Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
Through Thick and Thin
"The sacred offerings of every individual will be his. Each man who will
give to the Kohein (dedicated servant of G-d) it shall be his" (Numbers
5:10). This passage is intentionally written so it can be understood in
more than one way. One simple explanation is that although one is obligated
to give of his possessions to the Kohein, he may nevertheless retain the
right to choose which Kohein he will give it to. No particular Kohein has a
claim on those gifts. That is an aspect of that gift which remains the
givers, even though he gives it away in the end.
The work Yalkut Lekach Tov brings a beautiful thought which is hinted to
this verse in the name of the Chofetz Chaim.
A man whom we will call Reuben was a servant of the king. He was once
summoned before the king to give an accounting of his actions, which had
failed to meet the high standards expected of him. He was gripped with
fear. "Who can help me?" he wondered. Reuben had three friends. Shimon, was
his closest and dearest friend. Reuben loved Shimon, and it seemed to
Reuben that the feelings were mutual. Levi was another friend of his. He
was also quite a close and dependable friend. Yehudah was his third friend.
He was not really a good friend, rather somewhat of an acquaintance to whom
Reuben never felt very close.
Reuben ran to Shimon. He told him everything. He begged Shimon to come with
him to his audience with the king. "Perhaps you can stand in my "defense".
"I'm sorry," replied Shimon, "but I can't help you." Reuben was devastated.
"Maybe Levi can help me," he thought hopefully. "I'll be happy to escort
you to the palace gates," said Levi, "but no further." Disappointed, Reuben
said "I'll go to Yehudah. What choice do I have left? The worst he can do
is refuse like the others." To Reuben's great surprise Yehudah agreed. "I'm
willing to go with you, and do everything I can to defend you before the
king," said he.
As the story goes, Shimon stayed home. Levi went as far as the palace
gates,as he had promised, and Yehudah went in with Reuben to his audience
before the king. Reuben's accounting did not win him favor from the king,
as he had feared, and Yehudah bravely defended him. He won the day, and
saved Reuben's name and his neck.
This story analogizes the path which all humankind follows. Eventually we
are all called back for our audience before The King of Kings. It is truly
a fearful thought, for we must account for the way we spent our lives. We
look for tools with which to defend ourselves. Who can stand up for us in
the face of this profound dilemma? We'll run to Shimon. Shimon represents
our material wealth. We often feel that wealth is our best friend, our
helper, and our security, which will stand for us under all circumstances.
After all, we reason, we dedicated our entire lives to Shimon. But to our
dismay, Shimon will not accompany us along this path.
We run to Levi. Levi represents our families, our loved ones, our dear
friends. Maybe they won't leave us in our time of trouble. They try their
best, they cry for us and they even escort us till the edge of the grave,
but in the end, they too leave us to ourselves. They come as far as the
gates, but no further.
We turn to Yehudah. Yehuda represents our Torah study and our good deeds.
We never really thought he was our best friend who would stay with us
through thick and thin. It's too bad though, because if we had known how
good a friend he was, we would have cultivated the friendship, and become
much better acquainted.
THE ONLY THINGS WE TAKE WITH US ARE OUR TORAH AND MITZVOS. WE LEAVE
EVERYTHING ELSE BEHIND!!! They are our defense because they are testimony to
our loyalty to "The King." The more we accumulate, obviously, the better it
is for us. This is something which must dominate our attitudes on a daily
basis. This gives us a clear perspective about the importance of everything
else we run after as if our lives depended on it.
A destitute man once set out on a journey to find his fortune. Leaving his
wife and family he promised to return with the means to support them with
dignity. He found his way to a faraway place, and he began doing business.
He found that milk was in short supply, in demand, and expensive. He became
a dairy farmer, met with great success, and soon became a man of means. His
response to one of his wife's sad letters of woe was that he was
immediately setting out for home with great wealth. He decided that since
milk was such a profitable commodity, that he would exchange all of his
wealth for milk and transport it back home. At the very last minute before
his departure a friend of his prevailed upon him to invest in some gold and
silver and some precious stones to bring as a gift to his wife.
Needless to say, when he arrived home the stench which exuded from the
barrels of milk was more than a person could bear, and consequently all of
the man's wealth was gone. "For this you stayed away for so many years?"
cried his wife. "Isn't there anything left which can raise us out of our
terrible poverty? How will we ever marry off our children?" The poor man
was beside himself. All of the time he invested, and all of the wealth he
had amassed gone in one fell swoop! Then the man remembered the valuables
which he had purchased before he left for home. He sold them, and managed
to eke out a living for several years.
We come down to this world, and we engage in "business". We dedicate the
majority of our lives first preparing, and then working to amass wealth, as
here in this world the importance of material wealth is so emphasized.
Torah and its observance is relatively much less expensive. These are
viewed as things of little value here in this world. One way or another we
still usually manage to put together a small portfolio of this commodity.
When we arrive home - when our time here is up - what will we bring with
us? What will the bulk of the "merchandise" smell like when we arrive
there? Imagine the disappointment... What will we "live" on there? Only
those words of Torah which we spoke; only the prayers which we said; only
the coins which we gave away for truly worthy charitable causes will be
ours; and the smile which we brought to the face of that troubled soul, and
so on and so forth.
This is a deeper meaning of the aforementioned passage. "The one who
gives...it shall be his." It shall truly be his - a thing of eternally
lasting value. If you're an investor - and we all are - and you're looking
for something good to invest in these unpredictable times, this may be
just the thing you're looking for.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and Project Genesis, Inc.