Dreaming of Moshiach

Friday, October 26, 2007

Not For Sale...

The Rambam, zs'l, writes (Hilchot Geirushin 2:20) that deep in every heart, each Jew wants to be religious and observe all the Mitzvot. No Jew wants to sin; it is the yetzer hara (evil inclination) that persuades him to commits sins. The following story illustrates the truth of the Rambam's words.

A young man named Shimon hired a taxi to take him from his home in Jerusalem to Tzfat. During the lengthy trip, he and the driver passed the time by discussing all sorts of topics. Eventually, the conversation turned to the topic of Orthodoxy. The driver, very emphatically, declared that he rejected all principles of the Jewish faith. He claimed that he did not believe in HaShem, in the World to Come, in the Torah, or in the concept of reward and punishment.

Shimon argued vigorously with him, but could not make him change his mind. Seeing that all his efforts to convince the driver to think differently were futile, he exclaimed, "Since you do not believe in the rewards of the World to Come, will you please sell me your share in Gan Eden?"
"Yes, surely!" laughed the driver.

The young man handed the driver a twenty shekel note, saying, "Please state that you are selling me your share in Gan Eden in exchange for this money, and let us shake hands on this deal."

The driver, still laughing, did so, and the two men shook hands.

As they neared the holy city, they continued talking and arguing, with Shimon citing passages from the Torah and telling inspiration stories. The driver did not seem at all affected by Shimon's words, which only caused the young man to redouble his efforts at persuasion.

Finally, they reached their destination. Shimon alighted from the taxi, and asked the driver to meet him at a certain time to take him back home to Jerusalem. Then he proceeded to do what he had come to the holy city of the kabbalists to do: he visited the graves of the Tzaddikim and spent several hours in prayer. At the prearranged time and place, he met his taxi driver for the return trip home.

Once again, they began to talk. This time, fired by his visit to the holy graves, Shimon told stories about the Tzaddikim buried there, and related some of their teachings. The driver listened, but continued to poke good-natured fun at all Shimon said. Finally, tired out by his trip and his valiant effort to win over the taxi driver, Shimon stopped talking. A heave silence hung over the men for half an hour.

Suddenly, the driver turned to Shimon, his hand out-stretched, the 20-shekel note in his open palm. "Here," he said, not quite meeting Shimon's eyes, "take back your money and let's forget about the sale."
"Oh no!" exclaimed Shimon, "What was sold, was sold. No returns."

The driver stared ahead at the road. He seemed tense, uncertain, as if he didn't quite understand the storm that was raging within himself.

They traveled on for a few more minutes, when again the driver asked Shimon to take back his money and declare the sale invalid. Again Shimon refused. The driver, seeming to get somewhat panicky as they approached Jerusalem, began to implore Shimon to forget about the whole arrangement, but the more he begged, the more stubborn Shimon became.

It was not until they stopped in front of Shimon's house that Shimon turned to the driver, a gleam of triumph in his eyes, and said, "You claimed that you do not believe in anything. Yet here you are, begging me to take back my money and return to you your portion in Gan Eden. What is causing you to beg so hard for something in which you do not believe? It is your neshama, your Jewish soul! Deep inside you exists a soul which stood at Mount Sinai and heard HaShem give the Torah to the Jewish people. This soul heard HaShem promise rewards for observing the Mitzvot. It is your soul that is pushing you to regain its share in Gan Eden!"

The driver remained silent, and Shimon continued, "Since you possess a holy soul, you must promise me two things: First of all, never again to laugh at an Orthodox Jew; and secondly; to study the Torah and learn the Mitzvot so that you may observe them and satisfy the needs of your soul. Only if you promise to do so I cancel our deal."

Bowing his head, the driver promised. Shimon took back his money and left the cab, and the driver, tired from the day's physical and spiritual journies, headed toward his own home, two blocks away.

The next morning, as Shimon headed for shul, he noticed police cars and an ambulance in the area. He approached the scene of the accident and learned, to his shock and horror, that the driver he had employed and spoken to with such positive results only the previous day, had been hit by a speeding truck and had died instantly. a'h.

Shimon's eyes filled with burning tears and he sought consolation, an answer to the questions that were searing his senses. Finally, he thought of a teaching which comforted him somewhat. In Avodah Zarah, 17a it states that it is common for an atheist who repents completely to die suddenly, thus acquiring Gan Eden in "one hour."

'At least he died as a baal teshuva (penitent) and will make immediate use of the portion of Gan Eden which he bought back from me,' Shimon told himself, and a small part of his soul was comforted by the thought.

This inspirational story is from the highly-recommended book, 'Glimpses Of Greatness', by Rabbi David Koppelman.

If you feel enlighted by this story, you can read a similar one with an opposite outcome at 'Results of Selling a Sin'.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו