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Thursday, 28 May, 2015 - 11:54 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."

We have all experienced "would've, could've, should've." Why do we do this to ourselves? What can we do to live more balanced and happier lives?

The Priestly blessing recorded in this week’s portion, Naso, reads as follows: “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 dialogue between G-d and the angels about the last line—“May G-d show favor to you”:

Rabbi Avira taught: The ministering angels said before G-d: “Master of the Universe! It is written in Your Torah, 'Who does not show favoritism nor accepts bribes,' but it is written in this blessing, '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!”

The Talmud is referring here to a unique quality that defines the Jewish attitude to life.

Sometimes we enjoy abundant blessings in life. We are given all that we need to the point of satiation. Then, it is not a big deal to express gratitude to G-d. Yet, sometimes, 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 a Jew only has an “olive” or an “egg” he still looks up and says: “Thank you, G-d!”

There are two reasons for this: 1) We never take anything for granted. We know the truth is that we don’t deserve anything, and everything 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 “the face we show the water, the water reflects back to us,” 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.

The Chatam Sofer was not a wealthy man. At various times throughout his life he struggled for his livelihood, and he lived in a very austere manner. Yet, when he visited one of his contemporaries, whom he held in great esteem, during a meal, and observed the dire poverty in which this man lived, he was astounded. Rabbi Dovid Deitsch was a pauper living in squalor, and his poverty could be seen even in the dire cutlery he used. Both Rabbi Dovid’s spoon and the plate he ate from were made of simple wood found in the forest. The distinguished guest could not fathom the destitution in which this great man lived. He stared at the spoon and even took it in his hand to examine it.

However, it never dawned upon Rabbi Dovid that he was in a dire state and that his guest pitied him. To him, using a plain wooden spoon was perfectly normal. Rabbi Dovid was happy with his lot to the extent that he was willing to give away his measly spoon to his friend, and did not even entertain the notion that he was so direly destitute. In his perception, he was satiated.

Imagine: It’s a glorious summer day, and we decide to go on a picnic. We pack up a delicious lunch and travel to a picture-perfect spot by a lake. The children frolic and play together. Adults stroll by the waterfront, breathing in the fresh air. Birds sing, and a soft breeze lovingly complements the warm sunshine. An occasional cloud drifts by, a small island in the deep blue sky. 
You unpack the wicker-basket lunch of homemade breads, salads, meats, fruits, and drinks. The picnic table is spread with a red and white gingham cloth. Matching napkins adorn every plate. 
But wait—something is missing! You frantically search the lunch basket, turning it over, shaking it furiously. “The mustard! We forgot to pack the mustard!” You collapse, devastated. The picnic is ruined. Who can enjoy a picnic of meats without mustard? You pack up and head for home.

Crazy? Of course! But this is what some of us do every day. Each morning when we wake up, G-d has given us back our souls. We can breathe, think, move, feel. We are sheltered, and we have food. We have family, and we have friends. Yet we spend so much time worrying, being anxious, and complaining—about not having as much as others, the weather, the guy in front of us who’s driving too slowly, the noisy neighbors, a local politician....

We are all looking for the mustard. Instead of counting our blessings and appreciating all that we have, we are continually focusing on what we don’t have.

Imagine someone offered you 5 million dollars for one of your eyes. What would you say? Forget it! But think for a moment. If you wouldn’t give up one eye for 5 million dollars, that means you are walking around every day with at least 10 million dollars!

We all have our “I would be happy if…” stories. “I would be happy if I met the right person… bought my own house… got a promotion… won the lottery…” 
But G-d wants us to be happy right now. We are to take pleasure in all that we have, whether it is a lot or a little. If you are not happy with your portion in life, then it doesn’t matter how much is in your bank account. It will never be enough. You can be a miserable millionaire.

Don’t let your desire for the mustard blind you to the beauty and richness all around you, every moment, every day.

Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and appreciate that you've woken up to another day. For many, the journey ended before you woke up. Be thankful for what you have. Quit blaming others. Take a bit more responsibility for things in your life. Nobody owes us anything. Take a bit of time for inward reflection; it does wonders for the soul. Learn how to celebrate what you have and all G-d has given to you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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