Minute #670: Have It, Give It

Mr. Jacobovics was upset with himself for procrastinating. His project was due tomorrow but still incomplete. A few hours earlier he had packed his laptop and folders and rushed to catch the 6:45 train home. He worked during the entire commute, but still needed several more hours before his proposal would be ready.

He had a quick bite and set up his home office for the long night ahead. How upsetting to find his battery dying and the charger missing from his laptop case! He had left it plugged into the wall in his office!

He thought to save time by approaching his neighbor to borrow a charger, but to no avail.

“Please, you’ve got to bail me out!” he pleaded.

“Sorry, I can’t give what I don’t have,” his neighbor replied.

Mr. Jacobovics spent valuable time driving to the mall to buy a new charger.

It’s obvious that one cannot give another something one doesn’t have. One cannot donate to even the most worthy of causes money one does not possess. What one may not realize is that this simple reality of the physical realm applies to the spiritual world as well.

In Pirkei Avot (4:1), Ben Zoma points out that people will respect one who shows proper esteem to others. Conversely, one who does not venerate others will not be respected. What, then, would prevent one from invoking such a simple practice in order to gain the respect of others?

The Shem M’Shmuel says, on the above Mishnah, that a container cannot give forth what it doesn’t contain. Likewise, a person cannot give what he doesn’t possess. One cannot show respect to others when one lacks self-respect. A poor self-image casts a dark tint on the character and abilities of others. Our self-improvement projects — when successful — make everyone else look better as well.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Rav Yeruchum of Mir used to say, “Woe is to a person who is not aware of his faults, for he does not know what he has to correct. But double woe to a person who is not aware of his virtues, for he is lacking the tools for correcting himself.” (Harav Shlomo Wolbe, Alai Shur, pp. 168–9)