“Yagia Kapecha Kee Sochal, Ashrecha V’Tov Lach”
[In Tehillim/Psalms 120:2, Dovid Hamelech writes “When you eat the fruits of your labor, you are fortunate/happy and good is yours”]
A baby is born with hands clenched wanting to grab and grasp all. One of the first things a child learns to say is “mine”, how to grab away what he/she wants. A person dies with palms open, letting go finally of the desire to grab and grasp. Nothing of the wealth we accumulate comes with us to the next world, so when we die we let go of all the material things we tried to have as “mine”.
There is a lifetime in between those times of being born grabbing and when we are dying with open hands. What is there for us to do in between those times? In our 20s, 30s, 40s and onwards, which way should our hands be? Busy is the answer. Not with grabbing and not with letting go. But with being creative and busy and making sure to earn our own keep.
When the world was created, we are told that no dew came down to the world until man was created because “Adam Ayin La’Avod” there was no man to work the world. Bracha/blessings come pouring forth when man does his job of working the world. Working the world is meant literally, the earning of our keep, and it is also meant spiritually, to work on making the world more focused on G-d by studying, by prayer and by doing G-d’s commandments.
Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, ZTL, used to say the story of the two lakes in Eretz Yisroel. There are the Kinneret and the Yam Hamelech, connected by a stream but vastly different. The Kinneret is a water source for people to drink from, it has fish in it, it bubbles with life. The Yam HaMelech is quite dead. You can’t drink the water. It can’t have fish swimming in it. Not even plants can grow and thrive in this lake. What is the difference? Said Rav Wasserman, if you look closely you see that the Kinneret has water pouring into it from streams, but it also has water pouring out of it in streams and rivers. It takes, but it gives. The Yam HaMelech, on the other hand, only takes. Streams flow into it, but since it is located at the lowest point in the earth, nothing flows out of it. A person who takes and doesn’t give is dead, non-life-sustaining…and usually bitter like that lake too. This might be why the depression rate in countries that have excess money is always higher than poorer countries. The depression comes from the sense of taking, taking, taking without deserving all that taking.
G-d pours blessings into the universe each day. HaMechadesh B’Chol Yom Tamid Ma’asei Braishis – He renews each day always the wonders of Creation, from the moment of sunrise to the twinkling star views, each day myriads of wonders make our life possible. We soak it all in, receiving much. If we don’t make sure we give, if we don’t impact the world, if we don’t get busy doing work, then we end up taking blessings, but not giving blessings. It is important to note here that spiritually the same concept holds true. For all of us born into wonderfully moral families, we have to ask ourselves where is the sweetness and life in it. We took from our parents and grandparents the lessons and the direction. If we don’t give, if we don’t pour forth with spiritual work, our souls end up feeling a sense of bitterness, taking and not giving, not doing the toil of bettering the world.
You must put into the world more than you take out of it. This is why when a righteous person leaves a place, the Torah always writes that the righteous person “went out” of that place. This is because the impact and toil that the righteous one did is gone from the place, leaving the place with an empty hole. May we all be merit to put back into the world more than we take out of it, that each of us leaves the world a better place than we found it. After all, that is our mission, “Adam L’aavod” – man was created to work.