Thursday, November 11, 2010

What are YOU doing?

Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik was the rabbi of the town of Slutsk. Once, he happened to meet a young man who had been one of his students at the yeshiva in Volozhin. The meeting was very cordial and the rabbi invited the young man to dine with him at his home.

"What are you doing these days?" the rabbi inquired.

"Thank G-d," the former student replied, "I have become a merchant and I'm very successful. In the past few years I have done very well for myself, and I'm making a very comfortable living."

The rabbi looked at his former student, paying close attention to his words and then said asked, "What are you doing?"

The young man was perplexed. Hadn't the rabbi understood him? He repeated his explanation.

Instead of acknowledging his statement, however, the rabbi only repeated, "What are you doing now?"

"I hope the rabbi will forgive my asking" said the young man, "but three times the rabbi has asked me what I'm doing and I have answered him. I don't understand."

The rabbi replied with a deep sigh: "It is correct that you have answered my question three times over, but your answer is not the one I was hoping to hear. In so far as you have accumulated money, that is nothing to your credit, for it all belongs to G-d, as it says, "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold." It is He who gives you riches, health, and in fact, your very life.
"When I ask you "What are you doing?" I am referring to your good deeds, which are wholly your own. Do you give tzedaka (charity)? Are you kind to your fellow man? Do you devote a set time every day to the study of Torah? These are the only things in this world which are truly your own possessions which you accomplish through your efforts alone.
I am asking you what you are doing, not what G-d is doing for you!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To FEEL for the poor...

A number of years ago, there lived a very rich Jewish miser. When the local rabbi would come to him to collect funds for the poor, the miser would invite the rabbi in, offer the rabbi a tea and talk about his business. When the rabbi would start talking about the plight of the poor people in the winter, the miser would brush him off and tell him that poor people like to complain--it wasn't all as bad as the rabbi thought. The miser would then escort the rabbi to the door, go back to his warm room and settle down near the fireplace.

The rabbi was not pleased. The poor had no money for food or for stove-wood; they were hungry and cold.

One evening, the rabbi knocked on the rich miser's door. It was a cold and miserable night, snow and sleet blew through the streets. The miser asked the rabbi in, as usual. But this time, the rabbi refused. He stood by the door and inquired after the miser's health, and after the health of his family, and asked him about his business, and spoke about affairs of the community. The miser had come to the door dressed in a thin shirt and slippers and he was getting cold. The rabbi, wearing a warm coat with a fur lining and heavy winter boots talked on and on. "No thank you", he repeated each time to miser's numerous invitations to enter. And the miser got colder and colder, his toes were freezing, his teeth were chattering, his---

Suddenly the miser understood. "Oh, Rabbi!" he cried, "Those poor people with no warm clothes or firewood for winter.... I never imagined it could be like this. This is horrible. You are right-something must definitely be done!!"

He went into the house and returned with a purse full of gold coins. The rabbi took the money with a grateful smile and thanked him. This year, the poor people would have a good winter.

And the miser? He sure learned a good lesson that night and became a regular contributor to the rabbi's funds for the poor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cow Who Kept Shabbos..

There was once a Jew who owned a cow with which he plowed his field. Unfortunately, this Jew became impoverished and was forced to sell his cow. His buyer was not Jewish.

The new owner plowed with the cow all throughout the week, quite satisfied with her labor. When Shabbat arrived, however, and he took her out to the field, the cow kneeled under the yoke and refused to do any work. He yelled, he cajoled, hit her with his whip, but still she would not budge from her place.

The furious man stormed over to the Jew: "Take back your cow! All week I worked with her, but today I took her out to the field and the lazy animal refuses to do anything! "

The Jew calmed the irate owner and said: "Come with me, and I will get her to plow." When they arrived at the field where the cow lay, the Jew spoke into her ear. "Oh Cow, Cow! When you were in my domain, you rested on Shabbat. But now that I sold you to this gentile, please, stand up and do the will of your master!"

Immediately, the cow stood, prepared to work. Said the gentile to the Jew: "I'm not letting you go until you tell me what you did and what you said to her. Have you bewitched her?" The Jew repeated what he said to the cow.

When the man heard this, he was shaken and astonished. Said he: "If this creature, which has neither language or intelligence, recognizes her Creator, should not I, whom G‑d created in His image and imbued me with intelligence and understanding?"

So he went and converted to Judaism and merited to study Torah. A righteous scholar, he became known as Yochanan ben Torta, "Yochanan son of the Cow".

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Joy is central to the service of G-d. The happiness with which one performs a mitzvah shows that we truly comprehend the tremendous privilege that serving the King of kings constitutes. Indeed, the Arizal, master Kabbalist, once asserted that the gates of wisdom and divine inspiration were opened for him only as a reward for his observance of mitzvot with tremendous, boundless joy.

In truth, all a person does – eating, sleeping, business, and etc – can be part of his Divine service, provided that they are done with the proper intentions. As such, the injunction to "serve G-d with joy" actually applies to all times and all situations.

For a joyful person, the toughest tasks are a breeze. For a depressed person, on the other hand, even simple challenges seem overwhelming. Victory in the lifelong battle fought against one's temptations is largely dependent on constantly maintaining a joyous disposition.

* Consider G-d's unfathomable greatness.
* Appreciate how small and insignificant you are by comparison.
* Contemplate on how He loves and cherishes you.
* Consider how, when you do a mitzvah, you cause Him to dwell with us here in our world.
* Recognize that all that transpires is part of G-d's plan, and that G-d is in control.
* Understand that no evil could emanate from G-d—for He is entirely good.
* Feel secure in the knowledge that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, and Someone is looking out for you

Let a sense of purpose lend bounce to your step, as you go about your daily activities.