By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
I want to share with my dear readers a sobering true story that warns us about one of the more base sides of the human psyche. There was a man who had a very hard time making a living. He decided to move to Jerusalem and opened a small grocery in the Old City of Yerushalyim. Business took off and by the sweat of his brow he eked out a living and raised, together with his wife, a beautiful family of seven children. All his life he worked very hard and saw his children and grandchildren flourish. To help support his growing family, he continued to work full-time until he was seventy years old.
After the passing of his wife, his strength began to ebb and he could no longer work. He spent his days going to shul, saying Tehillim, and listening to shiurim. But, his golden years were marred by a powerful bitterness. His children and grandchildren, for whom he slaved all his life, barely spent any time with him. They were all wrapped-up in their own lives and hardly came to visit. They would pop in, give a sniff to see whether he was still alive, and disappear.
Finally, when he got so fed up with their disappointing behavior, he went to the great sage, Rav Shmuel Salant, Zt”l, Zy”a, to pour out his heart. Rav Salant listened carefully and told him the following instruction. “Go to a blacksmith and buy an expensive, heavy safe. Bring it home and put it in a very noticeable place.” When the man asked Rav Salant how this would help, the Rav said, “Just leave it to me.” Mystified, he followed the Rav’s instructions and waited to see what would happen.
The next time his first-born popped in for a quick visit, he noticed the safe right away. Curious, he asked “Totty, what’s in the safe?” His father answered noncommittedly, “Oh, just some things I’ve saved over the years.” His son told his siblings, “You know, our father has an expensive safe! I tried to move it and it was quite heavy. He must have saved up all of those years he was working.” Like wildfire, news traveled through the whole mishpacha and practically overnight, things started to change. He would get regular Sunday visits with the grandchildren in tow, his daughters in-law suddenly started offering to cook meals, his granddaughters came over to clean the house while his grandsons came to show him their report cards. For the next ten years, he enjoyed his nachas immensely.
One night, he peacefully passed away in his sleep. After the funeral, his children came to divide the estate. They immediately went to the safe and started looking for the key – which was nowhere to be found. Finally, after looking through his papers, they found a letter that said, “My Dear Children, The key to the safe is with Rav Shmuel Salant.” Quickly, they went to the Rav who gave them the key with a smile upon his lips. Hurriedly, they returned back to the home and excitedly opened the safe. To their shock and dismay, they found it full of odds and ends with no value at all.
They got very angry. Their father duped them all of these years. They ran back to Rav Salant to complain about their father’s behavior. Rav Salant smiled at them. “Don’t be angry at your father. It was my idea. He bitterly complained to me that none of you were visiting him. I told him that you needed some incentive so I created an imaginary pot of gold and you took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Don’t be disappointed. Although it wasn’t sincere, you still benefitted greatly from doing ten years of kivud av v’eim.”
What a chilling story about what drives humanity. There is a grim saying: “Hakesef yaneh es hakol – Money is the answer to everything.” As our parents grow older, let’s make sure that we honor them and spend time with them, not because of what they have to offer but out of a sense of hakoros hatov, lifelong gratitude to them, and in fulfillment of the Fifth Commandment to honor our father and our mother. But, this is not only true in regards to kivud av v’eim. It pertains to friendships as well. They should not hinge on whether there is money or not. Nor, should the quality of a shidduch be based on one’s latest IRS 1040 tax return form.
In the merit of being sincere in our responsibilities, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
Rav Weiss finished Shas Mishnayos on the phone. You can start a new cycle with him anytime by dialing 718.906.6471. Or you can listen to his daily Shiur on Orchos Chaim l’HaRosh by dialing 718.906.6400, then going to selection 4 for Mussar, and then to selection 4. Both are FREE services.
Rabbi Weiss is currently stepping up his speaking engagements. To bring him to your community, call now 718.916.3100 or 845.436.8273, or email RMMWSI@aol.com.
To receive a weekly cassette tape or CD directly from Rabbi Weiss, please send a check to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, P.O. Box 140726, Staten Island, NY 10314 or contact him at RMMWSI@aol.com.
Now back in print is a large size paperback edition of Power Bentching. To order, call him at 718-916-3100 or email at above.
Attend Rabbi Weiss’s weekly shiur at the Landau Shul, Avenue L and East 9th in Flatbush, Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m.
Rabbi Weiss’s Daf Yomi and Mishnah Yomis shiurim can be heard LIVE on KolHaloshon at (718) 906-6400. Write to KolHaloshon@gmail.com for details. They can now also be seen on TorahAnyTime.com.