Friday, May 04, 2012

Chase of Dreams

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Our neighbors had an attempted break-in the other day and it reminded me of a story I told in this space five years ago. It's the kind of story that one ought to retell every few years.

The story starts with a question:

While I hope you will never experience this, imagine you were walking down the street and someone snatched something from your hands, running off. How do you think you would react?

Would you shout? Call for help? Run after him?

After everyone at your table gets a chance to answer, tell them this true story:

The famous Chafetz Chaim (who died in 1933) was once walking down the street in Radin.

Someone stopped him to ask for a handout. When he pulled out his wallet to give the beggar a coin, the beggar grabbed the wallet and ran off.

Again, put yourself in the rabbi's shoes: how do you react?

The Chafetz Chaim ran after him and shouted, “I forgive you! You can keep it! I give it to you! It’s yours!”

When an onlooker asked the rabbi why he responded that way, he explained:

“The fellow is obviously in need, desperate even. Eventually, he’ll think about what he did and may regret it. So why should he then benefit from stolen goods? Let him enjoy what’s his!”

I suspect most people reading this, and most people who hear this story at your table, would not have reacted that way. Correct me if I'm wrong.

And that gives us the second question for the table: What sort of attitude to you need to cultivate towards other human beings in order to react in that way?

Shabbat Shalom.

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