“Be true to yourself,” implies a pursuit for truth and authenticity, which can prevent us from helping others even when we’re able. Being true becomes a justification for not helping because we’re not feeling.
By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
The Alter Rebbe once stayed in the home of a certain Yid who excelled in hachnasas orchim. The host recognized that his guest was not an ordinary person and asked him who he was. Upon hearing that he was a talmid of the Mezritcher Maggid, the host requested the Alter Rebbe’s opinion on an important matter.
“You see what goes on in my home. I provide people with food and lodging and even cash when necessary. But I don’t do this with an emes. I do it without true feeling. And I wonder if perhaps it’s all worthless!”
The Alter Rebbe thought for a short while and then replied: אבער דער ארימאן ווערט דאך זאט מיט אן אמת—but the needy person does become truly satisfied.
On one hand, Chassidus demands that we strive for emes—authenticity, sincerity, and integrity in our avodas Hashem. In fact, the Rebbe Maharash said that had the Alter Rebbe not demanded so much emes, he would have attracted 50,000 additional chassidim. On the other hand, our pursuit of emes should not prevent us from doing something good.
“Be true to yourself,” implies a pursuit for truth and authenticity, with an emphasis on “self” which can prevent us from helping others even when we’re able. Being true becomes a justification for not helping because we’re not feeling.
To be sure, there’s great value in helping others with an emes, and studying Chassidus helps us develop this virtue. But if we postpone helping others until we achieve true feelings, then we’re putting our personal growth before another’s needs. And a chossid doesn’t do that.
Likewise, children should be taught the value of genuinely feeling for another person’s needs, but they must also be taught the importance of helping someone even when those feelings aren’t there.
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