Aiming for one-sixtieth


Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I know that I can be guilty of complaining when I don’t run well. In fact, my husband no longer has the time when after asking how a run was and I start my grumbling. One of my running buddies reminds me that we learn more from one of those days than a great day.

Prior to some time off for a winter holiday, I found myself on the couch with a miserable head cold that was threatening to go into my chest. Between sneezing and coughing, I was complaining. Just two weeks prior I had run a marathon and now I was working my way through tissue boxes and hand sanitizer.

As I cancelled an appointment I had with a long-term facility, I thought about the various people I would not be seeing for the next several days. I thought about their ailments for which there were no cures. I recalled those who were in tremendous pain with no hope for a panacea. Three to seven days later they would still be uncomfortable. I knew my cold would pass.

And, yet, my residents are always telling me to take care, to bundle up, to drive safely, etc.  There is such a human need to take care of others even when suffering. The human capacity for compassion never ceases to amaze me. Humanity is able to step beyond its own pain and discomfort to tend to the needs of others.

Our tradition teaches us that each visitor takes away 1/60th of a patient’s pain or illness. With each visit, I pray that I am getting closer to that magical number.