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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

G-d always butters your bread

Daf Yomi Kesubos 67                                                            

I recently served as the rabbi-in-residence at Pesach in Valencia.   One of the dish-washers at the hotel was asking me some very intelligent questions about Judaism and I sensed that there was more to his story.  It turned out that he had been a national sales executive with a major electronics firm until the company was forced to downsize and laid off ten thousand people. 
“You’re really amazing to have the strength of mind and character to be prepared to wash dishes.  Many others would have been completely devastated at losing such a prestigious position, and unwilling to take on such a menial task,” I said to him.
“Trust me,” he replied, “I was depressed for months.  I’m only just now starting to get my life back on track.”

Concerning the mitzvah of tzedakah, the Torah declares, “Open up your hand and provide for him enough charity to make up that which is deficient to him.”
The Rabbis taught: “That which is deficient to him” means even a horse to ride upon or a servant to run errands for him (if the pauper was previously accustomed to such luxuries).  They say about Hillel the Elder that he once provided for a poor person from a noble family a horse to ride upon and a servant to run errands.  On one occasion, he could not locate a servant, so Hillel himself ran three miles for the pauper.

There was once a pauper who came to see Rava.
He asked him, “What are you accustomed to eating?”
“Fattened chicken and aged wine,” he replied.
“Aren’t you concerned for the burden on the community of having to provide you that much?” inquired the sage.
“Am I eating your food?” cried the pauper, “I’m eating the Almighty’s food!  The Psalmist declares, ‘The eyes of all gaze to You and You give them their food in His time.’ It does not state ‘in their time,’ but ‘in His time,’ which teaches that the Almighty gives each individual his livelihood according to His time.”

As they were talking, Rava’s sister, who he had not seen for thirteen years, suddenly showed up, bringing with her a fattened chicken and aged wine.
 “Look what just happened!” exclaimed Rava, “I was reproached for interrogating you.  Arise and eat!”

Listen to the incredible unwavering faith of this individual.  In ancient times, it was a mark of extraordinary wealth to be able to dine on meat and wine daily.  And unfortunately, this poor soul lost it all, to become a common beggar.   In the face of such a torrential loss, most people would go into depression and completely forsake any devotion to Heaven.  How could a benevolent G-d, Who is in control, do such a thing?  And yet, this righteous individual continued to believe that G-d is the sole provider and that he was not subject to the whims of mortal man.  He knew that it wasn’t the people who would grant his needs; they were just G-d’s messengers.

Maintaining a strong, deep relationship with the Almighty is important at all times.  But it is absolutely vital to maintain that relationship when times are tough.  Don’t go forsaking Heaven and becoming depressed when life’s got you down.  That’s precisely when you need to reach deep into the wellspring of your faith and let G-d carry you through the storm.


G-d always provides.  Sometimes it’s more evident than other times in life.  But as long as you remember ‘where your bread is buttered’ you will continue to live a spiritual existence.  May you merit the Almighty’s eternal revealed blessing and being one with Him even through your darkest hour.