The Treasury of Unearned Gifts
It was his last summer and he knew it. The fresh air, the spacious gardens, the daily strolls in the city's outskirts, all would soon cease. Having contracted tuberculosis two and a half years earlier, every day of life was treasured as a miracle unto itself.
Rebbe Nachman had just moved to the house in which, two months later, he would breathe his last. As was customary, his followers joined him for Shabbat Nachamu (Shabbat of Consolation), which follows the fast of Tish'ah b'Av (the Ninth of Av, the day which marks the destruction of the Holy Temple). Rebbe Nachman was very weak that Friday evening and scarcely had strength to speak. Facing his followers, he said:
Why do you come to see me? Don't you realize I know nothing at all now? At this point I am just an ordinary person! The only thing that inspires me is the fact that I have merited being in the Holy Land.
After repeating this theme several times, Rebbe Nachman proceeded to give a most beautiful lesson, expounding upon simplicity, the Holy Land and how Godliness permeates every facet of existence. Even if someone is unworthy, God is there for him, ready to reveal to him the deepest mysteries of Creation. This is because God has a Treasury of Unearned Gifts that sustains the entire world, even those people who are most distant from Him: there is always hope.
Rebbe Nachman's body was racked with pain, his breathing was laborious and he sometimes coughed up blood. He knew he was dying. Yet this lesson became a powerful source of inspiration even to the Rebbe himself. Out of his pain and suffering, in one of his darkest moments, Rebbe Nachman issued one of the most important messages of all times:
Gevalt! Never despair! There is never a reason for despair!
(Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #153
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Wouldn't it be nice...?
Wouldn't it be nice if we all enjoyed the good life: if we all had a limitless repository upon which to draw? Imagine never having to worry about where the money to pay the next grocery bill, mortgage or tuition installment would come from. Think about how nice it would feel to have the freedom to do whatever you wanted, using
your own seemingly limitless assets. And wouldn't it be even nicer if we were all blessed with good health physical, mental and emotional to help us enjoy that vast treasury?
When speaking about a treasury, most people's first thoughts turn to finances. Nevertheless, many different categories of wealth exist. Good health is one, wisdom is another. A parent or a good friend is a treasure to be cherished.
Our Sages state (Avot4:1), Who is wealthy? One
who is satisfied with his lot. The application of the term wealthy to anyone who is satisfied with his or her life is not just a noble ideal. It is a statement of such magnitude that, when clearly understood, opens entirely new vistas on life and can illumine anyone's darkest moments. It is, in fact, the key to a contented life: a life of satisfaction and joy, of emotional stability, of accomplishment and solid relationships a life in which the daily grind and the challenges can be faced with confidence and security.Satisfaction is the greatest treasure one can hope for in life, a treasure that exceeds all others. As we shall see, Rebbe Nachman teaches that satisfaction with life is available to all people at all times, and can be had simply by drawing upon the remarkable resources that
each person already possesses. Satisfaction is the key to experiencing a tangible sweetness in life, no matter what the circumstances.
Each and every person is absolutely unique, each possesses incredible resources. All we need to do is to realize the extent of our inner
strength and apply that strength according to our own abilities.
The reason we are blessed with these resources is that man was created by God: he is dependent upon and attached to Him at all times. We know that God is Infinite. Thus, by extension, the resources upon which we can rely are drawn from a Limitless Source. The more intensely we recognize that Source, the better equipped we are to draw upon it. If we will but cultivate that realization of our Divine connection, we will be able to truly appreciate our selves, and properly utilize our own treasuries.
Each of us, without exception, possesses a vast treasury. It is mine, all mine; I may do with it as I please. But the irony is that, though it is mine, it is not really a treasury of my own making. Our lives and the situations with which we are confronted are all God-given: it was He Who planted us from birth within this family, this city, this country, this environment. No one had a choice into which family he would be born and no one had an opportunity, in his early years, to determine his life's progress. All circumstances of birth and subsequent growth and development in early life are not of the individual's choice. It is God Who gave us life, the health we enjoy, the wealth we possess and the challenges and opportunities we face in life. It is the attitudes we adopt after we mature that determine how we live our lives.
As we shall see, this is the theme underlying The Treasury of Unearned Gifts.