Food For the Soul
Just Hold On A Little Longer
There is an interesting passage in the Parshah Behar: “If you shall say: What shall we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our produce! But I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years . . . ” (Lev. 25:20-21).
The seventh year is shemittah, a Sabbatical year; Jews are not permitted to plant or reap. After planting continually for the previous five years, the sixth year’s growth is naturally less abundant. Nevertheless, G-d assures us that this year will provide sustenance for that year, as well as for the seventh year and beyond.
Metaphorically, the seven-year shemittah cycle corresponds to the seven millennia of history. For six thousand years, we labor in preparation for the seventh millennium, the era of Moshiach that is “wholly Shabbat and tranquility.” We may wonder: “What shall we eat in the seventh year?” If the spiritual giants of earlier generations failed to bring about a perfect, tranquil world, what can possibly be expected of us?
But precisely because our spiritual resources are so meager now after so many centuries of harrowing exile, our trials and achievements are so much more meaningful—and so much more precious to G-d, Who promises to bless our efforts.
And perhaps, too, our insistence on maintaining a connection with G-d despite the ravages of our exile finally makes us realize how important this relationship is. Because often when our situation seems hopeless, when we are at our rope’s end and we still hold on, our smallest effort yields the greatest result.
From an article by Chana Weisberg
The Baal Shem Tov insisted that when you do a favor for another, there must be no strings attached and no expectations.
Of course, you want this person to become a better person, a more spiritual person, to fulfill the purpose for which this soul came to earth by learning Torah and doing mitzvahs. And of course doing someone a favor is the best way to get that happening.
But when you do a favor, it has to be just for the sake of doing a favor. Unconditional love.
And that is the only way that love can have its effect.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Mind Over Matter
Trust in G-d and Do Good
…”one shouldn’t think that by giving money in tzedaka he will end up needy, or that by leaving his land fallow he won’t have enough to eat. The act, if done with faith, causes the unification of the spiritual worlds, which in turn causes abundant blessing to flow down to that person.”
From a commentary by Shmuel-Simcha Treister in Chabad.org, based on Metok MiDevash
Living in the Spirit of the Redemption
We are in the midst of an information revolution. Resources of knowledge that have been gathered for centuries are now only a few strokes of a keyboard away from any person with a pc. Instant communication from one end of the earth to another has transformed our world into a global village. We are producing enough food to feed all of mankind; it’s only political strife that is preventing hunger from being eliminated. The search for spirituality has become so much a part of our lives that chroniclers of the major trends leading to the millennium place it among the top 5. Today, when a person speaks about redemption, his words resound with the power possessed by an idea whose time has come. We can precipitate the coming of Mashiach by anticipating the spiritual awareness that he will introduce. By living in the spirit of the Redemption, we make that Redemption a reality not only in our lives, but also within the world at large.
From teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Chabad.org
Have I Got A Story
Capitalist or Communist?
Karl Marx may have been the pioneer, but many other Jews were also involved in the struggle for communism, particularly in the early days of the Russian revolution. Personally, I don’t think that we have any apologies to make for this phenomenon. Having suffered unbearably under successive oppressive regimes, many of those political activists genuinely thought communism would be better for the people than czarist corruption. Their sense of idealism fueled hopes for a better life and a more equitable future for all. On paper, communism was a good idea. The fact that it failed—and that the new leaders outdid their predecessors’ oppression—may reflect the personalities involved as much as the system they promoted.
What is Judaism’s economic system? Is there one? I would describe it as “capitalism with a conscience.” In promoting free enterprise, the Torah is clearly capitalistic. But it is a conditional capitalism, and certainly a compassionate capitalism.
Winston Churchill once said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent vice of communism is the equal sharing of miseries.” So Judaism introduced an open market system, where the sharing of blessings was not left to chance or wishful thinking, but was made mandatory. The Parshah Behar gives us a classic example.
Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, was designed to allow the land to rest and regenerate. Six years the land would be worked, but in the seventh year it would rest and lie fallow. The agricultural cycle in the Holy Land imposed strict rules and regulations on the owner of the land. No planting, no pruning, no agricultural work whatsoever in the seventh year—and whatever grew by itself would be “ownerless” and there for the taking for all. The owner could take some, but so could his workers, friends and neighbors. The landowner, in his own land, would have no more right than the stranger. For six years you own the property, but in the seventh you enjoy no special claims.
This is but one of many examples of Judaism’s “capitalism with a conscience.” There are many other legislated obligations to the poor—not optional extras, not even pious recommendations, but clear mandatory contributions to the less fortunate. The ten percent tithes, as well as the obligation to leave to the poor the unharvested corners of one’s field, the gleanings, and the forgotten sheaves are all part of the system of compassionate capitalism.
Judaism thus presents an economic system which boasts the best of both worlds—the advantages of an unfettered free market, allowing personal expression and success relative to hard work, without the drawbacks of corporate greed. If the land belongs to G-d, then we have no exclusive ownership over it. G-d bestows His blessings upon us, but clearly, the deal is that we must share. Without Torah law, capitalism fails. Unbridled ambition and the lust for money and power lead to monopolies and conglomerates that leave no room for the next guy and widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The Sabbatical year is one of many checks and balances that keep our capitalism kosher and kind.
Some people are too businesslike. Everything is measured and exact. Business is business. If I invited you for Shabbat, then I won’t repeat the invitation until you reciprocate first. If you gave my son $50 for his bar mitzvah, then that is exactly what I will give your son. We should be softer, more flexible, not so hard, tough and businesslike. By all means, be a capitalist, but be a kosher capitalist. What a person is “worth” financially should be irrelevant to the respect you accord to him. Retain the traditional Jewish characteristics of kindness, compassion, tzedakah and chesed, generosity of spirit, heart—and pocket.
May you make lots of money, and encourage G-d to keep showering you with His blessings by sharing it generously with others.