Who Is Wealthy?
Who is wealthy? He who is satisfied with his lot. The maxim of the rabbis is the key to human happiness. For one who is never satisfied, one who constantly seeks more, will never be happy. He will never achieve contentment; there will always be another beautiful house, another even more distinguished looking car.
But our rabbis go further. They praise the man who, in the midst of his sorrows and suffering, does not lift up his voice in complaint to G-d, but who accepts his lot, and who realizes that all that the Almighty doe sis for good, that all the l-rd’s ways are ways of peace and truth.
All That G-d Does Is For Good
One day, the great Rabbi Akiva was preparing to travel on a long journey. To this end, he saddled his donkey, took along a candle with which to see in the dark, and a rooster to awaken him in the morning from his sleep.
Awakening early, he began his journey. That whole day, Rabbi Akiva traveled along the unfamiliar country side, and as darkness fell he entered a strange town.
Turning off the street, Rabbi Akiva knocked at the door of a house and asked:
“May I stay in your house overnight, for there is no inn in this town and I have no place to sleep?”
“You may not,” answered the man, “If you wish to sleep there is the street.”
The results were no different in the second house that Rabbi Akiva tried, nor the third, nor any to which he turned for assistance.
All For The Good
Rabbi Akiva was forced to the realization that he could find no hospitality in this wicked village and so he decided to leave the town and sleep in the woods that night.
Finding a likely looking spot he paused for a moment to contemplate on the wickedness of the people and then said:
“Nevertheless, this, too, is for the good.”
Alighting from his donkey, Rabbi Akiva took the candle from his pack and lit it. As the light flooded the area, Rabbi Akiva was thankful, for now he could see what he was doing. Suddenly, however, a gust of wind blew past him and the candle’s flame flickered for a moment and died.
Standing in the inky blackness of the forest, Rabbi Akiva raised his eyes to Heaven and once again declared:
“Nevertheless, this, too, is for the good.”
A Fox And A Lion
Tying his rooster to the tree and tethering his donkey, Rabbi Akiva climbed into the tree and prepared to go to sleep.
Perhaps an hour later, however, he was awakened by the crowing of the rooster and its terrible screechings. Peering down, Rabbi Akiva saw a fox leap upon the helpless fowl and dash off with it into the night.
The gentle rabbi contemplated the unbelievable string of misfortunes that had struck him. Nevertheless, he again repeated his fervent belief:
“This too, is for the good.”
The worst misfortune, however, was yet to come. In past times, the land of Israel had many lions roaming through its isolated areas. Now, one of these predatory beasts, smelling the donkey tied to the tree, leaped upon it and to the horror of Rabbi Akiva in the tree above, devoured it.
It was frightened away, however, by the sudden approach of marching feet. There, not more than 10 feet from the tree passed a band of armed bandits and killers on the prowl, in search for victims to rob and murder.
The Next Day
The next day, Rabbi Akiva without his donkey or rooster, walked down the road that led to the town.
As he approached, he saw that smoke arose from the little village. Running forward, he encountered three dazed individuals, residents of the burning village.
“Woe is to us,” cried the men. “Last night as we slept a band of vicious armed bandits truck. They attacked us and took all that we possessed. They killed every resident of the town and burned the houses. We alone escaped.
The Hand Of G-d
When Rabbi Akiva heard this, he raised his eyes in thanksgiving to the Almighty:
“How wondrous are Your ways, O L-rd; The very misfortunes that struck me were my salvation.
“Had I slept in the town I would have shared the terrible fate of those who lived here. Had not the wind extinguished my candle and the beasts devoured my animals, the robbers would have found me and killed me.
“Today, I truly see that all that the Almighty does, He does for good.”
The Idols And The Idol Worshippers
In ancient times, there were many debates between the rabbis and the pagan philosophers. This was at a time when the pagans were beginning to lose faith in their idols and were seeking to find some other faith.
One day, a philosopher asked Rabban Gamliel:
“I have heard the Jews say that their G-d is a fire who consumes all His enemies. Let me ask you the, why this fire is aimed against the idol worshippers. Would it not be better for your G-d to destroy the idols instead of the idol worshippers?”
Rabban Gamliel smiled and replied:
“A certain king had a son to whom he gave a little dog as a present for his birthday. The son loved the little dog, fed it, washed it and raised it. He grew to love it so much that one day he announced to the court:
“I am going to name my dog ‘father.’”
“Now,” asked Rabban Gamliel, “at whom should the king be angry? Should he be angry at the little dog who is nothing more than a poor dumb animal that knows nothing and is not responsible for the whole affair, or should he pour his wrath out at the son who initiated the entire affair?”
The philosopher listened and said:
“I hear what you say and your words are wise. Nevertheless, the fact that the idols are here is an obstacle in the path of the people. If the idols were destroyed, the people would not be able to worship them.”
If your words were correct, the Almighty would have to destroy the sun and the moon and the stars; He would have to wipe away the animals and the birds and the fish. For throughout the world all of these things are worshipped by different peoples.
“Thus, to do away with the idols, the L-rd would have to destroy the world, and this is absurd. Know you that the world was made by G-d and He will continue to allow it to exist and those fools who have ruined it by using certain of G-d’s creations and made them gods, will have to pay the punishment.”
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Page last updated - 06/30/2006