Rabbi Label Lam
Closer to the Source
And Hashem said to Moshe; "Behold I shall rain down to you food from heaven;
let the people go out and pick each day's portion on its day so that I can
test them, whether they will follow my teaching or not."(Shemos 16:5)
What's the big test about the manna? After it falls every day we know with
certainty and confidence that we are on a definite meal plan. As Alfred E.
Newman said, "What, us worry?"
The Mishna of Yoma discusses the laws of Yom Kippur and outlines the
procedure of the famous scapegoat whose destiny and purpose it was to be
thrown off the cliff in the dessert. The person leading the goat had
certain designated stops he needed to make along the way and at each tent
they told him, "We have bread and we have water." The commentaries ask; "Why
does he need to know about bread and water if it's Yom Kippur, a fast day
and he's forbidden to eat?" The answer is that because it is a fast day and
he is heading out to the dessert where there is no food and water he might
get more and more hungry knowing that he's getting farther and farther from
a food source. When they tell him that there is food and drink available
they are helping to lessen his appetite. This psychological concept is known
as "bread in the basket". We generally feel more secure and we are less
hungry when we have real food on hand.
The Sanzer Rav, however, used to empty his house of money every night before
going to sleep, distributing whatever was there to the local poor before
retiring. One night, he was disturbed from his sleep. He searched the house
and found that someone (his wife) had hid some money in a jar. He
immediately went out and found a poor person to give the money to and was
able to sleep that night.
The Chovos Halevavos, in The Gate of Humility, tells us that wealth is a
greater test than poverty. For thousands of years, though, people have been
crying, "Test me!" It's not so easy. He writes that wealth is given for
three reasons; 1) As a reward 2) As a test. 3) As a punishment. He gives
symptoms to indicate which of the three categories our personal wealth falls
into. 1) If a person has more time to learn and resources to perform mitzvos
then the money came as a blessing. It is a reward of a mitzvah that
generates more mitzvos. 2) If the person is busy managing and maintaining
his money then it is clearly a test. He can neither spend on himself or
others. It is there to be protected and managed all day, every day. 3) If
someone becomes more indulgent and self-destructive because of wealth then
it is certainly given as a punishment.
Once in my life I bought a lottery ticket for 180 Million Dollars from a
friend who went to Florida specifically to purchase them and resell them for
a charity raffle. I went to sleep that night wondering what I would do if I
actually won. By the time my mind had finished wandering, I was totally
occupied with trying to expand the amount to meet charity and family
commitments and deeply saddened about the portion that would have to go to
the government for taxes. I was never in such a poor and needy state of mind
before in my life. The next day when I realized that I didn't win, I was
greatly relieved. I felt rich again.
Although our natural desire for security drives us to squirrel mass
quantities of blue chip nuts, the temptation to rely on that cache may lead
to a greater sense of lack. The Sanzer Rav lived as the generation of the
dessert. He went out to collect his portion of manna daily. The promise of
tomorrow's loaf was as real as "The Giver" and worth more than any crumb or
coin of today.
The whole Jewish Nation lived like the Sanzer Rav for forty years in the
dessert. Their real life experience tested them on this concept and trained
them to trust the hand that fed them daily. How many loaves, then, does one
need in the basket? How many guaranteed tomorrows do we need in the bank?
How many daily meals must be dutifully delivered to our doorstep before the
psychological need for visible security is obviated by an emerging sense
that we are moving not farther away from the food basket, as we journey,
but closer to the source.
For a free tape of Rabbi Lam on Developing trust in G-d, Parenting,
Happiness, or Belief in G-d, call Foundations at 800-700-9577.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.