My apologies from the past few weeks. The entire religious world has vacation at this point (which is thankfully ending now). We were fortunate to be offered an apartment for a week in Yerushaliyim for free. A friend of my wife’s was going to the US and wanted people in her apartment the whole time, so … we took it! It was a nice trip and very relaxing.
On my last morning there, I went to shul with a friend of mine, and lo and behold! A friend of mine, Zalmy (the name has not been changed to protect the guilty), who I haven’t seen in 12 years or so, was at the same minyan! So, right after davening, I confirm with my friend that that was indeed Zalmy; and after he confirmed it, I went up to Zalmy, stuck out my hand, palm down, clearly showing him that he was supposed to kiss my hand.
He looked at me and in Hebrew said, “Yes??”
I responded in English, “You’re supposed to kiss it”
He responded back in English, “I’m sorry?”
“Zalmy, it’s me Michael Winner”
To which, of course, he responded, “I’m sorry, but my name is not Zalmy … It’s Yisroel”
At that point I realized that I was dealing with Zalmy’s doppelganger (yeah, I know fancy English). I turned to my friend and cried, “You said he was Zalmy!”, to which he responded, “I thought you asked something else!”
What an embarrassment. After a secondary, and real introduction, it turns out that he’s married to a sister of a friend of mine here in the north. So, we all got a good laugh. And maybe if Zalmy hears this story one day, he will as well.
Okay, I had a thought, though it was not from this week’s parsha. It was from two weeks ago, and since I’m writing this, I can say it.
The Torah goes on to explain all the brachos the Jewish nation will see when they arrive in Eretz Yisroel. One of the promises is that they will eat from fields they did not plant, drink wine from vineyards that they did not grow, and live in homes that they did not build (I don’t have a chumash in front of me, so no quotes today).
I always had a question on this bracha, especially after spending a week in somebody else's apartment. Is it not natural for a person to have more enjoyment from something that he himself worked for rather than something that he was given? Especially something that was built by and FOR somebody else!
So, I gave some thought to it and I think I have a possible answer.
We know some people who, thank G-d, don’t have to worry about income. Somebody else bought them an apartment, maybe a car, and continue to give them help. My wife and I, on the other hand, never did receive help like that. We both work and are careful with our spending. And frankly, yes, we’re human, it’s hard to see others getting such things for free.
However, on one hand, because we don’t get free things, there are many brachos that come along. We’re not “attached” to the will of others, for example. We have also learned how to push ourselves when balancing work, learning, and family.
But, perhaps the Torah is teaching us something different here. Yes, it’s true, when a person works for something, he appreciates it more. But maybe Hashem is telling us that, on a higher level, when it comes to things in this world, everything comes from Him; nothing is really "earned," but is "received" from Hashem. Some people have to work harder to receive it, but it’s not really the work that causes physical benefit, but really it’s Hashem. We all know plenty of people who work very hard, yet that have very little to show for that work.
So, whether a person receives something for free or works for it, in the end, it’s all a gift from Hashem, and it should be used and enjoyed, no matter how it was given.
However, we don’t see any such thing regarding spiritual matters. There are no "gifts." Yes, some people are given physical gifts such as good memory and good mind, etc., but their spiritual level is completely dependent on what they themselves put into it. There is no “Go to Heaven for Free” card.
So, in this world, each person needs to do whatever they need to make ends meet. However, they must also acknowledge that, in the end, it’s not their effort that results in brachos, but simply Hashem’s will. Yet, regarding spiritual matters, everything is dependent on what you put into it.
With that, I wish you a wonderful Shabbos!