("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, there was a king who wanted to decorate his palace with beautiful frescos on each of the palace walls in the grand throne room of his main castle. His desire was to guarantee that the frescos that would be drawn would be the most beautiful in the world – and the envy of every other king in the civilized world. Therefore, he devised a wonderful plan. He would not invite a SINGLE artist to paint all four walls. Rather, he would invite the four greatest artists in the world, and have each one paint one wall. In that manner, he would guarantee that his throne room would be filled with frescos, the likes of which had never been seen in the world until that point in time.
After the four greatest artists of the time were chosen and brought to the king’s palace, the king instructed them about the unique special project he was giving to them. “Remember,” he reminded them, “if you were successful, not only will I have the most beautiful artwork in the world, but you will be compensated accordingly, in a way that only a supreme ruling sovereign who is exceedingly pleased, can reward.”
Three of the artists attacked their walls with a measure of intuition, inspiration and expertise. They put their hearts and souls, their thoughts and talents – indeed their entire selves – into the projects that they’re working. The fourth artist did not wish to work too hard. He came up with a wonderful idea in his own mind that would please the king and gave him a lot of riches –without a tremendous amount of effort.
That artist made a simple request of supplies from the project’s quartermaster. He ordered a mirror that would cover the entire fourth wall. From his vantage point, that fourth mirror aptly reflected the beautiful art work on the other three walls.
Thus, three of the artists feverishly completed their work while the fourth one installed his mirror.
After the work had been completed, the king himself came to inspect the projects. After examining all four walls, he announced that on the next day each artist would stand in front of the wall that he prepared and the king would publicly award him accordingly. At the appointed hour, the king entered the throne room and gave each artist a sealed envelope. Each artist thanked the king and, on cue were instructed to open the envelopes at the same moment.
The first three artists opened their envelopes and found checks made out for large sums of money as promised. They turn to the fourth artist, the one who had installed the mirror, to see how he would make out with the king.
When the artist opened his envelope, instead of finding the expected check he found the following note:
“I thank you for the full wall mirror from which I am able to see and appreciate the beauty of the three other walls. By now you too, can see the financial appreciation I expressed to those who work for me in earnest. That reflection of others’ happiness for their hard work will be your reward.”
After the rebellion of Korach and after the sin of the miraglim, Bnei Yisroel and the tribe of Levi receive the laws of separation of Maaser. Rather than seeing this tithing as a form of charity, the Torah reminds us that the Levi (and the Kohein) is entitled to this portion as a portion of the work he performs for Hashem in the Beis HaMikdash.
The Sifrei Zuta is quick to note that the process of Maasering our produce is no different than paying a spiritual payroll to those who contribute work on the spiritual side of our business.
The Torah is stressing another idea here as well: Without effort, personal energy and personal dedication to improving his own state, be it physical or spiritual – a person cannot receive personal reward for his accomplishments. One who does not put in the effort, but instead tries to outsmart the population, will demonstrate his own deficiency on pay day. The person who puts in the effort will receive the greatest reward. The person who merely reflects the efforts of others – will also only reflect their accomplishments.
In life we are often called upon to make decisions or advance ideas and efforts in order to move forward. Whether we are moving forward in our careers, in our family efforts (think Cyrano De Bergerac) and especially in our personal and spiritual growth, we cannot merely reflect others' efforts and expressed ideas. To be successful, we need to work from our own personal perspective and with our own personal effort.
What do YOU value in the world? How do YOU advance yourself to help achieve those goals?
What can you be doing to make more personal advancement in the word and in your life and the lives of those around you?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.