Maran zt”l’s Instructions to “Halacha Yomit”
Approximately six years ago in the midst of a Torah discussion with Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, he instructed us that although our main focus at “Halacha Yomit” must be the dissemination of Halacha in order for all to know how to conduct a Torah lifestyle, we must nevertheless insert some words of Mussar (ethical teachings), for Mussar is the fundamental basis for every Jewish person as our Sages teach us in several places.
Maran zt”l’s Custom
During the period of the counting of the Omer, Maran Rabbeinu zt”l would deliver a Mussar lecture between Mincha and Arvit of Friday night while including teachings regarding the love of Torah and fear of Heaven. He would begin his lecture by quoting various Mishnayot of Pirkei Avot (which is customarily read during this period), for the students of Rabbi Akiva passed away during this time because they did not treat each other with adequate respect. Even with his tight schedule and his time being as precious as it was, Maran zt”l nevertheless felt that it was extremely important to teach Mussar to the masses. We are therefore following in Maran’s footsteps and for the past several years during the period of the Omer counting, we publish teachings of Mussar and fear of Heaven found in Pirkei Avot.
Who is Truly Wealthy?
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 4) states: “Who is a wealthy person? One who is content with his lot.” This means that only one who is content with his lot in life can truly be considered a wealthy person, for he constantly trusts in Hashem and is happy with what he has. Indeed, wealth is quite relative, for a pauper is jealous of one who earns a living and one who earns a living is jealous of one who lives in a beautiful home and one who lives in a beautiful home is jealous of the person who owns an impressive estate, so on and so forth. Thus, mankind will never be able to live in peace and tranquility, for almost everyone will chase after what they perceive as “wealth”.
However, one who has faith in Hashem planted in his heart will always rejoice in what Hashem has given him and thank Him for all of the goodness He has bestowed upon him. Such an individual knows that the only true “wealth” in this world is Torah, Mitzvot, and good deeds which is the only genuine wealth which follows a person even past the grave.
An Incident Regarding the Rambam’s Grandson
Maran Rabbeinu zt”l quotes an incident recounted by Rabbi David, grandson of the great Rambam in his Sefer Midrash David. Once, there was a poor man who struggled to earn a living but was always content with what Hashem gave him, however little or plenty. Every night when he would eat with his household, they would all thank Hashem for the goodness He had bestowed upon them and each member of the household would play a different instrument and they would then all sing and dance for an hour or two joyfully after which they would disperse and go to sleep.
One night, the king passed by their door and heard a great musical ensemble but he did not bother them. The same occurred the next night and the night after that. After the third such night of hearing the joyful music, the king sent for this poor man. The man came before the king and the king asked him, “Are you the man? How much money do you possess?” The poor man answered, “Your highness, I am a poor man with no money. Whatever I earn every day I spend on sustaining my family. I am happy with whatever Hashem sends me, however little it is and because of this we play music and sing and dance every night.”
The king appreciated the poor man’s words and he thought to himself, “If these people are so happy and thank Hashem so much amid poverty, how much more so would they thank Hashem if they were wealthy.”
The king then commanded his servants to fill up a sack of gold coins for this man. The poor man indeed took these coins home and when he got there, he placed them in a box. When the man saw that the coins were not enough to completely fill up the box, he and his wife both thought that they must now work extra hard until they are able to fill the entire box up to the top with gold coins at which point they would be able to live their entire life in wealth. From that day on, whatever they earned they would place in the box but the box would nevertheless not fill up. The husband and wife now lived with fear and worry and the nightly musical production ceased. (Indeed, many people who become wealthy turn into upset and nervous people from then on.)
Sometime later, the king passed by their home and saw them sleeping in the darkness. The next two nights the king passed by and saw them living in anguish. The king called the man and asked him, “What happened?” The man replied, “Your highness, when I did not have money, I was happy that I did not have any expectations for thousands of gold coins. Now, however, I am always nervous and longing for the day when the box of gold coins will be filled and until this day, it has yet to be filled.” At this point, the king took away all of the man’s money and the poor man returned to his original custom amid much song and dance.
This idea is true and applies to every single individual.