“What happened has happened. What was, was already. What will be, will be. But as for now — I am a Yid. Father, renew completely, light a fire in my heart.”
These words of a moving Yiddish song that has become popular in recent years encapsulate a key part of the lesson of Parashas Hachodesh.
In the middle of each month the light of the moon begins to wane. The full moon grows smaller and smaller, until by the end of the month it seemingly disappears. Then comes the renewal, a small slice of light that grows and grows until the moon once again shines its full face upon the earth.
This is true regarding Am Yisrael as a people, and is equally true regarding individuals. There are times when it seems that the light has gone out of a person’s life. His business collapsed and he is overwhelmed with debt, or perhaps is facing a devastating personal crisis. His spirits plummet and he views his challenges as insurmountable, the gates to happiness to him sealed forever.
Or, even more disturbingly, he senses that his personal relationship with Hashem has weakened dramatically, and the light in his heart dims and all but disappears. He is deluded into thinking that the relationship is beyond repair, and despairs of ever feeling a true closeness to Hashem.
Parashas Hachodesh reminds us that precisely when the light has dimmed entirely, we can expect it to return to shine again.
In his Sefer Maasiyos, Rav Nissim Gaon tells an intriguing tale of a very rich man who wished to give a substantial sum of money to tzedakah, but with a rather extreme condition: he wanted to give it only to a person who was in total, absolute despair.
One day the rich man took a stroll outside of the city and discovered a man dressed in torn rags sitting in a garbage heap. Concluding that this must be the person he was looking for, he approached him and handed him one hundred dinars.
The poor man was astonished. “Of all the poor people in the city, why did you choose me to give this immense sum to?” he asked.
“I vowed to give money only to someone who had given up on this world,” the rich man explained.
“Only a fool and an atheist give up!” the man on the garbage heap replied. “I trust in Hashem and in His kindness,” he added. “I await His compassion every moment, as it says ‘His mercies are on all His works.’
“Did you not read [the passuk in Tehillim] ‘He lifts the pauper up from the dust, from the dungheap He raises up the needy; to seat [him] with princes, with the princes of His people.’?
“Know that there is nothing that can prevent Hashem from lifting me, making me wealthy, and saving me from my misfortune,” he told the man. “Abandon your foolishness and stay far from it!”
The rich man expressed his indignation at what he perceived as the poor man’s ingratitude to his kindness. But the man in the garbage heap firmly rejected his assertion.
“You think that you had compassion on me, but in reality you [sought to] kill me, for the only ones who give up hope in this world are the deceased.”
Hearing this response, the rich man decided to entrust his wealth to the dead, and buried a substantial sum of money in the local cemetery.
Time passed, and the wheel of fortune turned. The rich man lost all his wealth and found himself penniless. He recalled the money he had buried in the cemetery, and went to try to dig it up.
The local guards caught him in action, and assuming that he was seeking to disturb the rest of the dead by stealing their shrouds, arrested him and brought him before the ruler of the city.
The arrested man told the ruler what had made him bury the money in the cemetery in the first place.
“Do you recognize me?” the ruler asked him.
The man admitted he did not.
“I am the man who once sat on the garbage heap!” the ruler informed him.
Life is a cycle. Just when one has reached what seems to be the lowest point possible, things begin to turn upwards. The main thing is, no matter how bleak the situation may appear, don’t despair!
This is true in regard to temporal as well as spiritual matters.
It’s never too early — or too late — for renew one’s relationship with Hashem. This is true all year, but especially in these days of renewal — his’chadshus. As long as one lives, there is hope. As long as one still breathes, he can put aside the past and start afresh.