Last night I brought home a very special gift in honor of Rosh Hodesh Adar. A case of 10 ripe mangoes. This is a beloved fruit in our house. The haul was met with cheers of joy. Just as we were eating the first juicy bites, fears of scarcity arose. My kids asked, "How many have we eaten? How many are left? Why didn't you get 20?" They started to ration. "We need to save some for tomorrow!" I tried to reassure them and encourage them to enjoy the bounty of this tropical fruit without much success. The fruit was after all finite.
My kids awoke this morning, remembered the mangoes, and asked the most important question: "Do we have enough to share with our friends?" As soon as I assured them of this, they were completely at ease. Over and over again, my kids remind me that the ability to share is actually what produces a sense of abundance, not the quantity itself.
Each year, at this time of year, as the sap begins to flow in the trees and the days grow ever so much longer, I return to a particular teaching about abundance from this week's parsha, Mishpatim. Amidst a litany of laws about how to create an ethical society, comes this holy instruction:
אִם־כֶּ֣סֶף ׀ תַּלְוֶ֣ה אֶת־עַמִּ֗י אֶת־הֶֽעָנִי֙ עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹא־תִהְיֶ֥ה ל֖וֹ כְּנֹשֶׁ֑ה לֹֽא־תְשִׂימ֥וּן עָלָ֖יו נֶֽשֶׁךְ׃
If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, do not act toward them as a creditor; exact no interest from them (Exodus 22:24).
A beloved midrash on this verse opens up this conversation further (Tanhuma, Mishpatim 12):
"All of God's creations borrow from each other;
day borrows from night, and night from day...
The moon and the stars borrow from each other...
The night borrows from the sun, and the sun from the night...
Wisdom borrows from understanding, and understanding borrows from wisdom...
Mercy and righteousness borrow from each other...
Heaven and earth borrow from each other...
The midrash concludes:
"A person who charges interest once asked The Holy Blessed One:
'Don't you charge interest to all of your creations? From the earth that you irrigate; From the flowers that you grow; From the luminaries that you cause to shine; From the person into whom you breathed life?'
To which the Holy One replies, 'No, never! See how much I lend, and I never collect interest. The earth lends and she doesn't collect interest. I lend to the source of all lending, and the earth renews herself in it.'"
We live in a world of abundance, and yet we feel scarcity. The voice of God in this midrash reminds us that there is enough to go around. And sharing -- mangoes and money and time and love -- is actually how we come to feel that truth.
This is at the heart of the mitzvot of Purim. To share food and treats through mishloach manot. And to give money directly to those who need it through matanot l'evyonim.
About the power of sharing, the Sufi mystic Hafiz writes:
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
With a love like that,
It lights the
Or in the words of Pirkei Avot:
אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר, הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ
Who is rich? A person who rejoices in what they have (4:1).
As we enter this new month, may we take every opportunity to share what we have and come to feel the joy of having enough.
Happy Lunar New Year, Hodesh Tov & Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi 🦁 Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.