("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.)
There once was a great, respected, mayor of a large city who was quite well wealthy and well-liked. He spent his year involved in education, mediation and general welfare of his people. He would encourage couples and families and counsel them. He would regularly enter the classrooms of his schools and teach the young people about civics and history. He would reach into his pocket and offer large sums of charity to take care of the poor of his city. He would invest in the young entrepreneurs of the city, trying to help everyone succeed in his or her business endeavors. Clearly he was a model leader, and was loved by all the townspeople.
Except one. A particular sourpuss of a man lived in the city who, for whatever reason, couldn’t stand the mayor.
Each year, on Purim, the people would bring one another Mishloach Manos and they would all converge on the Mayor’s home to lavish him with gifts as well, in a means to offer a small token of thanks for all the good that he regularly did for them. Even the mayor’s adversary couldn’t resist participation and would send a few coins to the mayor in order to be a part of the festivities.
As the people gathered at the mayor’s home for the Purim meal, the mayor saw his adversary and immediately reached into his pocket and pulled out the coins to return them. The mayor told him “please take them, they belong to you, and I do not wish to hold onto them.”
The adversary was insulted. “If you were returning everyone’s gifts, I’d understand and assume that you do not wish to take gifts in general (see Mishlei 15:27). But you are accepting EVERYONE’s gifts. Why return mine?”
The mayor answered: “You need to know, the townspeople here love their mayor. If they could, they’d send me gifts every single day. The only thing is, throughout the year they are so busy earning a living, they lack the ability to focus on expressing their gratitude. When they have a break from that intense focus, they recognize their love and admiration and send gifts as they do yearly on Purim. Accordingly, their Purim gifts are really an expression of positive emotional energies stored up all year. Therefore, I accept the gifts because it is symbolic of accepting their gratitude. You, however, cannot stand me. All year long, you’d rather get rid of me. So when Purim comes and you send a few coins out of embarrassment of not wanting to stand alone, I know that the heart is not in it. So take your coins --- I really do not need them.”
Rav Volch used to use this story to highlight our relationship with Hashem. The fact is, that Hashem does not need the Korban that man offers on the Mizbeiach. The goal of Korban offerings was its utilization as an opportunity for man to come closer to Hashem and express his thanks to Him while forging a stronger, better bond between the person bringing the Korban and Hashem himself. When this is the case, the Korban is a symbol of man’s emotional feelings toward Hashem. When it is not, but is merely “what I HAVE TO do,” Hashem says Lama Lee – “what do I need the smell of dead animal for?”
Interestingly, the Talmud (Berachos 26b) notes that Tefilla (prayer) is like a Korban. Do we daven with that same intensity? Do we enter the possibly of a rendezvous with Hashem with the emotional excitement that He seeks from us? How can we possibly improve the focus we have on prayer, or Torah study, so that it becomes an expression of our desire to “know Hashem”?
Moreover, how often do we express our religious observances in regard to what we “have to do” instead of recognizing that what Hashem wants from us is really what we “want to do”? How can we use this idea to inspire our children to become more aware of Hashem and cultivate within them, the same desire to express love for Him through Mitzva experience and the positive experience of His Mitzvos?
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.