Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Stain on the Soul

Art by Schnette

Source: "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD zt"l

It goes without saying that spirituality and dishonesty are mutually exclusive. Anyone who is in wrongful possession of the property of others cannot begin to be spiritual.

A person may engage in unfair business practices and rationalize that this is the way business is transacted. It is also possible that a person may inadvertently take advantage of others, and this too is sinful.

In Safed there was a tzaddik, a kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Galanti, who once came to the Arizal with a request that he reprimand him and help him correct his misdeeds. The Ari refused, saying that he was hardly one who could give mussar to so great a tzaddik, but Rabbi Avraham persisted in his demands. The Ari then studied his face and said "I see that you have a slight defect and that you are in wrongful possession of others' property."

Rabbi Avraham was shocked and promptly went home to don sackcloth and accept a fast, with intense soul-searching as to where he might have been dishonest, but to no avail.

Rabbi Avraham operated a textile factory. He called together all his workers and asked "Am I in arrears to any of you? Have I inadvertently withheld wages from anyone?" The workers responded "Rabbi, whatever you give us is enough. The Divine blessing is in your money, and whatever we receive always goes far enough to cover our needs."

Rabbi Avraham said "Then that is the problem. I may have shortchanged you on your wages, but you have never complained. That is why the Ari found me sinful. Henceforth you must be specific and make certain you receive every cent that is due to you."

"But I must make restitution for the past" he continued. Rabbi Avraham then placed money on the table and said "Let anyone come and take as much as they feel is due to him. Then I wish you to say "Whatever Avraham Galanti still owes me, I forgive him with all my heart!"

Except for one woman who took a few coins, no-one touched the money on the table, and all recited the forgiveness formula as requested.

Rabbi Avraham later returned to the Ari who said "The stain has now been cleansed. It was the small amount of money due to that woman that had left its mark on your neshama."

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