Yeshua is a unique case study for moderation. On the one hand, he is fairly extreme. This is the man who taught his disciples to leave behind everything and follow him.
Today was no ordinary day. It was my mitigation hearing for speeding in a school zone. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Really? Well, given it was a construction zone, poor sign placement, not normal hours for speed reduction, not having traveled down the road except for 2 times, I had my reasons. I had some shpilkes concerning the hearing, mostly because I am not a lawless person and don't desire hearings or an appearance before a judge. But some things need to be done to help others in the community.
In Jerusalem long ago, an incredible incident took place in the office of a gemach (Jewish free loan fund, acronym of gemilut chasadim, acts of kindness). Customarily, the various gemachs in Jerusalem were all open on Thursdays, to be available to people who needed to borrow money for food for Shabbat. By Thursday night, all the gemach offices would be closed, mainly because money that had been available for the week was already gone.
One gemach, however, remained open on Friday mornings. The compassionate and sympathetic Reuven kept his gemach open, just in case someone needed him at the last minute. True, there was not so much money left by Friday, but he felt that one never knew who might be in desperate need. One Friday, when all the gemachs were closed except for Reuven’s, a young married man came in and asked for money for his family’s Shabbat food.
Reuven recognized the man for he had just been at the gemach the day before, and said, “If I remember correctly, you were here just yesterday.”
The young man’s face became flushed with anger. “Are you trying to tell me that I don’t need the money?” he fumed. “No, we are not saying that at all …” explained Reuven.
“Well, then lend me the money that I need! I already have cosigners for surety.”
Reuven looked at the young man compassionately and explained that it was the policy of the gemach not to lend twice within such a short period. The young man was enraged. Yelling, he stormed toward Reuven and slapped him across the face! The gentle Reuven stood there in shock and disbelief. No one had ever had the audacity to scream at him, let alone slap him.
Reuven’s assistant stepped forward to retaliate, but Reuven held him back. “Wait a moment,” Reuven said to the young man, “I’ll be back with the money right away.” He gave the bills to the young man and wished him well. The young man thanked him and left.
Because of the noise and commotion a few neighbors had gathered in the office to see what had happened. “If I were in your shoes,” one man shouted, “after such humiliation I would have demanded that he give back the money you had lent him yesterday, and pushed him out the door!”
Reuven, whose face still stung from the slap, explained. “I know this fellow. Under normal circumstances he would never have acted this way. He must be having such terrible problems that he lost himself completely. It’s because he did behave in such an unnatural way that I realized how desperate his position is. Now, more than ever, is the time to help him, and not be angry at him. So I went out of my way for him.” --Rabbi Paysach Krohn, The Maggid Speaks, pp. 86-87
Rabbi Salanter was washing his hands before a meal when the rabbis he was with noticed he was not immersing his whole hands in water in the ritual manner preferred by Jewish law. When questioned about this practice, Rabbi Salanter responded:
“I am not the one who obtains the water from the well; it is the poor peasant girl who must do so. Several times a week in the middle of this bitter winter, she must trudge out to the well, break the ice, and bring back pails of water for us to use in our home. The more water I use to wash my hands, the more often she has to face the bitter cold. And I do not want to be extra pious on the shoulders of her suffering.”