("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.)
In the little European town of Radin, there was a pharmacist who worked hard but was extremely unliked. He overcharged on medications, robbed people blind and, in general, behaved with conduct antithetical to a religious jew.
One day, the venerable sage, the Chofetz Chaim, decided to inspire the pharmacist. He entered the pharmacy in the middle of the day. While people stood around waiting for their orders, the sage walked over to the pharmacist, grabbed him in a warm, strong embrace and began heaping a huge amount of praise on the man. “I’m jealous of you,” he declared. “See how many mitzvos you have. Notice the hundreds of lives you save daily. Without your medications, all of these people would die. It is only because of your Chessed that they have the chance to live. What Chessed! I am so jealous.”
The pharmacist, devoid of anything Jewish in his heart, was aroused by the warm words of the sage. “What merit?” he asked, “I was just doing my job. And for my job, I receive full price. Where is there any Chessed in that?”
The Chofetz Chaim answered “yes, you do receive full price. But the full price that you receive – and deserve— is for your livelihood. After all, you are entitled to live. However, if you were to attach even the smallest thought – that what you’re doing, you do to save lives – then you get the merit of saving lives. It is no contradiction to making a living. It’s all based on your intention and what you consider important.
Intention – Kavana is one of the most important issues that come up in the background of the holiday of Pesach. We need to mix different intentions together when we sit at the Seder table in order to properly prepare for each of the mitzvos we perform on the seder night.
However, like in much of life, Kavana can extend far beyond the simple, literal action we are performing. We have kavana to daven and be Yotzai chovas Tefillah but do we really intend to communicate with Hashem? We have Kavana to fulfill the seder obligations but do we really understand the greater mission of appreciating each step that led to the redemption and how we are closer to Hashem in each step of the process?
Many of us recite Hineni Muchan U’Mezuman – that we are prepared and present to perform a mitzvah – yet how can we be MORE present of Hashem’s role in our personal lives? How can we foster that awareness in our children and families as well?
What can we do, to make sure that whatever we do, we do it to bring glory to the name of Hashem?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.