One morning this week, I opened my email to find the following message: “Good morning. There is an inheritance fund left in your name. Thank you.”
I was very excited. I felt honored that some anonymous person would think to leave me an inheritance. I am expecting the money transfer any day now.
Although that email was clearly a scam, there is some truth to it.
Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth, Chief Rabbi of Antwerp and Rosh Yeshivah of Merkaz HaTorah in Yerushalayim, related that at the beginning of World War II, a Jew approached him and confided that he had money in a bank account in Switzerland. He shared the numbers and then asked Rabbi Kreiswirth that if the Rabbi survived and he died, the Rabbi should please share the bank account numbers with one of his children.
The fellow died during the war, and for years afterwards, Rabbi Kreiswirth searched unsuccessfully for one of the fellow’s children. Over two decades later, while traveling, Rabbi Kreiswirth was sitting in the subway when a clearly impoverished Jewish man sat down next to him. They began to converse, and the man related his financial woes to the Rabbi. He noted that he had arrived in that country as a refugee with nothing. When he told Rabbi Kreiswirth his name, the Rabbi immediately recognized it, and excitedly asked him his father’s name and where he was from. It was clear that this was the son of the man who had shared the bank account information with him years earlier.
When Rabbi Kreiswirth told the man about the inheritance waiting for him in Switzerland, the man sadly replied that he didn’t have money to travel to Switzerland to retrieve the money. Rabbi Kreiswirth lent him money for the trip, and the impoverished man discovered that he was wealthy.
When relating this story, Rabbi Kreiswirth would ask, “During the 25 post-war years, before I met this man, was he rich or poor?” Most would argue that he had been rich all along, but Rabbi Kreiswirth disagreed. If he didn’t know that he had the money, he was poor.
Rabbi Kreiswirth would conclude that every Jew is extremely wealthy because of his rich heritage. But if one is not aware of it, he is, in fact, poor. What can possibly be greater than being considered Hashem’s children? But we have to be aware of it!
Rabbi Noach Weinberg zt”l, the legendary founder and Rosh Yeshivah of Aish HaTorah, related: “Years ago, my father taught me the mishnah in Avos (2:5) that states, ‘In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man.’ In 1966, I opened a yeshivah for kiruv. People would point at me and say, ‘There goes Noach the crackpot, the meshuganah. He thinks he can teach Torah to secular Jews. At that time, the concept was so foreign.
“Before I opened the yeshivah, I went to speak with Rabbi Leizer Yudel Finkel zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. It was common courtesy to ask his permission to start a new yeshivah in Yerushalayim. When he asked me what I wanted to accomplish, I explained that I wanted to teach chilonim (secular Jews) the beauty of Torah. We had a lively debate with him, explaining why they would never be interested, and me countering with arguments of how it could be accomplished. Finally, he said, ‘I understand what you want to do. You want to make a factory that produces baalei t’shuvah. Du bist meshugu – You’re crazy!’ I replied, ‘Rebbe, the Torah states, Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morashah k’hilas Yaakov – ‘The Torah was commanded to us by Moshe – an inheritance to the congregation of Yaakov’ (D’varim 33:4). On that pasuk, the Gemara (P’sachim 49b) states, ‘Don’t read it morashah (an inheritance) but m’orasah (betrothed).’ If I introduce a secular Jew to his fiancée, will he walk away from me?
“He looked at me and said, ‘If you really believe that you’ll succeed.’”
No one appreciates when someone pushes his agenda on him. Even if that commodity/program is wonderful and meaningful, when it’s stuffed down someone’s throat, he feels resentful and negative towards it. But everyone appreciates when someone shares something exciting.
If we push our Judaism upon others in an overbearing and insensitive manner (including our own children), it will likely have negative results.
A noted rav would relate that he had a hard time saying T’hilim all his life because in his youth when he misbehaved, he was forced to say T’hilim for long periods of time.
On the other hand, when we feel Torah living is a treasured privilege, and we genuinely want to share that gift with others, it is far more likely for others to be receptive.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that when he was in eighth grade, before opening his gemara each morning, his rebbe would begin to sing with the students, “Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu – Praiseworthy are we; how good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot, and how beautiful is our inheritance.” Only then, with a feeling of privilege and honor to be able to learn Torah and be part of the Chosen Nation, did they delve into the ancient holy words of the Gemara.
Rabbi Wein notes that, at the time, he didn’t understand what the song had to do with the Gemara and why they sang it each morning. But now, many decades later, he still remembers it fondly. It made a tremendous impression about the great privilege of being a Torah Jew.
Perhaps the email I received about the inheritance fund wasn’t referring to it. But the truth is that there is indeed an inheritance fund in my name. All I need to do is realize it and invest the effort to retrieve it.