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LCHAIM TO LIFE

by Rabbi Ariel Asa    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The Jordan River originates in several headstreams in the Mountains of Lebanon and Syria. It flows about 200 miles from north to south, through the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is fed mainly by the Jordan River, entering from the north. The Dead Sea has no outlet.

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The Jordan River originates in several headstreams in the Mountains of Lebanon and Syria. It flows about 200 miles from north to south, through the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is fed mainly by the Jordan River, entering from the north. The Dead Sea has no outlet.

Picture the scenario: Moses has been in exile for many years for having killed the wicked Egyptian taskmaster and now he receives a Divine message that it is safe for him to return. "All the men that were seeking your life are dead" (Exodus 4:19). Moses is certainly excited to be able to return to his brethren. He makes the return trip, and on the first day back he runs into the two individuals who squealed on him to Pharaoh and were seeking his downfall in the first place Datan and Aviram. "I thought you gentlemen passed away," Moses thinks to himself. Then he takes a second look, sees their tattered clothes, and then thinks, "That’s it, they’re so poor, they are like dead and therefore won’t have any influence with Pharaoh to cause me harm."

The Talmud (Tractate Nedarim 64b) informs us that there are actually four categories of people that are considered as if they are dead. The first is the poor person, the second is the one afflicted with leprosy, the third is a blind person, and the final category is an individual who has no children.

What did the sages mean to convey by stating that these four are considered as if they are dead? Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, the late dean of the famed Mirrer Yeshiva, explains that life is about giving. The more that one gives, the more one is alive. The common denominator in these four categories is that they have very limited ability to give to others. A poor person constantly relies on the financial support of others to survive and can only give a limited amount of charity himself; a leper must remain separate from others and therefore cannot be a giver; a blind person generally needs assistance to accomplish most daily tasks; and a childless person, though obviously has the ability to help a spouse and others, cannot fulfill that almost constant role of meeting the needs of a child.

In the land of Israel there are two main bodies of water besides the Mediterranean. The Sea of Galilee in the north, which is also known as the sea of life and the Yam HaMelach, also known as the Dead Sea.

The Sea of Galilee is supplied with its water source from the melting snow in the mountains to the north. However, it not only receives water, it also knows how to give the Jordan River continues to flow out from it to the south. It continues southward until it reaches the Dead Sea and there the flow ends. The sea has no outlet. Indeed it is dead because it does not have the attribute of being a giver.

When confronted with opportunities to help others we often feel overwhelmed with all of our other responsibilities. Do I really have the time, the patience, or the money to assist this person? Perhaps when these feelings enter our mind, we should rephrase the question to ourselves: Do I have the desire to be more alive?

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Rabbi Ariel Asa is a mohel and sofer who has been traveling throughout the southeast for almost a decade. He is also one of the assistant editors of Torah from Dixie.

You are invited to read more Parshat Shmot articles.

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