Call for action! Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Sunday, 17 March, 2024 - 4:55 am

For the joyous month of Adar, let me start off with a joke.

A young man asked an old rich man how he made his money.

The old guy fingered his wool vest and said, “Well, son, it was 1932, the depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel.

I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.

The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 pm for 20 cents. I continued this system for a week, by the end of which I’d accumulated a fortune of $6.40.

Then my wife’s lost long great uncle died and left us two million dollars.”

The ‘moral’ of the joke?

Sometimes it’s not really our efforts that are at the source of our wealth, rather it’s someone else’s hard work that we were gifted with.

I used this in my Shabbat speech at Synagogue last week in connection with the special reading about the half shekel that was given by every Jew as a donation to the construction of the Temple. 

Fast forward from the story of Pesach (Exodus from Egypt) to the story of Purim which took place almost a thousand years later in Persia. 

When Haman offered Achashverosh ten thousand talents of silver to the royal coffers for permission to kill all the Jews in his kingdom, Hashem said ‘you wicked person, their silver shekels already preceded and preempted your silver shekels’.

In other words, the instruction of giving a half shekel in the year 2448 from creation was the mitzvah that averted the Haman scheme of annihilation of the Jews some 950 years later.

Think about the incredibleness of it. A half shekel was a modest amount and was required to be given by poor and rich alike. Who would have imagined that a mitzvah done so many years back would be the spiritual power needed to generate the miracle of Purim.

Makes you stop to wonder about how powerful our actions are. Not just in our lifetime but for our future progeny.

I spoke about this at the Friday night Shabbat meal last week. At Shabbat lunch, one of our overseas visitors shared how proud she was of the fact that she has three sons who are rabbis. Indeed it is quite something to be proud of, a source of Jewish ‘naches’ (nachat).

As we were chatting over lunch she also shared the following story:

My father was a soldier in the British army during WWII. As he was about to be sent to the Far East, his commanding officer suggested that he remake his army issued identity disc that bore a J indicating that he was Jewish. His officer explained that the Japanese were allies of the Germans and it would be prudent to take off the J. My father responded, ‘The J represents that I am one of G-d’s children. He has protected me till now, and when I head off to battle, I am even more eager to have His protection. I will keep my disc with the J’.

As the lunch progressed, our London guests shared another story from the war years. This time she shared a story from her mother’s childhood during The Blitz (the German bombing campaign against London in 1940-1).

My mother was a young girl and was part of the evacuation of children to rural areas of England. My grandmother accompanied my mother to settle her in. On Sunday morning they awoke to a smell that was unfamiliar. Upon going downstairs to the kitchen, the mother saw that the smell came from frying bacon. She decided then and there that she was not going to leave her daughter in an environment that could have very wide-reaching consequences and they returned home to London.

While the stories were told without connection to each other, I see a pattern in these stories. They both speak of determination and unyielding commitment to the point of sacrifice. 

All of a sudden it dawned on me that maybe this connected to the theme I had conveyed in my speech on Friday night about the impact of the shekel many generations later.

Could it possibly be that these acts of valor by the grandparents and great grandparents are the spiritual ‘wealth’ that came to this family by inheritance?

To think this way is quite humbling. It means acknowledging that it may not be to my credit that I am the way I am. The power and blessings for what we do may be sourced in the holy and brave deeds of our grandparents and ancestors.

It is also quite inspiring and empowering to think that our deeds have the potential to reverberate and impact future generations even without knowing it.

It’s a call to action.

Next time you think about being too lazy to do a good deed, try to evaluate how much worth it may have to your grandchildren’s grandchildren. 

The next major holiday coming up is Chag Purim (evening of 23 and entire day of 24 of March).

The story of the Megilah is read every single year. To remind us to be grateful to Hashem for saving us then. And we must read it as a contemporary story as well. Hashem is making miracles for us now as well. 

We exchange food gifts so that the joy is shared with everyone in the community.

Monetary gifts are given to the poor so that they too should be able to full partake of the festivities.

And of course, a festive meal. A Purim feast.

These are the four Purim Mitzvahs.

Click here for more information and for instructions on how to fulfil the mitzvahs the way they were instructed. 

In the meantime, Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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