middot humility stories cascading effect of indulgence

cascading effect of indulgence

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-washingOnce Rabbi Israel [Salanter] and his friend Rabbi Mordecai Meltzer were walking through the narrow sidestreets of Vilna. They stopped and entered a synagogue to join in the minchah service. Rabbi Mordecai poured a copious stream of water over his hands while Rabbi Israel [Salanter] by contrast, merely moistened his, hardly using any water at all.

Astonished Rabbi Mordecai blurted out:"Do you not, sir, observe the custom of washing before praying?"

"Indeed, I do," replied Rabbi Israel [Salanter]. "But I see here that the synagogue is frequented by a limited number of worshippers. Visitors do not usually come here. The shamash certainly intended to provide just enough water for the regular worshippers. If we waste a large quantity, the deficiency will be felt by one of the congregants. He will upbraid the shamash and withhold the few pennies he normally gives. And so we will be guilty of denying the shamash his livelihood."

-- The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 219 - 220


We are accustomed to hearing words like "rich", "indulgent" and viewing this as a moment to be had.  Truly there are times when it is ok to enjoy the pleasures of this world and treat ourselves.  But when treating ourselves at someone else's expense becomes a way of life, then we have gone too far.

Rabbi Salanter was indeed aware of this.  He knew that if he were a guest who exhausted the supplies of a congregation, this would inconvenience not only the worshippers but possibly cause the shamash to suffer as well.

indulgence leads to poverty

There was once a rich man. He was dressed in argaman and fine linen and enjoyed delights and rejoiced every day. A poor man named Lazar was laid at the opening of the gate of his house, and he was full of blisters. He craved to be satisfied from the bits that fell from the rich man’s table. The dogs would even come and lick his blisters. When the poor man died, the angels carried him to Avraham’s lap. The rich man also died and was buried. He was in she’ol, and his pain was very great. -- Luke 16:19-23, DHE

The idea of being rich is not addressed here, but the concept of caring for the other, as was addressed in our story regarding Rabbi Salanter and the water.  As this rich man in the story enjoyed the wealth that he had, he did so without regard for the poor man.  The idea behind this story that Mashiach Yeshua gives us is not our wealth, but how we use it.  If the rich man made a habit of caring for the poor man, not only might he not have died, but his wealth might have been more proportionally distributed amongst society and his awareness of other would have been increased.  Instead, he loses his life and his soul — a double whammy in the department of poverty.

Every action in our lives must be considered in this way:  when we take, what are we going to give back?  If we use water, who will replenish it?  If we are exhorbitant in our eating and drinking, will it cause disease and decrease the length of our lives?  For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.  This is true in both the physical and spiritual plain.  If we gauge our use of time, resources, and that which we have been given with this kind of thoughfulness, then we won't be shortchanging anyone and causing their demise.

The next time you take, plan what you are going to give.  And then, only then, will you temper how much you will really take and how much you will have to give in return.


Gospel references taken from (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.

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