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Saved by an Unlikely Person

Saved by an Unlikely Person


I have to give you a little bit of background information before I start telling you what happened to me recently. We live in a small apartment building with just a few neighbors. Our upstairs neighbors for the past four years have been, well, challenging to say the least. They are alwaysThey just don't seem to care throwing things onto our balcony—garbage, cigarettes, food, etc. They conveniently (for them) water the plants onto my head; their pipes shoot sewer water onto our sukkah . . . you get the idea.

It’s not that they are mean; they don’t argue with us or shout or scream. They just don’t seem to care. “Or maybe it’s just a different culture?” I tell myself as a means of consolation. I’m not the intimidating type, and so I often pleasantly shout up to them: “What in the world are you doing?” And usually, they stop—at least for a while. Of course, we know that we have a choice in the matter and moving has crossed our minds, but for the moment—or at least for these next few months—we feel that we still need to be here.

That being said, what do you think happened recently? At 7 o’clock in the morning, my 5-year-old wanted to get dressed by “himself” and ran into the kids’ bedroom, slamming the door behind him. The door (there’s no key in it) got jammed, locking my son inside the room. I tried to get the door open, but could not. I called my husband (who was currently visiting with his father halfway across the world; I wasn’t even sure what I thought he could do) who over the phone tried to guide us in using a screwdriver and hammer to unjam the lock. It wouldn’t budge. My pre-teen-aged son started to do karate kicks on the door. No surprise, it remained shut. We reassured my trapped son that we would get him out soon, and I started to think about calling the police or fire department to come help.

I saw through our window that the light went on in our apartment-building hallway. I ran to the door and opened it. Our upstairs neighbor was coming down the steps.

“Good morning. Can you please help me? Could you ask your husband to come? My son is locked into his room, and my husband is out of town. I’m not sure what to do.”

“He already left, but I’ll call him and see if he can come back.”

“Thank you!”

She did. She called him and about five minutes later, there was a knock on our door. It was the 6-foot-plus-tall husband/neighbor. He walked in, and with a good shove busted the bedroom door open. I can’t tell you how grateful I was, how grateful I still am. And in that moment, it hit me.

Why in the world of all the people to help me did it have to be my somewhat annoying neighbors?

Our sages teach us: “Do not be scornful of any person (lekol adam), and do not be disdainful of anything, for you have no person without his hour, and you have no thing without its place (Pirkei Avot 4:3).”

I read a beautiful interpretation on the Hebrew word for any person. The word “any” can also be read as “the entire”—“Do not be scornful of the entire person.” Meaning no one is all bad, and we cannot dismiss a person based on one fault or character flaw. Sometimes, you have to dig deep to see the good, but good there is there. (I’m not at all encouraging to stay in an unhealthy relationship, and this doesThat very same person might one day help you not mean that if a person is mistreating you, you should grin and bear it.) Like our sages teach us, every person has their hour and everything has its place, its purpose. The very same neighbor who annoys you, the very child who irritates you, the very co-worker who gets on your nerves, that very same person also has tremendous good within them. That very same person might be just the one to help you in a time of need.

Taking this idea a step further, I often find myself looking inward and magnifying my own faults. I see my mistakes, my poor character traits or deficiencies, and somehow forget that there is so much more to me, so much good. In those moments, can I listen to the teachings of the sages? Can I look within myself and see that the very weakness that I possess, the very thing that I dislike, could be the very force that G‑d created for me to reach new heights and achieve spiritual greatness? Can what I thought was so difficult be the very thing, the very one to save me?

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Two & TX January 22, 2017

This is still a good lesson Actually, there are several good lessons here. And one of the main things this article and the comments get me to remember, i that i really want a piece of Sefira's art! I love her art! Such a cool relaxes style and it always compliments the article perfectly. I think i'll make some time today and go look at Sefira's art. Reply

Anonymous Great Neck, NY January 19, 2017

inspiring Very insightful and very poignant to our day to day lives. thank you! Reply

Fro January 18, 2017

Just incredible Reply

jim dallas January 18, 2017

elana you write an exceptional report of reality! the illustration is absolutely delicious, a masterpiece by sefira....together you two made my week...more consideration now for my neighbors, and an art show to boot!
really enjoyed the time elana, many thanks to you! Reply

jesse kaellis Nanaimo January 17, 2017

Bad neighbors. You have a lot more forbearance than I do, Elana. I finally moved away from my bad neighbors. Were there mitigating circumstances? I didn't see any. Not about me. I'm sure they are loved by somebody. But not by me. I'd like to be a nicer more tolerant person, and I just hate noise. Reply

S UK January 17, 2017

Hidden Blessing What lovely neighbours despite their irritations they went beyond expectations returning to rescue your son. May their nice attributes continue to enhance your association. This is clearly a blessing from HaShem Reply

Leah bat Malkah v'Chaim Boston January 17, 2017

A touching message that warms my heart I especially love the paragraph where the author looks inward and sees her faults magnified (as I often do), only to tell us that perhaps even our faults can be an agent of spiritual growth. Reply