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AN OPEN HAND AND AN OPEN HEART

AN OPEN HAND AND AN OPEN HEART

Thursday, 4 December, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Dear Friend,

Mark Ginsberg never pays his bills, especially not during this time of recession. Recently his friend saw him bargaining with a supplier‫.
 
"Hey, Ginsberg," Goldberg asks him, why are you knocking that man's prices down ? You're never going to pay him anyway‫.
 
Listen, answers Ginsberg, he is a nice chap. I just want to keep down his losses‫!
 
The weekly portion Reeh states what has become one of the corner stones of Jewish life from the most secular to the most religious:
 
“If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking… Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your G-d will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. The Rabbis, have wondered what is the meaning of the expression “You shall open your hand to him?” The Torah has already stated clearly, “you shall not harden your heart… you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.” That seems as clear as can be: Don’t close your heart. Give money to the needy. Obviously, in order to give, you got to open your hand!
I want to share with you two answers.
 
Many people do not close their hearts. In their mind and in their heart they believe in giving, they feel for giving, they tell others to give. But they just can’t open their hand and let go. In the last “stop” the money gets stuck somehow. The buck passes through their mind, it passes through their heart; it even passes through their accountant and secretary. But when it has to pass through their actual hands—that is where the buck stops!
 
The Torah, so acutely aware of human nature, cautions us: It is not enough to open your heart. It is not enough to want to give. Rather, you need to “open your hands”—just let it go. Why?
 
Here we come to a deeper interpretation.
 
There is lovely Midrash, in which the great sage, Rabbi Meir, engages the following observation of Ecclesiastes: “As one came naked from his mother’s womb he will return as he came and will take nothing of his toil with him…so what is the good of his toiling…?
 
Said Rabbi Meir:  When one comes into the world his hands are clenched as if to say: the whole world is mine and I will inherit it.  And when one takes leave of the world his hands are open, as if to say:  I have not taken from this world a single thing.
 
There is a story about a greedy man, who becomes obsessed with owning land. Finally he is introduced to a family owning enormous quantities of land who gives him an unusual offer: for a sum of one thousand dollars you can walk around as large an area as he wants, starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. He has all day to cover by foot as much territory as he would like. If he reaches his starting point by sunset that day, the entire area of land his route encloses will be his!
 
The man is delighted, as he believes that he can cover a great distance and has chanced upon the bargain of a lifetime. At the end of this day he will finally achieve richness.
 
The man is excited beyond words. "These idiots," he thinks, "don't even know how much land they will be forfeiting today." His journey begins. He tries to cover as much land as possible, not content with what he already has. He goes on, more and more and more and more. He begins to run, and run faster and faster, another mile, another mile. In his glittering imagination he sees all this land belonging to him.
 
As the sun nearly sets, he realizes his error… He covered so much ground from the starting point, but he has to get back to the starting point. Oy vey, only a few minutes left. He runs back as fast as he can to the waiting family. He never ran so swiftly in his life. He finally arrives at the starting point just as the sun sets. He made it. The family cheers his good fortune, but exhausted from the run, he falls and drops dead.
 
They bury him in an ordinary grave only five feet long, and that is the land he ends up with: a 5x2 plot of land.
 
This is the deeper meaning in the words of the verse:
 
“You shall not close your hand. Torah is explaining do not think that if you do not give, you will be safer and secured in our instable world. “Because one day you will open your hand.” One day we all have to leave this world and we take nothing, absolutely nothing. Our hands are left open. We let everything slip away. We can’t even take our shoes or our iPhones.  What then is the real value of our life? The love and the money we have given to help and inspire others.
 
In life, the Torah is telling us, you got to give and give and give. Don’t be stingy with your love, your kindness, your wisdom and your resources. Love people. Embrace souls. Touch hearts. Distribute kindness. Give money. Give encouragement, inspiration, offer assistance, do favors. For that is the only real thing that matters in life. Everything else is temporary. Everything else is important but short lived. What we truly own is that which we share with others. Treasure your relationships far more than your possessions.
 
What is life? An opportunity to love and to give. And to love and give more.
 
This Shabbat we are blessing the last month of this year the moth of Elul is an acronym, “Eish Lereiehu Umatanos Laevyomim,” giving love to our friends and gifts to the poor. For as we conclude a year, we want to ensure that we shift our focus from a clinched fist to an open hand and an open heart.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky
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