Dr Judith Guedalia

Giving A 'Loan' From The Bank Hanafshi (Emotional Bank)

By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K.

         When he was wheeled into my office for our weekly appointment, I noticed a change. He seemed to be bursting with something that I couldn't place. No sooner had his aide/"pusher" left the room, Chaim K. started speaking. 

         "You can't believe the number of 'Einei Aigel' (literally 'calf eyes,' but in the vernacular means 'looks-of-amazement') I received this week! I have started to visit hospitals' Critical Care Units with my sister. She propels me and gives out bags of candies and cookies, from a box that is on my wheelchair tray. We present these to anxious people sitting outside these critical care units. They see me, and their eyes pop out and some say: 'Here you are, so handicapped, and yet you are concerned about us; how can we complain about our state!'"

          I tell Chaim how excited I am for him; he continues to tell me about another "pusher" (as I call his aides. I use this term "pusher." a double entendre, to get away from the "needy" aspect of his condition to a "naughty" one, as in "drug pusher"). "Nachum (not his real name), has become stronger in his observance. He told me that being with me and my family and visiting the yeshiva with me, has made him re-think and strengthen his observance of mitzvot and belief in G-d."

         Chaim K. has also received quite a few letters of support at his new e-mail address ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), they have given him the validation that he has something to offer - even in his quadriplegic state.


         This "change" is significant because it illustrates a point I try to make to patients and their parents. One can't give a loan if one has no "money" in the Bank HaNafshi (Emotional Bank). Chaim K. has difficult days and nights thinking about life in general, and his future, in specific. It is so hard seeing his classmates and siblings moving ahead in life, or just plain moving on their own.


         "When I see the world going by, I think of myself as 'a goldfish in a bowl,' staring at the world, imprisoned in a fixed space, without even the privacy to cry. I don't even have the ability to hide myself under the covers and be alone; I have to ask someone to do that for me."


         I nod in agreement, and add that the goldfish can cry "privately" as he is in water, which camouflages his tears. Chaim smiles and winks at me, as if to say: "That's a good point". Then he continues: "I do feel good though when we go to the hospital and hand out the bags. Even in this wheelchair with the respirator 'breathing,' people say they get strength from me."


         I am reminded of the book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. "Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy." Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk...and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.


         First, the tree is a place for the boy to play and munch on apples, later its branches serve as a source of lumber to build a house, and later still, its trunk provides the wood for a boat. By the time the boy has become an old man, he has used so much of what the tree has to give, that all that remains is a stump. Yet, all that the old man needs at this point, is a place to sit and rest - a function the solitary stump can still provide. The story ends with a sad: "and the tree was happy." (From the Online Editors of Barnes & Noble.) I never liked this story, even though millions of readers love it.


         We are told that a person who gives tzedakah should give only a percentage (10 percent) of his money. Moreover, someone who gives more than that amount (over 20 percent) is considered a rasha (evil person) but, what about the recipient of acts of kindness? In a recent week's Haftara, Elisha asks the woman who prepared a special room for him when he made his annual sojourn in that part of the country, what he could do for her, as a sign of his gratitude.


         In the Torah reading preceding the Ten Plagues, Rashi notes that Moshe Rabbainu did not execute the first three Plagues, because of his "relationship" with the Nile, the Yaor, in which his mother placed him in a basket, and thus was saved by the river.


         "The Giving Tree" story always afforded me an opportunity to teach, to whomever I was reading the story, how Hashem wants us to give tzedakah (charity), but that, equally as important - how central hakarat hatov (acknowledgment of munificence) - is to the process. In this story the boy took throughout his life and the "tree" never taught him responsibilities or boundaries of taking. In the end, the boy, now an old man, came to take again. The "tree" was finally nothing but a stump, so the old man sat down on it. The book ends with: "The tree was happy"; but one who looks at the picture of the old man, can see that he wasn't happy. He is alone, in his taking. He has reduced goodness and charity from the world, by taking from a tree and never planting anything in return.


         In Chaim K.'s daily schedule he is very dependent on others, but in his actions and words, he gives so much. The fact that his aide/pusher has been suffused with newly acquired emunah (faith), speaks volumes; I can attest that, in retelling this experience, I saw how "the goldfish" was pleased.


         *Please don't forget to write Chaim K.


Originally published in the Jewish Press on November 29, 2006.



Tags: Chaim K. | Giving | Jewish Press