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Apr 21

A little slice of help

Last week in Nitzanim (“Buds,” for 1st grade children), we explored a text from the Talmud that said that when someone visits a sick person, they take away 1/60th of their suffering. To help us understand this idea, we looked at a picture of a pie with one tiny little slice taken out of it. If the whole pie is all of the sick person’s suffering, the tiny slice is how much the visitor takes away when they visit.

Our initial reactions to this were positive! Great! A visitor can help, even if it’s just a little bit. In the words of one child: “If you take away one slice of their sickness, they will still be sick. A little better but not all the way better because they might still be sick.”

Once we knew we understood what the text was saying, Nitzanim, as usual, went straight to the big questions! What if you aren’t friends with or are mad at the sick person? What if you don’t know what to do when you visit? Will you still be able to take away a slice of their suffering? What does the visitor actually do to take away the sick person’s suffering? And, as usual, Nitzanimers had all sorts of ideas and answers to these big questions:

  • “[If the visitor doesn’t know what to do] they can just play games with them and give them food. That might take it [their suffering] away.”
  • “Yes they should [visit the sick person] because they’re sick. Even though my mom was mad at me one day when I was sick she still took care of me. Even though they don’t like each other they can still take care.”
  • “If you’re not friends, it will still make the person happy that you came to visit them.”
  • “This person [in my drawing] is thinking ‘I can’t take away their suffering’ and this is the sick person right here. They are not a friend but they are thinking about even if I’m not a friend, should I do it or not? That person is thinking you can’t take away this person’s suffering [if you aren’t their friend].”

We have been together as a kevutzah (group) since September, and through our conversations it is so clear how hard the Nitzanimers have worked to make our Zoom classroom feel warm, welcoming, and friendly. They have built a community in which everyone has room to share their ideas (even if they are disagreeing with someone else) and their personal experiences, and that makes for such rich conversations during our themes. Thank you, Nitzanim!

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