Left Out!

At an awards dinner I once attended, one the honorees got up and literally went through the attendees and thanked each one by name.

After the rather lengthy acceptance speech the master of ceremonies came back to the podium and jokingly quipped, “Whoever’s name was not mentioned, please stand up.” Sure enough, the honoree’s own wife, stood up and waved to the crowd…
I learned something from that embarrassing incident: Sometimes the closest person, the one who cares most, is glossed over and goes without recognition.

There was a great Sage by the name of Rabbi Yisroel Zev Gustman o.b.m. When he immigrated to Israel, he personally watered his garden. He was once asked why he was so particular about watering his garden.

He explained, “I was a Dayan – judge – back in Vilna in the famed Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinky’s Bais Din – Jewish court. One day I was walking with Rav Chaim Ozer in the woods and he started pointing out to me all the various trees and plants that were edible. He showed me which plants were saturated with water and which ones were poisonous. At the time, I didn’t quite understand why it was so important for him to explain this to me.

“Years later, when I was escaping the Nazis, I hid for many years in the forest. The only way I was able to survive was by remembering the lessons that Reb Chaim Ozer gave me about which trees and plants were edible. I then understood why it was important for him to teach me about the plants and trees.”

Reb Gustman continued, “I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the plants and trees for keeping me alive. I never forgot what they did for me in those terrible times. I therefore express my gratitude to them by watering them each day!”

Many years ago my father was honored for his more than 40 years of serving as Rabbi of Camp Mogen Avraham. It was a beautiful tribute to a great man.

My father spoke and mentioned something that he had heard from his Rebbe, Reb Moshe Feinstein o.b.m.

The rule is that if someone needs a full $250,000 to start up a business and one person invests $200,000 and another gives him $50,000, if they did not work out the details as to what percentage of the profits each one gets, they each get an equal share of the profits. Why? Since this business needed both investments to be established and without the full amount it would not have gotten off the ground they remain equal partners if they did not previously work out a percentage agreement.

My father went on to say that he was not receiving the honor for his contribution alone; he was accepting it on behalf of everyone who was associated with the camp since he could not do his work without the support of his family, the staff and the campers. They were all necessary to make it work and make it a great camp!

Our ultimate thanks and appreciation is due to our Creator, the One who sustains and provides for our lives. We continuously ascertain and reiterate our wonder, admiration and gratitude within the text of our prayers and blessings – for if it would be up to us to remember and express for ourselves the greatness and awesomeness of G-d, we would forget due to human fallibility.

Our Sages teach us, “Whether one gives of themselves a lot or a lesser amount to spiritual causes – they are equal, as long as they both have Heaven in mind.”

I saw a beautiful insight from the Chofetz Chaim.

The Chofetz Chaim was zeroing in on what makes us unique when we fulfill Hashem’s wishes.

He gave the following example. When a President or a dignitary comes to town, important people receive an invitation to be the first to greet him. It is a considerable honor for those select people to give honor to the president or king.

The same is true with our relationship with Hashem. When we give honor to Hashem by serving Him loyally, we become honorable. Seizing the opportunity to bring honor to the King, essentially brings honor to the person bestowing the honor.

In this week’s Parsha is the law of leaving gifts for the poor and not taking advantage of those who are vulnerable. The Torah gives a reason for this; “You should remember that you were slaves in Egypt and G-d redeemed you.” Jews who were persecuted strangers must be especially sensitive to the plight of the downtrodden.

We the ones chosen as G-d’s children and legions are instructed to live beyond ourselves and our space and are invested with the ability to go beyond our perceived limitations!