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"These Boots Were Made for Shining!"

11/25/2020 12:02:01 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)


In this week’s parashah, Parashat Vayetze, we find the following:  “And Ya’akov vowed a vow saying: ‘If G-d be with me, and He will guard me on this way upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear, and I will return in peace to my father’s house, and HaShem will be my G-d, then this stone which I have established as a monument shall be a house of G-d….” (Braysheet 28:20-22) At first glance, this appears as though Ya’akov is “asking for the world” and that he is trying to “make a deal” with Hashem: If Y-u will do this, then I will do that.  However, what this passage really illustrates is that Ya’akov did not want to request anything from HaShem other than his minimal needs.  But why “minimal needs?”   Why was Ya’akov requesting so little from HaShem?  Was he lacking trust in HaShem by not asking for more?  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov instructs: “A person must accustom himself to praying for all his needs at all times,…For each of his needs, the principle advice is to only pray to HaShem and to believe that Hashem is good for everything – for curing illness, for livelihood, and for every other need – and one’s principle efforts should be in praying to HaShem….”  Perhaps the following parable will help with an understanding as to how Ya’akov was doing exactly what Rebbe Nachman was advising:

The Duke had two personal valets who traveled with him wherever he went.  One day a special messenger arrived from the palace to inform the Duke that he was invited to dine with the King and a number of the world’s leading statesmen.  This dinner was to be the most prestigious event of the year.  The valets both knew that the Duke’s appearance had to be impeccable for this event.  They both had shoeshine boxes with an assortment of pastes and brushes.  Yet, for this occasion, they needed something special.  The Duke’s custom-made knee-high black leather boots would have to shine like mirrors.  Both valets requested special Belgian horsehair brushes and Welsh saddle soap.  Despite the fact that both items were exorbitantly expensive, the Duke agreed to their request and procured the articles for each valet.

On the afternoon before the royal banquet, the two valets were feverishly polishing boots.  The first valet was polishing the Duke’s boots, bringing them to a high gloss.  All he cared about was his master’s prestige.  The second valet was using his new Belgian horsehair brushes and Welsh saddle soap to polish his own boots.  Suddenly the Duke entered the workroom.  He saw his best boots in the hands of the first valet and then noticed the second valet engaging in the act of polishing his own boots.  “Aha,” exclaimed the Duke, “a valet must be neat and clean, but a regular brush and polish are more than adequate for a valet’s own boots.  The Belgian horsehair brushes and Welsh saddle soap cost a good two hundred silver crowns!  Were it not for the royal banquet, I would never have purchased them!  Yet for a servant to use them for his own boots is insufferable!  The nerve!”

Needless to say, the second valet was reprimanded and punished for his actions while the first valet was rewarded for his selfless service to the Duke.”

          When we use the abundance of blessings that HaShem gives us in order fulfill H-s mitzvot, we are like the first valet in the parable who used all the expensive tools that were given to him in the service of the Duke.  This is the type of person to whom Rebbe Nachman was referring when he instructed us to ask Hashem for all our needs.  But when we ask for HaShem’s blessings only to use them for our own needs and desires, then we are like the second valet in the parable as we are “embezzling” from HaShem in the same manner that the second valet was embezzling from the Duke.  So, we see that Ya’akov was not playing “Let’s make a deal” with HaShem.  Instead, he was committing himself to a lifetime of service and devotion to Hashem.  We can and must do no less!   

Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781