“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (Psalms 133)

In my childhood, I struggled with a sense of belonging. Perhaps due to the open anti-Semitism that we experienced in the Soviet Union, I never felt that I belonged to the general society. And yet, despite the fact that I had no knowledge of any traditions or customs that identified me as part of the Jewish people, I sensed that there was an underlying unity between each of us.

As my husband and I were learning to internalize the teachings of the Torah, what most inspired us was the way we were treated by observant Jewish people that we met. There was no judgment or criticism about our lack of knowledge or understanding. We realized that no matter what, we were never alone.

During the recent pandemic, this sense of community intensified, and I was amazed by an example of the heartwarming sacrifice and kindness expressed through two women I know, Rivka Weber and Malky Goldshmid, both Chabad Rebbetzins, who serve as emissaries of the Rebbe in Philadelphia.

Rebbetzin Rivka Weber shares her story:

When covid hit our family, my situation was particularly challenging because I was in my ninth month of pregnancy. I was struggling to breathe and was concerned for the safety of my unborn child. I was admitted into the hospital feeling both physically and emotionally vulnerable.

In my hospital room, I was all alone. Nevertheless, I felt G‑d closer than ever before. In an attempt to help me during those complex times, friends and family members sent messages of prayers, hope and support.

I felt these prayers being answered when on March 24, 2020, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. But the happiness was short-lived when she was immediately whisked away because the doctors were unsure if I was still contagious. The hospital staff notified me that I was not allowed to see my daughter until my quarantine period was complete.

My husband and I felt helpless. Without family nearby, and restrictions on travel, there were not many options for my baby’s care. In addition, the holiday of Passover was fast approaching, and everyone I knew was busily getting ready for the celebration.

This is how we became recipients of unconditional giving. A dear friend, Malky Goldshmid, called me and ‘pleaded’ with me to allow her to take our baby home until I would be cleared by doctors. Malky made me feel like I was doing her a ‘great favor’ by allowing her family to take care of our daughter.

Malky video called me every day and sent pictures, constantly reassuring us that my newborn was an absolute pleasure.

While it pained me that I did not have my child close by during her first precious days, I was comforted to know she was with loving and kind friends. It warmed my heart that Malky included me in every stage of my baby’s first days. The bond and gratitude that my husband and I feel for the Goldshmid family can never be put into words.

Since I began my quest to find my place among the Jewish people, I have been awed by the Torah values of compassion, kindness and responsibility for each other that I have seen firsthand. It wasn’t only Malky’s act of genuine selflessness for her friend, it was also how she performed this act of kindness. When I reached out to Malky and asked her about her experience, I was not surprised to hear that she did not want any recognition or praise for helping the Weber family.

When we heard about the family’s situation, we immediately decided to help. This was not an act of any extraordinary heroism, but just a “natural” thing to do. I did not do anything special or particularly noteworthy.

I love babies and am naturally good with them. It is important that we use our inborn strengths and abilities to make the world better for each other. This way, we know that our innate gift is not wasted, and we are able to contribute with happiness and authentic joy.

I recently read a beautiful quote by Tzvi Freeman, inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on this theme, which really resonated with me. “Every one of us is a light bulb wired into an infinitely powerful generator. But the room may still be dark because the connection has yet to be made, and it is hard to find a switch in the dark.”

We are empowered with the responsibility to “plug” into the light of Torah and mitzvot to illuminate the world around us. This is the secret of authentic giving and how we can all be “givers.” We are all liable for one another, capable of illuminating our world through the light of our kindness.

And this unity reassures us. No matter what we know or don’t know or what our individual backgrounds may be, we are all part of one big family—a mishpucha, as my grandmother would call it.