Noach sent out a dove to ascertain the condition of the earth. The bird returned to the teivah with an olive leaf in its mouth.
“Let my food be bitter as an olive [as long as it is] provided by the Hand of Hakadosh Baruch Hu,” the dove declared symbolically, “rather than sweet as honey but provided by flesh and blood.”
Each time we recite Birkas Hamazon, we ask Hashem in the fourth brachah, “Please make us not needful … of the gifts of human hands nor of their loans, but only of Your Hand, which is full, open, holy and generous.”
Many reciting this brachah know that the bread they just ate was bought with a loan from another person. But this is no reason to be downcast or despondent.
For in addition to the simple meaning of the words, there is another explanation as well — that what we are praying for is not that we should never have to depend on another mortal, but that we should always be aware that he or she is only a messenger from Hashem.
In Melachim I (17:9), we learn that Hashem instructed Eliyahu Hanavi, “Arise, go to Tzarfas of Tzidon, and sojourn there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”
The Chofetz Chaim points out that this widow was not a prophetess. How did Hashem “instruct” her? He did so by filling her with the desire to take care of the material needs of Eliyahu.
In Shem Olam (Ch. 3), the Chofetz Chaim uses this idea to urge people not to become upset if their requests for financial aid or a loan have been refused or their wares have not been purchased.
He tells a parable of a man who was anxiously searching for a fellow named Reuven. Upon making inquiries, he was told that in a certain location there was a group of people, and Reuven was probably among them.
The man made his way to that place, and sure enough he saw a group of people standing together.
“Are you named Reuven?” he asked one of them.
“No,” the man answered.
“What about you — are you Reuven?” he asked another.
That person, too, said no.
Soon it became apparent that no one in the group answered to the name Reuven.
Would it have made any sense for the questioner to get angry? Of course not. These people could hardly be blamed for not being the one he was searching for.
In a similar way, if someone should turn down your request, there is no reason to get upset. The source of parnassah, the messenger who brings help, is preordained; this particular person just isn’t the one you are looking for.
* * *
At the same time, we must always be on the lookout for an opportunity to be the conduit of Hashem’s blessings. This, of course, applies not only to financial aid but to all other types of assistance, including giving moral support or even a warm smile and a friendly greeting that will light up the day for a neighbor or a colleague in the workplace.
One “responsibility” that we have to others is through tefillah.
In referring to the mabul described in this week’s parashah, the Navi Yeshayah states, “For the waters of Noach this shall be to Me.”
The Zohar Hakadosh teaches us that the mabul was called mei Noach, implying that Noach was somehow responsible for the flood, because when he was told that he and his sons would be saved, he failed to daven for the rest of humanity.
We have no notion of the lofty level of Noach, a man the Torah declares to be a righteous man. But what is pertinent to all of us is the obligation to be mispallel for others.
Harav Moshe Halberstam, the Kiviashder Rebbe, zy”a, was known for his incredible hasmadah and selfless dedication to avodas Hashem. At the conclusion of the days of Sefirah and of the Three Weeks, he would express his great happiness over the fact that wedding invitations started arriving again. Even when he did not plan to attend, he wouldn’t allow an invitation to a simchah to be discarded until after it had taken place so that he could daven on behalf of the chassan and kallah and celebrate with them from home.
Davening for another Yid is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on him, and all of us have the ability to do so.