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The Rabbi Writes

The Rabbi Writes



November 22, 2018
By Rabbi Yossie Denburg

Talmud: Only after all creatures had been formed did G-d create Man, to teach him that if becomes too proud, he should remember that even the gnats flying around the garbage preceded him.

Simple question: Of all the creatures why choose the example of a fly? Why not a pig or any other animal? Why contrast the human to the tiny, two-winged fly that resembles a mosquito?

Unrelated: Ever float in the Dead Sea? It is a surreal experience. As you may know, the Dead Sea is not a sea, it’s actually a lake. It’s so salty nothing can live in it. It is 35% salt, almost 10 times normal ocean water. So it contains no fish or vegetation; hence its name.

About 70 miles north is a lake, the Sea of the Galilee, also known as the Kineret. Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is extremely pretty. It is full of life, resplendent with colorful fish - over thirty different types and diverse vegetation.  Here is the interesting part.  Both lakes receive their water from the same source, the Jordan River. And yet they are very different.

It’s a puzzle. Located in the same region and from the same source; yet one is full of life and the other is dead. How could one river create such different lakes!

Back to our gnat: There is something unique to this specific bug. It never goes to the bathroom. Every other creature eats, and does what it has to do. But the gnat is מכניס ואינו מוציא. It just sucks blood in. Similarly the Dead Sea; it is so far below sea level it has no outlet.  The Jordan flows in, but nothing flows out. So its water just evaporates leaving it too salty for any life.

It is better to be a Kineret than a gnat. Because if we don’t learn to share, we could end up like the Dead Sea. Our blessings and successes will all evaporate. Simply put: To live is to give!

That is why a selfish person is inferior to this lowly fly. The gnat is fulfilling his created purpose of being self-absorbed. That is what G-d wanted him to be.  But what about me, a human being? Is my mission statement to sip fine wine or guzzle down a cold beer? NO! We were not created to be a gnat, but to care for others, because to live is to give.

This week, I had the merit of reaching out to hundreds of givers. One of our educational institutions, the HEBREW ACADEMY COMMUNITY SCHOOL hosted its annual match-a-thon. When asked to contribute, they said YES!  They know that giving is the secret to living.  In fact the Biblical word that epitomizes giving/ונתנו, hints to this phenomena. Look at the word carefully. It’s a palindrome, which is a word or phrase that reads the same forward and reversed. An example would be, “Was it a cat I saw”.

When G-d commanded each Jew to donate a half shekel coin to the Temple, the verse states that, “They shall give/ונתנו a soul’s atonement.” Now spell out the Hebrew letters in either direction, and the exact same word appears.  The Baal Haturim (Roman Empire 1269 – Toledo, 1343) elaborates:  What a person gives to charity will come back to him. When you give, you receive. Indeed your own life depends on it.

Some are afraid to give, worried that if they don’t save enough, one day they might have nothing left for themselves.  So the Torah tells the Jew ונתנוּ! G-d promises that if you give, He will give back to you. Not only will giving not deplete you, it is your life-line.

Our culture has become so obsessed with self, that we become suspicious of anyone who wants to share with us. We mistakenly assume that there must be some ulterior motive; no one understands this fallacy better than a parent. Our whole life is giving to our child. And when we do, we are better for it and are lives are enriched…because to live is to give.

If your time on this earth is spent as a gnat - taking but not giving - you may be breathing and blood might be coursing through your veins but you are not alive. You are merely existing! A happy parent gives, a vibrant lake gives, a proud supporter of Jewish education gives…and in return G-d gives back to us even more.

This Sunday and Monday (in 25 hours) 584 donors and 6 matchers gave $270,000 to the HEBREW ACADEMY Scholarship Fund. We are alive!