To Live is To Give

The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea both receive water from the Jordan River. However, there is a striking difference between the two seas. The Sea of Galilee is replete with life, whereas the Dead Sea, as its name aptly intimates, is utterly devoid of life. Why is that?

A contemporary sage argued that the reason for this discrepancy is that the Sea of Galilee both receives water (from the Jordan River), and also gives water to other springs and sources, whereas the Dead Sea solely receives water from the Jordan, but does not give of its waters to other springs. This symbolic teaching reminds us that to live is to give.

During the month of Adar we are spiritually challenged to increase in Simcha – in inner contentment and enduring joy. And it is always during this month of Adar that we also read the Torah portion of Trumah, which means offering/donation. There is a pervasive spiritual correlation between Simcha (happiness), and Trumah (contribution).

For it is those who give in abundance and wholeheartedly, in order to enrich and better the lives of others, who ultimately enjoy true inner satiation and spiritual nourishment, whereas those who are all about accumulating for themselves alone, end up remaining spiritually and emotionally undernourished. As King Solomon well observed in Ecclesiastes: “A lover of money shall never be satiated with money,” whereas happiness, teaches us Kierkegaard, “is a door which opens outward.”

The hegemonic culture surrounding us would have us think that happiness stems from the accumulation of things, titles, honors and credentials, whereas the Torah postulates that life is also about receiving in order to share and bestow upon others, as the 20th century Kabbalistic sage Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag stressed in his sacred writings time and again.

It is said that the celebrated British philanthropist Moses Montefiore was once bluntly asked by a certain nagging individual “Moses, how much are you worth?” To which Montefiore promptly responded by saying: “One million pounds.” Alas, the questioner insisted: “Come on Moses, we all know that you’re worth hundreds of millions of pounds!” To which the great philanthropist responded by saying: “You didn’t ask me how much I have, but rather – you asked me how much I’m worth, so I told you how much I gave to charity this year thus far!”

Think about someone you truly admire and look up to. I don’t mean some famous celebrity or supreme athlete, I mean someone whom you existentially behold, and then think to yourself: “I wish I were a little bit more like him/her.” You will always find that this person is a giver.

I leave you today with the sagacious words of Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian mystic and literary genius: “I had a dream, and dreamt that life is happiness. I awoke, and found that life is service. I served and found that in service – happiness is to be found.”

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Sessler

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