Why did you sell the stocks?

Friday, 18 June, 2021 - 2:50 am

 The story is told about a rich Jew who chose a learned husband for his daughter. The agreement between son-in-law and father-in-law was that the son-in-law would learn Torah all day, and the father-in-law would transfer a respectable stock portfolio to his name. “Once a month,” said the father-in-law, “call the banker to hear what’s new, but don’t sell anything. Just sit and learn Torah.” The son-in-law agreed to these terms.

Two months later, the father-in-law discovered that the young man had given an order to sell the entire portfolio. Both surprised and angry, he called him up: “Why did you break the agreement? Why did you sell the stocks?”

“I spoke with the banker, as you told me to,” replied the son-in-law, “and whenever I asked him questions, at the end of every answer he would add, ‘and with G-d’s help Mashiach will come soon.’ My dear father-in-law, do you understand that when I heard a banker praying for the coming of the Mashiach, I understood that I should sell everything, the sooner the better?...”

This is not a joke; this is reality. For many of us the blessing or the yearning for the coming of Mashiach just makes us smile, or is considered unrealistic. Since we started our Shlichut in Basel, when people ask us the inevitable question, “So are you here for a limited amount of time, or for life?” we answer: “For a limited time – only until Mashiach comes.” And then they smile at us politely, and ask again: “But, seriously, are you here for a limited period or are you staying here for good?”

The Rambam in the Halachas of the Para Aduma (Red Heifer), which we read this week as part of Parashat Chukat, says: “Nine Red Heifers were prepared from the time [Moshe Rabbeinu] was commanded regarding this Mitzvah, until the destruction of the Second Temple. The first was prepared by Moshe Rabbeinu, the second was prepared by Ezra and then seven [more] until the destruction of the Temple. And the tenth – the Melech Hamashiach will make, may he be revealed soon, Amen, may it be [Hashem’s] will.”

Friends, the Rambam was not joking about the Mashiach. He, who is viewed by all as a rational Jewish scholar, when he wrote about the coming of the Mashiach, immediately added, with yearning: “May he be revealed soon, Amen, may it be [Hashem’s] will.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe, when learning this Halacha, wondered how blessings and yearnings connect to a dry Halacha book? In articles and sermons and when praying it is suitable to write and hope for the speedy revelation etc., but to have such a thing in a Halacha book, and, moreover, one written by the Rambam? How could it be?

Maimonides, said the Rebbe, wrote it in the Halacha book in order to teach us something about the Halachas of awaiting the Mashiach, and that is that when the topic of the future Redemption comes up in conversation or in learning, it is expected of the believing Jew that strong feelings of expectation and looking forward to the Redemption should arise within his heart, and as a result he will immediately burst out with “May he be revealed soon, Amen, may it be [Hashem’s] will.”

“For Your salvation we hope all day,” so have Jews prayed three times a day for thousands of years already. There is meaning and intention behind every word.

Shabbat Shalom and Mashiach Now,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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