Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lost at the Fair

"Olam Ha-Ze" by Barbara Mendes

"I was a stranger in a foreign land" [Yitro 18:3]

Moshe Rabbeinu, said the Chofetz Chaim, called his son Gershom ('stranger there') because he wished to be reminded daily that his life in this world was but a temporary one, like a stranger living in a foreign land.

The Chofetz Chaim explained this idea with a parable:

A merchant once went to a fair in order to purchase merchandise at a low cost.  The fair was being held in a distant location, so the merchant was forced to part with his family for a long time.

Before he left home, the merchant comforted his wife and children: "Do not be upset. It's true that I will be away for a long time and I will certainly miss all of you, but the time will pass quickly and, with the help of Hashem, I will soon return home.  You have my word that I will not tarry a moment longer than necessary."  The merchant then gathered his belongings and went on his way.

After a long trip, the merchant arrived at the fair.  Without wasting any time, he hurried to the marketplace and began investigating the merchandise.

At one of the booths, he met a friend whom he had not seen in many years.  After exchanging warm greetings, the friend suggested to the merchant that they leave the fair and go to a quiet area for a day or two, where they could sit and share memories from the past.

"I'm sorry" replied the merchant, "but I cannot accept your offer. Do you think I left my wife and children to engage in frivolous conversations?  Did I travel to such a distant land for my amusement? As soon as I finish acquiring the merchandise I need, I will immediately rush home."

So it is with man, said the Chofetz Chaim.  Every individual is placed in the world for the express purpose of fulfilling Hashem's will by doing mitzvot and performing good deeds.  But then the yetzer hara tries to lure the person into wasting his precious time on meaningless pursuits.

Therefore, concluded the Chofetz Chaim, a person must say to his yetzer hara exactly what the merchant said to his friend: Did I come to this world in order to engage in foolishness?  Do not even attempt to beguile me into wasting my precious time!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein