The mere act of asking is emotionally challenging. We don’t want to seem weak or stupid or be an imposition on others. So we hesitate to ask. We can update our perspective on asking based upon the Torah reading for Toldot, which shifts some of the focus to the person being asked.
Isaac is 40 years old and asks or entreats God on behalf of his wife Rebecca to have a child. The text says something simple and yet striking, יהוה לו וַיֵּעָתֶר God lets God’s self be asked. The response from God presumably results in Rebecca conceiving twins. Simply understood, the act of Isaac asking is met with God allowing God’s self to be asked.
If we consider the stress we feel when asking a question, we can also appreciate that same level of anxiety others feel. The key then to alleviating the tension is for all of us to give notice the way we receive questions. We can show kindness to each other by allowing ourselves to receive questions. It is God-like to invite questions.
I think of this as I embark on fundraising efforts. I was once taught that asking for a donation to a charity is giving another person an opportunity to do a mitzvah or a holy act. That helps relieve some of my stress in asking, but not all of it. Rather, the loving-kindness of another person to invite the question truly makes asking for a gift a moment of Godliness.
In the approaching year-end and holiday time charitable solicitations reach a peak. According to our CPAs this is vital year-end tax planning time to get income tax deductions. Certainly, we will be asked in one way or another to give – whether it is the red suited Santa outside of a supermarket or the robo-caller asking for used items to be donated. We cannot possibly give to everyone who asks. But we can be kind in receiving the request and acknowledge the holy sparks that are present when one person offers another person the opportunity to be of help to others. And rather than taking umbrage at being asked, we can at least give the person asking the honor of being acknowledged for the difficulty of their task. A little kindness in receiving a request is already giving something back.
R Evan Krame