It occurs to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from
You and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”
Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on
either side Of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true
Friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.”
And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at
all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were there.
No more; no less.
My friend Reb Chaya read this to me. I truthfully don’t remember where she found it, so I can’t thank whoever put it out for me to see. And hearing this story brought me right back to my study of the book of Job when I started my Rabbinic studies. I found that study of this book of the Bible was life changing, transformational. Its real deep message for me was about the miseries and mysteries of life; why do bad things happen to good people? But it also had messages about friendship, quite relevant to our world today.
As the story goes, Job suffers through massive adversity, everything is taken away from him. His family, his possessions, and his health. Job is then visited by his friends. Starting in Chapter 2, Verse 12, these friends raised their voices and wept, each of them tore his robe, and then his friends sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him. ‘For they saw that his pain was very great.” So, at first, they just sat with him, just like Pooh and Piglet.
But then Job and his friends engage in more than 21 chapters of argument about whether or not Job did anything that would justify his punishments. Job claimed his innocence. His friends argued that God is all knowing and is just, and that Job must have done something wrong in order to bring upon himself such horrible results.
The young man Elihu then states his own thoughts. He condemns Job’s friends’ claims, and Job’s claim of being without sin, declares God’s justice, condemns Job’s attitude toward God, and exalts God’s greatness. He must have been wrong, because after his speech he is not ever heard from again. But at least he showed respect, as he allowed the others to speak first before offering his own comments. Lack of respect is something I wrote about before (see What Happened to Please, Thank You and I Respectfully Disagree, 11/8/22). In today’s post-October 7 world, we need to practice more respect. Elihu seems to model appropriate behavior for dealing with people with whom you disagree (I will indeed talk a little more about this in my next column).
Job’s friends, who clearly weren’t suffering like Job, started to try to define his problems, and tell him how to solve them. They became fixers, a trait I know very well. When I see people suffering, I want to jump in and do something, say something, that will make them feel better.
But it doesn’t always work.
I had someone ask me once, “What makes you think you know how to solve their problems better than they do?”
Perhaps being a “fixer” smacks of a little arrogance and self-righteousness. But even if we can’t fix, we want to help.
Since October 7, many people are afraid and upset. They worry about the war in Israel. Some worry about the Israeli hostages, and the Palestinians who have been released and may be terrorists. They worry about the innocent Palestinian children. We can’t help but worry about the massive increase in antisemitism in this country, and all over the world. Our friends and family don’t feel safe at the JCC, at their synagogues, or on their college campuses. And some of them, maybe lots of them will withdraw and hide.
There are days when I want to pull the covers over my head, and scream “I don’t wanna, I’m not gonna, you can’t make me.”
I’m sure I am not alone.
You still want to help? What do you do?
Like Pooh and Piglet, take notice when a friend is not in communication. Get in contact, and even if they think they are not fun to be around, be around them. And learn from what Job’s friends did right. They went to him, they empathized, and they sat with him. They spent seven days in silence. They (and Job) would have been better off if they had stayed quiet. After all, sometimes the best advice is no advice at all. What is most needed is your presence. Go be present.
And to be clear. I may want to hide. But not my wife. Debbie may be afraid, and worried, but not deterred. She went out and got a neon Jewish star to join our electric Hanukiah in the window. I was concerned. She told me in quite colorful language what those who want to hurt us could do to themselves. She is proud of who she is and will not shy away from showing it.
So be proud. Stand up for who you are. If it is too dangerous to put things in your window, or to publicly wear a kipah or a star or a chai around your neck, go be with other Jews and celebrate the holiday, or go to shul or go to a rally or a vigil.
Be proud of who you are, even if you don’t agree with everything Israel is doing.
Hillel and Shammai didn’t agree on very much. But they didn’t stop arguing for their points of view.
And they did not start hiding their Jewishness.
Don’t hide yours.
CARL VINIAR has been a lawyer, mediator, teacher, professor, seminar leader, trainer, service leader, pastoral counselor, son, father, sibling and friend. Now he is now an author, having completed A Guide To Premarital Counseling For Clergy Working With People Remarrying or Marrying Later In Life, which has been posted here on Jewish Sacred Aging.
He can be reached for inquiries about this manual and other related topics at RebCarl2022@gmail.com.