Beyond a lifetime
At today's shiur, Michal Horowitz (who is also speaking on Sunday the 24th at 9:30 AM at the YIW) discussed the continuous judgement that occurs even after a person is niftar. They can be judged even when they are no longer capable of sinning or performing mitvos because the ramifications of their actions can be realized many years later when the influence they have planted blossoms -- for good or the opposite.
For the halachic source, see the Shulchan Aruch 621:5 and Mishna Berurah on the reason why it's called Yom Hakippurim in the plural because it applies to those who are dead as well as those who are alive.
That's a very sobering thought. Wrongful actions aren't just wiped out even by a person's death if they lead to further wrongdoing from one's children or others people in a person's circle. We have to carefully consider our words and actions because they may lead to a whole chain of causation that keeps going into the next generation and beyond.
An interaction later the same day made me think that even for very small things, we may not realize the ripple effect. While I was in the kosher store, a woman was trying to determine if there were ingredients in a snack pack that were banned (for allergy reasons) from the school the kid it was meant for attended. But she couldn't make out the words without her glasses. She asked me to find where they were so that she could take a picture and send it on to the kid's mom.
I didn't even have to read the list, only to find the right spot on the bag for her. It was really nothing. yet, she confided, that she was afraid to ask for help because one time when she asked a woman for similar aid because she didn't have her glasses, the woman retorted, "So get your glasses!"
It was a small request, but that one unfriendly response now keeps her feeling hesitant about asking for such a favor ever after. Likely, the woman was just feeling snappish or one of those people who think that helping anyone out is fostering dependence. But what she really accomplished is skipping over a super-easy way to do a tiny act of chesed and making a person feel bad.
Even small things can leave a lasting impression on the recipient. So when we think about long term ramifications, we should consider how we can turn these causal opportunities to help someone out into a positive experience that may leave a legacy that extends far longer than we imagined.
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