Dear Friends,   


A story is told of a pious Jew who boasted to his rabbi that he had saved another Jew’s soul. A beggar had asked him for a meal. He agreed but insisted that first they must pray the afternoon prayers. And then, before serving him the meal, he ordered the beggar to wash his hands and recite the appropriate blessing and then to recite the Motzi prayer over the bread. The rabbi showed his annoyance his pious disciple: “There are times, my son, when you must act as if there were no God.” The disciple, taken aback by this counsel, protested; “Should we act as if no God existed?” The rabbi replied: When someone comes to you in need, act as if  there were no God in the universe, act as if you alone are in  the world and that there is no one to help him except  yourself.” The disciple replied: “And have I no responsibility for his soul?’ The rabbi replied: “Take care of your soul and his body, and not the other way around.”

The story expresses our Jewish discomfort lest an exaggerated emphasis on God as Provider and Rewarder may paralyze the human spirit and rationalize passivity. Or as Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov put it: “God created skepticism so that we may not let the poor starve, putting them off with the joys of the next world or simply telling them to trust in God who will help them.”

In this new year, may our deeds of loving-kindness and righteousness help to heal some of the brokenness of our world, and bring us a greater sense of inner wholeness.

Shabbat shalom,   

         Rabbi David Greenberg