Grabbing a Sack of Coins

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

A sack of gold coins was brought to the beis midrash as a present for the rabbis, and Rabbi Ami, the kohen gadol got up and grabbed the sack for himself.

If Rabbi Ami seized the sack of gold coins for the poor. We can learn from this story to what extent he had the welfare of others in mind. He was so used to doing chesed that when he saw the gold coins he immediately responded by grabbing them on behalf of others. The normal tendency is to be quick to take for oneself, and then, if there is anything left, to begrudgingly pass it on to others. Rabbi Ami had developed himself spiritually to the point where even when an opportunity for lining his own pockets arose, without hesitation he seized it for the needy. This act shows that helping others was uppermost in his thoughts.

According to the opinion that Rabbi Ami took the money for himself because of his high stature, Rabbi Ami’s deed is an important lesson in self-esteem. When you have a deep belief in positive ideals and commit yourself to accomplishing them, it is not arrogant to think that you should actively seek the wealth necessary to pursue these goals. Taking what belongs to others is wrong, but seizing an opportunity to achieve goals when it presents itself is certainly acceptable.

Maximizing Potential

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

The treasurers and the clerks of the Temple went to visit him [Pinchas], and they found him working in a mine extracting rocks.
When his brethren, the kohanim, came to see him he was ploughing the field, and from the field he rose to wealth. And the same is written of Elisha…
When our Sages tell us that Pinchas was a miner before becoming kohen gadol they are teaching us that even though a person might find himself in the lowest depths (symbolized by the mine), he has the ability to lift himself up until he reaches the highest point of holiness. Thus we understand that it makes no difference how low a person may have fallen; elevating oneself depends only on actualizing one’s potential. If you make sincere efforts to be the finest person you can be, you can lift yourself up and reach your goal. The darkness and loneliness of a mine are depressing. But this did not deter Pinchas from becoming kohen gadol.

Rabbi Chanina recalled that Pinchas did not come up from the darkness of a mine to his high position. Instead, he explained that he used to be a farmer who would plow his field. Rabbi Chanina attributed Pinchas’ success to having seen the sun shining, heard the birds chirping, and breathed the fresh air of the fields. This awesome and inspiring beauty helped him realize the potential he had within him. Rabbi Chanina is pointing out the tremendous benefit a person derives when he has a positive environment from which to learn. From these influences one gains a positive attitude and comes to believe in his ability to succeed.

The fields were also a source of inspiration for the Prophet Elisha. Every day he had sunshine, and he knew how to utilize the joy it gave him to the maximum. Everything was promising and uplifting for him. The brightness he saw gave him the strength to reach the heights of holiness known as prophecy.

Characteristics Necessary for Leadership

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

He must be greater in charisma, power, wealth, wisdom, and size.
The kohen gadol must be superior in these areas because it is a natural tendency to judge a person by external appearances, even though we know that this does not truly represent a person’s worth. Our Sages say, “Do not look at the pitcher, but rather at what it contains.”(5) Also the verse says, “Charm is false and beauty is worthless.”(6) Nevertheless, since people are impressed by external appearances, enhancing them can augment the kohen gadol’s effectiveness as a leader and generate the respect he needs to carry out his function.

Beyond influencing others, another reason the law requires these characteristics may be so that the kohen gadol considers himself worthy of the post. For him to be able to lead the other kohanim he must have ample self-esteem and be able to assert himself without feeling subordinate. If he lacks these strengths, this will become apparent to others and his authority will suffer. Eventually, he will lose his position of prominence in their eyes. Therefore it is crucial that the kohen gadol entertain no doubts about his capabilities, and so the law requires that he lack nothing.

The other kohanim are required to make him wealthy because the success of the kohen gadol benefits the entire nation. Without a capable leader there is chaos. The kohanim themselves will only feel comfortable when they know that someone is responsible for leading them. That gives them the assurance and support they need to succeed in fulfilling their own auxiliary functions. They also benefit when the kohen gadol can concentrate solely on his mission to serve the people and does not have the distracting worry of having to earn a livelihood. Therefore it is in their own interests to make the kohen gadol wealthy.

A great parable

Posted by Yitz Grossman.

A mother once sent her child to the store to buy bread and milk. The little girl arrived and found the store closed; yet inside the locked doors, she saw a lot of activity. “Why is the store closed?” she asked the owner. “Young lady, today we received our weekly shipment from the supplier. We are unloading it and putting it on the shelves, so that we will have plenty of food to sell during the rest of the week.” The analogy is apparent. During the six days of the week, we are taking from the storehouse. Shabbos is the day that the storehouse is replenished. That is why no mun fell on Shabbos, the day of loading the storehouse.

The Zohar continues to say that a person who believes in Hashem should set his table on Shabbos, put food on the table, and eat a meal. This will enable him to receive Hashem’s blessings all six days. What is the connection between eating a meal and receiving a blessing? Eating is our most basic connection to Hashem. When a person eats, he physically feels attached to Hashem. Before the meal, he is hungry, tired, and weak. As he eats, he digests the food and instantaneously absorbs life energy. One who realizes that the food comes from Hashem understands that he is absorbing life from Hashem. When he is eating with the proper kavannah (intention) he realizes that Hashem is the One who is giving him life. Therefore, we must eat a meal on Shabbos. We must get close to Hashem in the most basic way, by eating, at the time when the blessings are coming from Heaven, on Shabbos.