Friday, May 25, 2007

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What You Give Away You Keep

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

We see from the priests’ blessing what they are to do for us, but what are we to do for the priests? We are to give them their share of the sacrifices and of all of our gains. But the most interesting thing about what we give them is that although it is theirs to do with as they please, the truth is, it is really still ours!

“A man’s holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the priest shall be his.” [i] The sages explain that this sentence means a man’s holy contributions are his to give to whichever priest he chooses. Another commentator suggests a deeper meaning: Because he has given this wealth away, he will become rich.

Although both of these explanations are certainly true, it seems obvious that the latter is telling us something more. What we give away we will keep. Every coin that you give away in this world to charity or to a holy purpose will be yours forever in the World to Come. And not only that, but in the World to Come, there will be no earning; we will not be able to earn another coin to give away. This means that the copper coin we gave away here will be made out of gold there. That is, its value will be immensely greater than it was here on earth.

The Vow of Abstinence

This week we also learn about the nazir. In the Temple days, when someone found himself (or herself) spiritually stymied, desperately wanting to grow and unable to see any apparent way to accomplish this goal, he could take upon himself a vow of abstinence. This vow was usually for a limited period of time (one month), and during this period of time he would strive to become more aware of God’s Presence.

There were a number of restrictions placed upon the nazir, such as not cutting his hair, not coming near a dead body and not drinking wine. After the period of abstinence was completed, he would shave his hair and offer up certain sacrifices in the Temple. One of these sacrifices was a sin offering. But what was his sin?

Our sages tell us that his sin was that he forbade himself wine. Wine in moderation can bring joy, and the nazir denied himself something that God has permitted, something that brings joy.

Our sages tell us that the Shechinah (God’s revealed Presence) can be found ONLY in joy. If you want to do penitence, if you want to fast and give up something for God, then give up your sorrow. Sacrifice your sadness and moaning. Slaughter them and place them upon the altar. Serve Him with joy and true appreciation for His having shown us His way. Then, not only will you not have to bring a sin offering, but you will bring an offering of thanksgiving instead. This is the successful way of Torah: a life of holy joy.

[i] Num 5:10

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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