise continued, a faint tremor appeared on the rabbi’s face.  It became obvious that he was trying to say something.  All the students leaned forward, straining to hear the last words of their beloved, pious teacher.

Faintly, from the rabbinical lips, there came the words: “Piety, learning, charity!  And of my great modesty you say nothing?”


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