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DO YOU TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED?

DO YOU TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED?

Friday, 30 May, 2014 - 9:37 am

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom, or beauty.

Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.

"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning.

Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light.

One of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."

The dean sighs and says, "I should have taken the money."

If you have ever been to the synagogue during the Priestly Blessing, you know it is a unique moment. The kohen (priest) removes his shoes and approaches the podium, his face hidden behind his prayer shawl. He extends his hands towards the congregation, fingers parted and palms stretched outwards. He waits, in anticipation of the holy moment. Those in the congregation hide behind their own prayer shawls to avoid gazing directly upon the kohen, for the divine presence rests upon the kohen during this time.

Prompted by the cantor, the kohen intones the sacred words of the blessing recorded in this week’s portion, Naso:

May G-d bless you and keep you. May G-d shine his countenance upon you and may he be gracious to you. May G-d show favor to you, and may He give you peace.”

The Talmud records a most fascinating dialogue between G-d and the angels on one line of the priestly blessings—“May G-d show favor to you:”

Master of the Universe! The angels lamented. It is written in Your Torah, “I am G-d who does not show favoritism nor accepts bribes”, but in fact, as it is written,” The Lord shall show favor towards you?”  G-d replied: And shall I not favor Israel, for in my Torah I wrote “And you shall eat, be satiated and bless the Lord, your G-d;” yet they are particular to say grace after meals even if the quantity is but an olive, or but an egg!

We are struck here by a number of questions. Including this: G-d could have chosen any mitzvah where Jews go beyond the norm to explain His favoritism toward them. Why does G-d choose this particular mitzvah of the sages to give benediction after eating bread in the size of an olive?

Sometimes we enjoy abundant blessings in life to the point of satiation. Then it is not a big deal to express gratitude to G-d. Yet, sometimes in life, we are only given an “olive” or an “egg.” We feel that we are lacking so much. Can we still be grateful at such moments or do we become despondent and bitter?

This is what G-d was telling the angels: Even when the Jew only has an “olive” or an ‘egg” he still looks up and says: “Thank you, G-d!”

This is for two reasons: 1) We never take anything for granted. We know the truth that we don’t deserve anything and everything and anything we have is a gift. 2) G-d loves us and whatever He gives us is exactly what we need at this very moment of our lives.

Since this type of loyalty and dedication we show to G-d is reciprocated in His endless love toward the people of Israel, beyond natural considerations.

It’s a glorious summer day.

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away.

As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars.”

The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.”

He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers.

As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.”

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s house.

G-d says: my dear children, by attaining satisfaction from your noble acts of excessive kindness, I too must respond by showering you with excessive kindness as well.

Shabbat Shalom and happy new month of Sivan,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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