A git yur!
I would like to share an inspirational piece with you. Something that will make you think ad re-think. A story. Not a real one but a true one.
There was once a poor, hard working Jewish peasant in Poland, who eked out a meager livelihood from his small piece of land. He loved his land, and he yearned for more. If he could have just a few more acres to till, he thought, he would be the happiest man in his village.
There was a little synagogue in that community, which the Jewish peasant attended regularly. One Kol Nidre night, after everyone had departed from the synagogue, he tarried a little while longer reciting Tehillim - Psalms - and pouring out his heart to God. He then approached the Aron Kodesh - the Holy Ark - and cried out, "Ribono Shel Olam - Master of the Universe, if I only had a larger piece of land, how happy and how content I would be!"
Meanwhile, the local duke, who owned practically all of the land in that territory, happened to drive past the synagogue that Yom Kippur evening. Noticing a light there, he was curious to find out what was taking place at such a late hour. He opened the door and entered the synagogue quietly, just as the Jewish peasant was offering his special prayer to God. The duke approached the praying Jew and said, "Itzik, I happened to have overheard your petition and it moved me deeply. Now I am willing to make you the following offer: the day after your fast, at the crack of dawn, you will present yourself at the gate of my palace; when I give you the signal you will begin to walk through my fields and villages. All the land that you cover from sunrise to sunset will be yours. But there is one condition to this offer: you must be back at the starting point by sunset. If you fail to return to the gate of my palace by this time, you will get nothing at all." When the Jewish peasant heard the words of the duke, he kissed his hands in gratitude and rushed home to tell the great news to his wife and children.
The day after Yom Kippur, long before dawn, Itzik ran to the appointed meeting place, followed by his wife and children. At sunrise, the duke appeared and gave the signal for Itzik to begin. And Itzik began to walk. As he continued, he increased his speed, for there was lush and fertile land all around him.
After a while he walked so fast that his wife and children found it hard to keep up with him. His wife began to plead with him, "Itzik, don't run so fast! Take it easy and wait for us. A few more acres and we'll have more than enough for our children and for our children's children." But Itzik would not listen to her, "Please don't talk to me now. Can't you see that every moment means another acre of land for us? I'll talk to you tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be rich, and I will buy for you and for our children the finest and the best. But now I must hurry on."
Itzik passed a neighbor whom he knew was in a desperate financial state. The man beckoned to him, "Itzik, I know you to be a warm-hearted person. Please help me with a loan for a short time, and you will save a Jew from ruin." The truth is that Itzik would have liked to help his neighbor. But how could he bother with him at such a time? So he rushed by him, "Sorry, I can't stop to help you now. I'll see you tomorrow." And he thought to himself, "Tomorrow when I'm rich, I'll set him up in business and make him secure for the rest of his life."
The sun was now circling towards the West, and Itzik approached the little synagogue where only the other night his prayer had been miraculously answered. It was time to say the afternoon prayer (Mincha ). The Rabbi stood at the door and said, "Reb Itzik, come in and pray with us. We need you for a minyan (quorum of 10 men). You will help a Yahrzeit ( someone who is commemorating the anniversary of the death of a close relative) to say Kaddish . It will take only a few minutes." But Itzik was out of breath by now, and motioned with his hands that he could not even stop to answer him. But he said to himself, "O God, certainly you understand! Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be rich, and I'll rebuild the synagogue, and I'll donate money for a beautiful school for the children of our village - a building and an institution that will be a credit to the Jews of our community. But now I have a few more acres to cover and to possess."
The sun was now setting rapidly, and Itzik was heading for the starting point. His legs felt as heavy as lead, his mouth was dry as dust and his heart was pounding like a drum. He knew that for his own good he should stop. But he couldn't - he was determined to acquire all the land he covered. So he ran faster and faster. As the last rays of the setting sun touch the tree tops, Itzik plunged toward the starting point, and fell to the ground -- dead.
Then the duke with a wry cynical smile on his lips, called out to one of the peasants, "Ivan, take a hoe and go to the Jewish cemetery. There you will dig a grave 6 feet long and 3 feet wide, and see to it that Itzik is buried there. This is all the land he really needed."
