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My husband, Rav Berg, once told me a story about two great friends. There was a man who was sentenced to death. Before he was taken away, the condemned man begged the king, “Please allow me three days’ time to put my affairs in order and to make sure that my family is taken care of.”
“How will I know that you will come back?” asked the king. Almost immediately, the condemned man’s best friend raised his hand and said, “I will take his place. If he doesn’t come back, you can hang me instead.”
Three days passed, and the condemned man had not returned. When it came time for the hanging, the king’s guards turned to the man who had offered himself as a substitute and said, “You will have to take his place.”
Just before the noose was slipped over the man’s head, a voice suddenly rang out in the distance. “I’m here! I’m here! Stop! Stop!” The condemned man ran forward from the crowd to take his rightful place on the gallows.
At this point, however, the friend had already made up his mind to die in the first man’s stead. “You were late,” he said. “So maybe this was meant to be my destiny. You have a family who needs you. I’m alone, already here and ready to go.”
The two friends argued back and forth, each one choosing to die for the other. Seeing this, the king declared a stop to the hanging, saying, “My sentence was meant for one man, but I see that if I were to kill one of you it would be as though I were killing two people. Both of you can go free.”
The point of the story? Because each friend was willing to face death for the other, the judgment was removed from both.
Now obviously most of us, thank God, will never be in such an extreme situation. Still, there is a message here about the unlimited power of unconditional love. This week’s portion, Bamidbar, allows us the ability to go against our doubts and to understand that our spiritual growth is not determined by how much we learn or even by how much we pray; it’s determined by how much we’re prepared to extend ourselves for others.
You know the word “Kabbalah” actually means “to receive.” In our lives, we have little problem with receiving. The problem lies with what happens on the other side. Often times, the people that are – or appear to be – the most successful are also the unhappiest because they haven’t found the balance between what they have and what they can share and do for this world. This week, may each and every one of us have the ability to tap into our fruitfulness – whether it be time, money, or talent – and find ways to share it with the world.
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