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Friday, 12 October, 2018 - 11:09 am

Once, when the Ba'al Shem Tov was raising money for charity, he knocked on the window of a home but then immediately went on his way without waiting for a response. Eventually, the resident of the home came to the Ba'al Shem Tov and gave him a donation.

Later, the Ba'al Shem Tov was asked: "If you needed that person's help, why didn't you wait for him to come to the window? And if you didn't need his help, why did you knock on his window?" The Ba'al Shem Tov explained: "G-d wants us to make a natural 'vessel' for His blessings. I accomplished this by knocking on the window. However, I had many important things to take care of, and I didn't have time to wait for him to come to the door, ask me what I need, etc. I already had made my vessel, so I was ready to move on to my next task.

***

Chassidic thought emphasizes the relative roles of the ‘light’ and the ‘vessel.’ The light represents G-d’s blessing. The vessel represents human effort.

For example, if I’m thirsty and outdoors without any water nearby, I’ll probably be praying for rain. Even if G-d answers my prayers and sends rain, I’d be a fool to only open my mouth to grab the drops that fall. I should take a cup, or perhaps a bottle or bucket to gather some more water. Suppose it rains for ten minutes. Hopefully, I’ll have filled my bottle.

But, suppose I get a 50-gallon drum and it rains for the same ten minutes. All the extra effort in getting the oversized vessel was for naught. It only rained for ten minutes and filled up a couple inches of the barrel.

In this metaphor, the rain is the light (G-d’s blessing), and the bottle is the vessel. Creating a bigger vessel doesn’t get you any more light than G-d provides.

***

When G-d brought the Flood upon the earth, He asked Noach to build an ark to save some of the animals.

In this week’s eponymous parsha, the Torah tells us that a pair of every species of animals arrived at the ark. Rashi explains that they arrived on their own. Noach did not go on a trapping expedition to secure all the animals for his year-long zoo. Rather, he just built the ark and, when the time was right, they all showed up and marched in.

It was quite the miracle.

I can’t expect those types of miracles in my own life. But, I can learn a powerful lesson from Noach.

*

Noach could easily have figured that his mission was futile. Even if he constructed the best ark in the world (or the only ark in the world!), he would still be unable to save all the animals. How could a single person (or family) capture a sampling of all extant animals?  It was an unrealistic project!

But, Noach did not worry about such details…

Instead he threw himself into the task of preparing an ark adequate for all the animals.

Miraculously, G-d took care of the rest.

In other words: Noach preoccupied himself with the mission that was incumbent upon him. True, the vessel was seemingly inadequate. But, that was G-d’s business – not his. Because he realized his actions were simply creating a vessel, G-d granted miraculous success to his endeavor.

*

When a person focuses on what is demanded of him or her – the real purpose of their existence – then the other aspects of life will automatically fall into place, with little or no effort.

I might need to put a cup out to capture the rain. But I should rather obsess over my real purpose in life. G-d will take care of the rest in – at times – the least expected ways.

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