“business card”

Friday, 31 March, 2017 - 8:01 am


Dear Friends,

A great variety of issues have come to my door this week, from technical matters such as “Abba, the computer refuses to turn on,” through questions about the laws of Pesach, all the way to really essential matters such as Shalom Bayit (marital harmony) and child education. Baruch Hashem, there are wise people around me, and I can consult with them in order to be sure that I am giving the best answer possible.

I would like to share with you a conversation I had with a diamond merchant who was in Basel this week for the Diamond Show. I met him for the first time in Bet Chabad on Shabbat, waiting on line for the Cholent, and one of the days this week, after the Maariv services held at the show, he asked me to come to his office for a moment.

He had a classic question. His son will soon be ten years old and he wanted to know which Parasha will be his bar mitzvah Parasha. Looking self-important, I took out my iPhone, went into the bar mitzvah date calculation page of the Basel Chabad House website, and found the name of the Parasha. I then noticed that he was speaking of the bar mitzvah with much excitement, so I asked him: “What’s the rush? He’s not yet ten years old.”

“Listen, Zalmen,” he replied, “my wife and I waited many years for this child. We went through many difficult and expensive treatments. He is a child produced by prayers. I want him to start preparing as soon as possible, because he has to read the entire Parasha and the Haftara. He will read like an adult; I will find the best teacher for him.”

“What a lovely business card you have,” I said to him.

“What is special about it?” he asked, pulling one of them out of his pocket. “It’s printed on plain card paper.”

“Not the paper,” I said. “Your son, your lovely son, the child who is the result of prayers – he is your “business card”. It’s probably not easy for him to carry this burden.”

Silence reigned for a while. I saw that he understood exactly what I was telling him. After a few more moments I added, “Listen, my friend. I’m speaking from experience. I too find myself handling my children as if they are my business cards and then I demand and expect that they will do things that will add to my honor and pleasure, instead of doing things myself that will add honor and pleasure to my life.”

He is a big person, somewhat rough, direct and rather witty, but at that moment he melted, as it were, and said quietly, “Poor kid. It’s not his fault that we love him so much…”

Parashat Vayikra speaks of the offerings: “When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem…” The Chassidic teachings tell us that a person should bring himself as an offering, give of himself. Too many times we tend to offer up others on the altar of our dreams. With Pesach coming, it would be right to recalculate our route and examine who is offering whom, and on which altar.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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