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THOU SHALT LOVE THY COMPETITOR
Parashat Tazriah Metzorah
Rava said: When a person dies and is brought in for his final judgement, he is asked: were you faithful in your business dealings?” (Shabbat 31a) The test of business ethic is the biggest test on a Jew’s fear of G-d. It has been said, “The bigger the merchant, the smaller the Jew!” What a shame! After all those years of Torah study, why is it so hard for the Jew to stick to the values and beliefs he was taught?
In his brilliant work, Emunah and Bitachon, the Chazon Ish describes the character of the faithful Jew. לא יחת אם רעהו פותח חנות, ישתדל עוד לעזור לרעהו, לתקנו בעצה טובה, לעשות עבורו, ולשקוד על תקנתו…. He will not fret if his friend opens a competitive store. He will even apply effort in helping his “friend” by giving advice, helping with errands and making sure his competition does not make mistakes. וכמה מן הקדושה מוסיף בעולם לראות איש עושה חסד עם המתעתד להתחרות עמו, ומוסיף תהילה ליריאיו יתברך אשריו ואשרי דורו And how much holiness does this man bring to the world?! To see a man doing kindness with his future competitor! And he adds praise to those who fear Him. Lucky is this man! And lucky is his generation!
What is the secret of tapping into this mindset and achieving this high level of faith that every G-d-fearing Jew covets? How does one achieve financial serenity?
My son said this Dvar Torah last week at the table, and it really hit home. And the purifying one (the leper) shall wash his clothes and shave all of his hair (14; 8). The Ben Ish Chai asks, why does the Torah want the leper to shave all of his hair? The Ben Ish Chai answers with the following story from the Midrash Tanchuma (Tazriah 6).
A certain Kohen who would check Tzaraat for community members lost his wealth and had difficulty supporting his wife and children. He heard about a place outside E. Yisrael where business was a breeze, and decided to travel there and test his luck.
The Kohen told his wife about his decision. He taught her how to check Tzaraat for community members while he was gone, for he was the only one in town who knew the laws.
“Remember. Every hair has its root, and the hair reveals information about its root source. If you see that the hair has become dried out and colorless, know that the Tzaraat at the root is very strong. But, if the hair is healthy, the Tzaraat at the root is healed.”
His wife then asked him, What if there are two hairs in one root?
Confidently, the Kohen answered his wife. “No such thing! Each hair has its own root, and no two hairs are sustained from the same root. If one hair would take from the root of another hair, a person would lose his eyesight! (see Niddah 52b)”
The woman then said to her husband, “Listen to your own words! If G-d created a source of sustenance for every hair, He has certainly created sustenance for all of your hairs, and all your children’s hairs. And if G-d is responsible for sustaining your hair, is He not responsible for sustaining you, yourself? Why do you need to leave Eretz Yisrael to find your “financial root”? Why worry about tomorrow’s bread? G-d supports even lice eggs; won’t He support you?
This is what is meant in the words of Ben Azzai : A person does not touch what is prepared for his friend, even a hairsbreadth. (Yoma 38a,b) Why does Ben Azzai use a hairsbreadth as the measure? The Midrash’s story is the answer. Because every hair has its root. And every person has his root, his source. No one can ever take anything from you. Why worry about your competition?
This is a huge lesson and in so many life areas. Parnassah. Shidduchim. Jealousy. Serenity. No one can take anything from you. The reason why a person speaks Lashon Hara is because he views his friend as a threat, invading his territory. When he shaves his head bald, he reveals that although before his haircut, it looked as if the hairs were fighting over the same root, after the haircut, it becomes clear that G-d created a root for each hair.
How does one get this “no competition/ no threat/ no stepping on my toes” mindset engrained in his bones, have it flowing through his veins and encompassing his whole existence? The answer is hidden in the words of Ben Azzai prior to the lesson earlier. ומשלך יתנו לך And from what is yours, they gave you. What do these words mean?
Rashi explains. כלומר: לא משלהם הוא מתנה, אלא מזונות קצובים לך מן השמים. All that you get, your paycheck, your allowance, your food in yeshiva or seminary, etc., is not a present from your boss, your parents, or school office. They were just G-d’s messengers. The food you eat was already set aside for you by Heaven. When you realize this, competition ceases to be reality. It is just a mirage.
In his Bitachon Boot Camp, R Efraim Stauber uses this awesome power tool he coined “Give it back!” The Talmud teaches that one who has pleasure from this world without thanking G-d for it is like a thief. (Berachot 35a) In a meditative way, give back to G-d what you stole from Him, or what you benefited from without praying for it or blessing G-d for it. Now, imagine how it would be without what you thought you were entitled to. Like your ability to breathe. The people you love. The house you live in. The money you have. (Even Bill Gates thought about this! He said what he would do if he would lose all of his money, $76 billion!) Then pray to G-d, beg for what you thought you were entitled to. When we undo our entitlement thinking, gratitude starts to fill our being, and the Neshama begins to soar.
The Evil Inclination’s way of convincing us of entitlement is through the lie of whatever you had until now, you are entitled to. How does one remain spiritually grounded and focused, continuously grateful and appreciative to G-d without feelings of entitlement?
Recognizing that the present is not bound to the past, and that anything can change at any moment, is the key to tapping into focused prayer. In the second blessing of the Amidah, Mechayeh Metim, resurrection of the dead is mentioned no less than 5 times. Why the repetition? In his Olam HaTefillot, R’ E. Munk explains that these five correspond the 5 senses. Every day, three times a day, we give back our eyesight to G-d, our hearing to G-d, our speech to G-d, our taste and touch, and we ask G-d to revive the dead. Why do we believe that we are entitled to these gifts? That is ridiculous! Why do we trust G-d that if we have had our senses and our life until now, we will always have them? How silly!!!
If we do this exercise enough, we can begin to truly trust G-d, even when the going gets rough. This is why we mention, specifically, in this blessing, our trust in G-d, ונאמן אתה, and מקיים אמונתו.., because giving back what you did not pray for is where all Bitachon begins.