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half-shekel-bliss meditation

Friday, 18 February, 2022 - 3:13 am

Dear Friend,

I met W. more than a decade ago. In Mumbai.

It was not long after the tragic terror attack that took the lives of my colleagues Rabbi Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg.

At the time, I was overseeing the Chabad branch in Mumbai and we were in the midst of renovating the womens Mikva that R’ Gabi had built.

W. was there for business. We ate our Shabbat meals together at the improvised Chabad location and I spoke about the greatness of the mitzvah of Family Purity and Mikvah.

Realizing the golden opportunity of providing funds for this special mitzvah, and realizing that Divine Providence had brought him to do (successful) business in Mumbai, W most generously undertook to pay the entire renovation expense.

It’s a decade later.

Rabbi Yisrael Kozlovsky the shliach in Mumbai, mentioned to me that he is doing an expansion and renovation of that same Mikva.

I said to myself, I should give the first ‘rights’ to this mitzvah to the one who did it a decade ago.

I reached out to W. who lives in America and told him the story.

W. responded

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for reaching out and offering me the opportunity to participate in this wonderful mitzvah. Unfortunately, I will need to take a pass as I am still not in the financial position that I once was. Bezrat  HaShem (with G-d’s help) that will change in the near future, as I have a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah again like I used to. 

May HaShem continue to bless you and give you tremendous koach (energy) to continue the wonderful work that you do for Klal Yisroel.

W

I was so touched by this heartwarming response, ‘a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah’, that I scheduled a call with W.

During our talk, W shared with me how in the last few years his business efforts don’t seem to be yielding the successful fruits that they used to. I listened empathetically and wished him all the best. W then said something that is bouncing around in my consciousness these past few days.

Rabbi, I feel that the problem is that I was trying too hard. Like with Joseph when he was in prison in Egypt.

‘It is time to leave room for G-d ’, concluded W.

Here is the lesson from Joseph that W was referring to:

Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was imprisoned alongside Pharaoh’s royal butler. Joseph befriended the butler and carefully followed his case. When the butler was exonerated, Joseph beseeched him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. The Torah informs us that the butler forgot about Joseph, causing him to languish in prison for two more years. The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler.

Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security.” The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d.

Joseph’s mistake was that he should have realized that he had no way of knowing if his attempt to have the butler intercede for him would bear fruit. For all he knew, G‑d might not have intended at all to bring about his salvation through the butler. He should have realized that while he was meant to pursue the avenue placed before him, he was not meant to rely on it for certain that this would be the avenue that G‑d will choose.

(By Rabbi Lazer Gurkov on Chabad.org click here for full article)

The message is quite clear. Sometimes we think that WE need to do everything. We stress over every single detail to the point of ‘worrying ourselves ill’ as the saying goes. We ‘believe’ misguidedly that it is solely OUR efforts that bring success. The more prowess and diligence, the more successful. The more driven and results oriented we are, the better results we will have.

W, a very successful businessman for many years, was telling me, he feels he needs to shift mindsets. He has come to the realization that he needs to deemphasize his preoccupation with ‘moving and shaking’ and overexerting.

He needs to leave room for G-d and only when he does that, honestly and authentically, the blessings will come raining down.

This message resonated very deeply with me.

Was it because our kosher meat shipment from USA became so entangled?

It should have been a simple importation of meat.

Prime USA beef. Kosher. Health certificates that are approved by the Thai FDA. All set to go.

Oops. No frozen sea containers available. (Those who are in import/export know that there is a worldwide crisis in shipping).

With no alternative options we needed to make some decisions. The meat was paid for already. There was no ‘money back on return’ option. Anyway, we needed the meat. Our freezers here in Thailand are empty and our community deserves to have the opportunity to eat kosher meat. We took a deep breath and decided to bring it over via air.

Singapore airlines cargo delivered the meat to the Thai airport.

With one ‘minor’ thing missing. The health certificates that accompanied the shipment were somehow lost.

Singapore Airlines are not known to be sloppy. Somehow though, they misplaced the documents and admitted that this was their fault. Their fault or not, the meat was now stuck. The Thai authorities were not agreeable to release the meat based on copies. They wanted the original documents. We went scrambling in different directions to see how it could be done. Perhaps since it is USA beef the US Embassy would help?

Thank G-d, we didn’t need to wait to find out.

Inexplicably after five days, the papers showed up in Singapore.

Another few days of dealing with Thai officials, back and forth ‘etc’… thank G-d the meat was released.

(Yep, we now have BEEF AND LAMB in the JCafe Kosher Shop).

Maybe that is why I was thinking about how true it is that we need to realize how critical G-d’s participation is.

Or was it because a close friend of mine traveled overseas for a medical procedure on their one-year-old child, only to have it cancelled when the otherwise healthy one year old came out ‘positive’ on the Covid test? Initially, my friend was devastated as this meant that all of their carefully thought-out plans unraveled totally.

Probably it is because this weeks Parsha so clearly spells this concept out.

The Parsha speaks about the obligation that the Jews have (during Temple times) to give a half shekel to the annual Bet Hamkidash (Holy Temple) collection.

The Torah describes the full shekel as being comprised of twenty ‘gerah’ units. Thus the half shekel would be ten ‘gerah’ units. Why then does the Torah refer to it as a HALF shekel, rather than TEN gerah’s?

Many answers have been given.

One of the lessons is, that we have two view our efforts as being but HALF. The other half comes from the Almighty.

In other words. There are two partners to the ‘dance’ of life. Hashem and the human he created.

The Creator wants the created being to do his best and try his hardest. Hashem instructs us to put forth our sincere efforts. In all aspects of life. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As I heard it put, ‘G-d doesn’t ask you to give what you DON’T have, but He does ask you to give what you DO have’.

At the same time one should always remember that whatever the human being does, is really no more than half. We are dependent on Hashem to provide His blessings and energy.

This way of thinking leads to a much more wholesome and peaceful way of life.

You don’t even need to run to the coconut trees and lapping waves of ‘the islands’. Ironically, there are many ‘stressed out’ people living on ‘the islands’.  Conversely, there are many tranquil people living in the hecticness of ‘the city’.

True tranquility comes from the mind.

It starts from belief and trust in Hashem.

Anxiety is often a product of trying to do more than your half and not leaving Hashems part for Hashem.

When you recognize that you have done your bit, and now it is time to allow Hashem to do His half, this brings the greatest peace of mind.

Actionable take away.

If you hit a spot of anxiety, try to remember this ‘half shekel’ meditation.

G-d only expects me to do half.

The other ‘half’ will come from G-d.

And while the situation does look overwhelming, I can remain peaceful and calm.

For I have done what I can about it.

G-d will do His part.

I don’t know how it will sort itself out, but I don’t need to stress about it. Rather, let me imagine myself as an onlooker, who (while being certain that it WILL work out) is curious to see how Hashem is going to handle this situation.

May you have a tranquil, peaceful and restful Shabbat.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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