Give and Take

Friday, 28 February, 2020 - 6:15 am

 There isn’t any Israeli who hasn’t heard about Yehuda Barkan – famous Israeli actor, producer and director of the 1980’s. At the beginning of the 1990’s, during the Gulf War, he produced a film, but it failed to earn money – people were afraid to leave their homes because of the Scud missiles that Saddam Hussein was sending, and when a movie doesn’t earn money, it leaves debts.

Yehuda Barkan tells how he found himself owing about 24 million shekels, some of them borrowed on what is known in Israel as “the grey market” (unofficial loans at high interest rates), with all the consequences of that. At the same time some family problems landed on him one after the other, and all these lead him to think of, literally, ending his life.

But there was one moment that saved him. It was a Friday. Yehuda was thinking his suicidal thoughts, and suddenly there was a knock at the door. Yehuda opened the door and saw a man on crutches, asking for 200 shekels in order to buy supplies for Shabbat for his family. “Why did you come to me?” asked Yehuda. And the man answered: “I thought of who could help me, opened the Yellow Pages of Nes Tziona, where we live, and when I reached the letter ‘b’ I saw your name. I thought: You are certainly a wealthy man – you’re a famous actor! And here I am, asking you for 200 shekels, so I can put food on my table for my children for Shabbat.”

It seems that even if a person has over 24 million shekels of debt, he still has 200 shekels in his pocket. Yehuda gave him the money and understood immediately what his heart felt – that this person had just saved his life. Hashem sent him a man on crutches and 200 shekels in order to tell him that he is still needed in the world – someone requires his help.

In other words, he gave 200 shekels and got his life in return.

Parashat Terumah, which we will read this week, talks about Hashem’s command to Moshe that he should raise gold, silver and all other materials for the purpose of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Except that instead of saying “Speak to Bnei Yisrael so that they will give me a donation,” it says, “… take me a donation”. Giving and taking are not exactly the same – they are actually opposite. Why, then, does it say “they will take” instead of “they will give”?

It’s because that’s the way life is. When you give you are actually taking, receiving. Many a time – and in my experience it’s most of the time – what one receives from the giving is much greater, of greater value, more special and meaningful than what one gives. Ask Yehuda Barkan.

And it is not for nothing that the word “natan” can be read in both directions.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Comments on: Give and Take
There are no comments.