How many of us are like Itzik? How many of us truly have the best intentions but the wrong priorities? And how many of us even realize that our priorities need some adjustment, but still lack the will power to change the course of our lives? So many husbands or wives beg their spouses, "Let's spend more time together as a couple, let's go out and enjoy each other's company more often. And let's have more family time: traveling together, spending the day together or even just eating dinner together!" But the spouse, with a hurt or harried look, responds, "I just can't right now. I work so hard for us - so that we can have what we want. In a few weeks, months, years this will all calm down. Then we'll have that time together."
Or a child approaches his parent, "You want to play with me? Let's play a game." But the parent responds, "Daddy or mommy is busy right now. I can't right now, but I'll make it up to you: we'll go to the zoo or a play game or out shopping tomorrow, next week, next month...I promise."
Or a charity organization approaches you, "Can you help feed the poor? Or can you give a little money to help Israel? Can you support this yeshiva?" And the response is, "Not now. I can't at this time, but when I'm doing better, I would love to help."
And every Shabbat, the rabbi or president asks if you'll come to make the minyan or come to a class during the week, but the answer is always the same, "I can't come this week."
And the race through life continues, and the time with your spouse or children never materializes, and the day you were going to increase your charity never comes and you never did make it to the prayer service or to a class. When we fail to prioritize, or fail to immediately implement the changes we know should be made, we risk ending up like Itzik. That elusive free time may seldom come before life has passed us by. And even if we are lucky, and we do eventually have the time to do what's really important in life, how much we have missed along the way. How much our families and community have missed while waiting for us to be available.
The story of Itzik can be related to an unusual incident found in the Book of Kings I (3:5-15). Immediately after King Solomon ascended the throne of his father, David, God appeared to him in a dream and said, "Ask, what shall I give you?"
King Solomon had the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted -- anything. Can you imagine? What would you ask for? He could have asked for long life. That's what we ask for on the High Holidays. He could have asked for riches. He could have acquired enough possessions and money to provide for himself and others for the rest of his life. Or he could have asked for the destruction of his enemies. Then he could be free from trials and troubles.
So what did King Solomon ask for? He began by expressing his gratitude to God for all the things that He had already done for him. He thanked God for the kindnesses He had done for his father, David, and for himself, for the honor of becoming King of Israel. Then King Solomon made his request, "Please give your servant a wise and sympathetic heart so that I can distinguish between good and bad."
King Solomon, how wise you were! Before asking for anything, you thanked God for all that He had already done for you and your family. Then, you did not ask for things that come from without; but for things that come from within. You asked for a " Lev Shome'a " - a heart that is sensitive and that responds to the needs of your people and of your faith. A heart that can distinguish between what is meaningful and what is frivolous. And a heart that is able to prioritize what is truly important.
We are told that God was so pleased with King Solomon's answer that He said, "Because you did not ask for long life, nor for riches, nor for a life free from trouble, but for a wise and sympathetic heart, I will not only honor your request; I will also give you that for which you did not ask - wealth, success and longevity." Because King Solomon realized how important it was to be able to prioritize, everything else fell into place.
On Rosh Hashanah, let us emulate King Solomon: let us first thank God for all the kindness He has done for us during the past year. And then let us pray for a "Lev Shome'a Lehavin bein Tov Lera " - a heart that can respond to the needs of our family, to the needs of our People, to the needs of our Torah and to the needs of our God.
I, therefore, would like to conclude this letter by thanking HaShem for guiding me with such graciousness and kindness over the past six years here in Curacao. I am constantly motivated by a sense of destiny which I feel in my work, and this truly magnificent feeling has taken on a permanent state in my mind and heart with the extraordinary successful endeavor of building the shul at Magdalenaweg. Thank you, HaShem, for presenting me with the opportunity to lead our Ashkenazi Jews into their new house of Worship and for helping me to realize this long awaited dream.
I wish to thank each and every one of you for taking me and my family in with such warmth. In order to abstain from overlooking someone, I do not wish to list all the different individuals without whom Shaarei Tsedek, with all its facets, cannot run properly. Whether you carry this load publicly or privately, you know who you are and I thank you tremendously for bearing the burden and sharing the responsibility. I say unto you “…and all who are involved faithfully in the needs of the community, may the Holy One, blessed is He, pay their reward and remove from them every affliction, heal their entire body and forgive their every iniquity, and send blessing and success to all their handiwork, along with all Israel, their brethren. Amen.” (Shabbat morning service)
My wife and family join me in thanking you from the bottom of our hearts and in wishing you all a happy and sweet new year!
RABBI ARIEL YESHURUN