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. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
A man was watching boats be loaded and unloaded in Elizabeth port. He saw grain ships carrying grain and being unloaded. He observed tankers unloading oil. He saw container ships carrying brand new cars to be brought throughout the east coast by truck. And then he observed something strange. He saw a ship was being loaded with dead weight. It even said it on the side of the container – “no value – dead weight.”
The man was perplexed. “In an industrious country, why would a person waste valuable resources ad time carrying dead weight across the Atlantic Ocean?” he mused.
He took his question to the Harbormaster and asked him to explain it. “Are there countries that buy dead weight?” he asked.
“No,” responded the Harbormaster. “Certainly, there is no buyer at the other end who wants the dead weight. However, in order to make sure that the Ship sails with the proper buoyancy, it needs the right amount of weight to weigh it down. If the ship sails too light, it can capsize in a storm. That’s why we sometimes send dead weight in the boat – merely to weigh it down so it gets to its destination intact. However once it gets there, it will be discarded for better goods.”
Rav Yaakov Galinsky ztl. used to say the same about the difference between the life of Shevet Levi and the rule of Eisav. While both were descendants of Avraham and thus entitled to the land of Israel, only Levi gets a chance to enter the land. The reason why, notes Rashi, (Berashis 31:6) is that Eisav’s descendants never were enslaved in Mitzrayim.
However, isn’t the same true for the children of Levi? They too were not doing the back-breaking labor of Mitzrayim?
Rav Yaakov Galinsky cites the Zohar Hakadosh (I:27:1) notes that part of the enslavement of the Jews involved the yoke of Torah, which Shevet Levi gladly accepted. They were not “dead weight” in Egypt – they completed their servitude albeit with different responsibilities than some of the other children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. While Eisav returned home to Se’ir and turned his back on destiny, Levi never did. They held onto their role within the people and did their best to encourage their fellow brothers by being with them. They earned their role in Bnei Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael precisely BECAUSE they would not allow themselves to be “dead weight.”
On the other hand, Eisav gets to do the walk of history with the Jewish people. If not WITH the Jewish people, they are there as “dead weight” to keep our ship afloat. When we get to our ultimate destination, Eisav too will be discarded.
In life we need to assess where we stand and what we are doing to further promote our positive growth in the world.
How do YOU define being a “productive” member of society?
What can YOU be doing to be a productive member of society and not “dead weight?”
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.