by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And you shall love HaShem your G-d, with all your heart, with all your
soul, and with all your resources." [6:5]
Our Sages explain in the Medrash that we must love every attribute of G-d,
and whether we receive something good or bad, we should accept it with joy.
As the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos, the Chapters of the Fathers, "Who is
rich? He who is happy with his portion."
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, is bothered by two aspects of
this saying. First of all, how can we expect a person who is poor, and who
provides for himself with difficulty, to be happy with his situation? And
second, why does the saying refer to "his portion," rather than simply "he
who is happy with what he has?"
To answer these questions, the Chofetz Chaim offers a parable. As we know,
a carpenter needs a saw. But a carpentry saw is a simple instrument,
available from any hardware store for a few dollars. So imagine if we were
to take the simple, cheap saw away from a professional carpenter, and
replace it with a high-precision instrument, a saw used by diamond-cutters
worth hundreds of times the value of the original.
Have we done him a favor? Of course not! It may be true that a carpentry
saw is worth much less, but it is a necessity if the carpenter is to do his
job. He can't earn a living with a diamond-cutter, because he isn't capable
of using it properly, and no one would entrust their diamonds to him. In
order to get through wood, the carpenter needs his plain, simple instrument
- a diamond-cutter is useless.
The Chofetz Chaim says that we must learn to look at the world the same
way. The Holy One, Blessed be He, stands over every creature, and He knows
exactly what each of us needs, and what tests each person needs to face.
Some must be tested with poverty, to see if they will withstand difficult
situations. Others must be tested with wealth, to see if they will open
their hands to the poor. Every detail of a person's life is apportioned to
respond to his or her unique needs, in order to enable each of us to
perfect ourselves and the world around us.
Were a person to suddenly find himself in someone else's situation, in
someone else's shoes, he would certainly be much worse off! This is why the
Sages tell us that a wealthy person is one who is happy with his portion -
using the language "portion" quite intentionally. That which each of us
has, is apportioned.
Thus whenever we find ourselves in difficult situations, even those capable
of causing great pain and anguish, we should not permit them to break us -
for just the opposite, whatever we receive is for our benefit, so we should
realize that we will profit from these tests like all others.
Obviously it takes a person on a high spiritual level to truly feel this
way about every situation. But every person can take comfort in recognizing
that G-d never abandons us, never leaves us in difficult times - and quite
the opposite, we often feel G-d's closeness during the greatest trials.
And, says the Chofetz Chaim, if a person is able to pass through such tests
and not despair, this will stand as living testimony to that individual's
trust and reliance on G-d's limitless love, care, and ability to help us.
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis,
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.