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What Belongs To You And What Doesn'tåÀàÄéùÑ àÆú ÷ÃãÈùÑÈéå ìåÉ éÄäÀéåÌ àÄéùÑ àÂùÑÆø éÄúÌÅï ìÇëÌÉäÅï ìåÉ éÄäÀéÆä: "Everyone's holy things shall belong to him; whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his." (Bemidbar 5:10)
Chofetz Chaim on the Torah
This possuk is hinting at a very important principle in Torah. A person gains nothing from all his labors in this world except for the sanctity he brought into himself during his time in this world. That will accompany him eternally. Not his yetzer ho-ra and his hordes. They appear as one's best friends and join him temporarily. But when he departs from this world and finds himself in dire straits in the next world, they suddenly abandon him.
The Medrash brings down a beautiful moshol:
There was a person who had three friends. One was his best and most beloved friend. He loved him like a brother. The second was a fine friend, but not like the first. The third was just an acquaintance, and he did not give him much consideration. One day this fellow received a summons from the king. The royal guard came personally to deliver it and take him to the palace. He became frantic with fear. "Maybe they slandered me before the king and he'll execute me!" he thought. "I must hurry to my friends. I always trusted them; they've never let me down. I'll ask them to come with me to the hearing with the king and defend me."
He went and called his first friend whom he loved so much. But he refused to go with him. Discouraged and disheartened, he decided to go to his second friend and pleaded with him to go with him to the Palace. This friend agreed to go with him up to the Palace gate, but refused to enter inside. Utterly dejected he went to his third acquaintance, not expecting much out of him, and asked him to accompany him to the king. Upon hearing everything that had happened and what his two other friends had responded, he replied, "Don't worry. I'll go with you all the way and plead your case. I'll make sure nothing happens to you." And so he did. He pleaded the case marvelously and this fellow was acquitted.
The first friend in the moshol, whom he loved so much, was his wealth, which a person holds so dear. This departs from him as soon as he dies and doesn't accompany him at all. The second friend represents his children and relatives. They accompany him to the grave site, but after the burial they too take leave of him and abandon him to fend for himself. The third friend who defended his case symbolizes teshuva and good deeds. They accompany one even after he is buried and plead his case before the Beis Din Shel Maala. The king is the King of Kings Hakadosh Baruch Hu before whom there is no favoritism or bribery. A person cannot be saved from His judgment except with Torah and good deeds.
The most loyal friends a person has are the holy things he has acquired during his lifetime. They remain by his side constantly. They are his real friends, his loved ones, and his defenders to plead his case before the Master of the Universe. A person has to concentrate in his lifetime on making a lot of these friends and to befriend them often to assure that they will truly be his eternal friends.
The possuk concludes, "whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his." Whatever wealth a person acquires in his lifetime, nothing will be left at the end. Only the tzedaka and chesed is really his. Whatever he gives to the kohen, is in the end still his, this is his real wealth.
Once the Chofetz Chaim gave a powerful moshol regarding the value of Torah and mitzvos as compared to the possessions and pleasures of this world.
There was once a certain person who suffered from a lack of parnossa. He decided to go to Africa to make his fortune. He went the long journey there and looked around to see what was doing In that country. All over the ground were little shiny stones. He picked a few up and saw they were diamonds! He quickly filled his pockets. But all this hard work made him very thirsty. He hunted for a store to buy some food and drink. He ordered something to eat, but when he came to pay he had no local currency. He took a few diamonds out of his pocket and handed them to the storeowner. He looked at him and said, "You're trying to pay me with stones. Those aren't worth anything here. They're all over the place." "So what has worth here?" asked the stranger. "Fat," was the strange reply.
The stranger started investigating and sure enough he found out the fat was a scarce item in this country. There were few cattle and sheep, and it was a very hot climate and so fat was very valuable. Having a yiddishe kup he figured he could make a large fortune in this primitive land, much more than all the stones that were so cheap here. He started a fat business and sure enough in a short time he was a multimillionaire and the most wealthy person in the land. He got so involved in his business he forgot about all the shiny stones. They were so abundant they just faded into the background of his cognizance. The day came for him to depart and journey home. He packed up his entire factory of fat in containers and had them loaded onto the ship. Finally he saw the port and could make out his family waiting for him. He disembarked and greeted his family. His children clamored, where are all the gifts you promised? His wife waited patiently, assured that he had brought home his fortune. He smiled as they unloaded his containers. But a strange and terrible odor was emanating from the containers. The longshoremen opened one of the containers only to find putrid fat. Everything had spoiled in the hot hold of the ship during the long journey back. It wasn't even fit for soap. As he looked on in horror the longshoremen threw all the containers into the water, the smell was overwhelming.
His wife looked at him with fire in her eyes. "You spent all that time for some rotten fat!?" Totally downtrodden and depressed he went home and collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep. His wife removed his putrid clothes which reeked of the smell of rotten fat. As she prepared his clothing for the laundry she emptied out his pockets and a few shiny stones fell out. She picked them up and her eyes lit up. She quickly ran to get them appraised and they were worth a small fortune. "Husband, Husband, wake up. We're rich, you brought back diamonds. We're rich!"
So too with us, concluded the Chofetz Chaim. When a person comes into this world he thinks that the most profitable business he can get involved in is fat: he eats and drinks and becomes fat. He doesn't consider at all the precious stones and pearls so abundant and cheap and found everywhere. These are Torah and Mitzos. When it comes time for him to leave this world and make his way back home he takes his containers of fat with him to the grave. But along the way in his journey through life he pocketed a few precious mitvos, a few tefillos in shul, some tzedaka to support poor Kollel students, a few blatt gemara or mishnayos. With this he is able to buy a little pleasure in the Next World. But he eats his heart out for having exchanged his permanent world for a transient one. He could have collected precious stones and pearls by the thousands and millions for almost nothing. Then he would have had sufficient provisions for his long journey.
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff please contact him:
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim
Shema Yisrael Torah Network