do you have a rich father?

Friday, 14 August, 2015 - 7:19 am

Here is a favorite story of mine:

A Meshulach (a Jew who collects money for Torah institutions and other worthy causes) was going around raising funds in a Jewish community abroad. Among other people he approached was a rich Jew who was known to welcome everyone warmly. It was also known that this person had not earned his money – rather, everything he had came from his father, who worked hard all his life and, with G-d’s help, became rich. The man indeed welcomed the Meshulach in and even gave him a $100 bill.

At the end of his trip, the Meshulach also visited the father of that rich man, and asked him, too, for a donation. The father welcomed him warmly, and gave him a $50 bill. The Meshulach couldn’t help asking him the following question: “Your son, who owes everything he has to you, gave me $100, and you give me only $50?”

“My son gives more,” answered the father, “because he has a rich father. I, on the other hand, do not have a rich father.”


So what do I like about this story?

It has the two extremes that exist in a man’s work in his life in general, and in the Jew’s lifelong service of his Creator in particular.

I always wonder – what’s better? To work hard for everything one has, for then everything one acquires has special value because of the sweat and labor involved in acquiring it, or to receive everything readymade, easily, and use it wisely and well?

Like with everything in life, one needs a little bit of each type of experience, and the most important thing is to maintain the proper balance between them.

This coming Shabbat we will be noting the beginning of the month of Elul – Rosh Chodesh Elul. This is the month of mercy and forgiveness, but also a month of sincere and real account-taking. The Rebbe explains that the Pasuk (verse) from Shir Hashirim, “Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li (I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine)” is the best definition of this month.

On one hand there is the aspect of “I am my Beloved’s” – in other words, one’s own personal labor, from the bottom up; the work in which man makes his best efforts to come closer to his Father in Heaven (the Beloved). On the other hand there is “my Beloved is mine” – in other words, Hashem (the Beloved) endows man with light and abundance that enable him to rise, to become holy and to reach spiritual levels that he never would have reached on his own.


The secret to this process lies in the proper balance between the two types of effort, because only when they are working together – in the form of “Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li” – do they create the famous acronym: the word Elul.



Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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