CHEATERS NEVER PROSPER.
When we were young children in elementary school, we were always taught to be honest and never to cheat. The phrase "Cheaters never prosper" always followed this exhortation from the teacher or the parent.
When we were young children in elementary school, we were always taught to be honest and never to cheat. The phrase "Cheaters never prosper" always followed this exhortation from the teacher or the parent. But as we grow older, we begin to wonder about this statement. We all know people who cheated and were not caught, and they sure seem to have prospered! Some of the most successful people in the world achieved fame and fortune by cheating and lying throughout their entire lives. So how can we say that cheaters never prosper? This question is similar to one of the most difficult philosophical questions that we are faced with: "Why do good things happen to bad people?"
The Chofetz Chaim, the saintly leader of world Jewry at the turn of the century, relates the following story to illustrate a solution to this perplexing problem. There was once a very wealthy man who employed many people in his hometown. When it came time for the man's daughter to get married, he was faced with a dilemma. He obviously would invite all of the important people of the town to the gala affair, but he also had to invite all of his employees. He decided that to have them all at the same meal would be impossible. So he devised a compromise: On the day before the wedding, he would make a great feast and invite all of his workers to come and share in his joy. On the day of the wedding itself, he would celebrate with an even more lavish banquet, joined by all of the distinguished and honored guests.
On the day before the wedding, the rich man was sitting and enjoying the feast along with his employees. A traveler passing through the town happened to notice them and was astounded. He approached the rich man and asked, "Is it possible that these employees are more important than all of your friends and honorable people of the town? How come you are having them over for the feast without everyone else?" To the traveler the question was an obvious one, but if he heard the reasoning behind what the rich man was doing then he too would have seen the logic. It was not that these people were more important; rather it was because of the importance of all the other people that the rich man made a separate earlier feast for the workers.
The traveler in the story represents us. Looking at this world, we do not understand how the "rich man" (Hashem) is running it. If we could only see that the bad people who have it so good are only getting their reward now instead of the more lavish reward in the World To Come, we would surely also agree to the logic behind it. This is what the verse in this week's Torah portion refers to when it says, "I will turn to you" (Leviticus 26:9). Even though it seems as if the "bad" people are the only ones to whom good things occur, after Hashem is done giving out the rewards to those people, then He will turn to you and you will appreciate the greater reward that you are receiving. And so we see, in the long run, cheaters never prosper.
Rachi Messing, a student at Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Towson State University in Baltimore, is married to Devorah Estreicher of Atlanta.
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