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Thursday, 23 June, 2016 - 8:14 am

The story is told that the Baal Shem Tov, and some of his followers, once went to visit a very poor and simple farmer. For two days they emptied the house of all food. From using the last bit of flour for bread to slaughtering the cow, that provided them with milk, for it’s meat. The students were appalled, the wife didn’t know why they agreed to host these guests and the kids were begging for some food for themselves. 

As the Baal Shem Tov was getting into his carriage he said: “I bless you to ask for whatever you need." The carriage door closed and the chasidim drove away into the forest.

While, this man was content with very little, he could not figure out how he would survive on nothing. With no other choice, he stopped and he prayed: "Creator of the Universe, I have never asked you for anything before, so please listen. My wife and children have no food. I need money to feed them. I need money to buy back our farm. And my wife, she would be so happy if there was money for dowries for our daughters and to pay for the weddings. Four weddings! And, Creator of the Universe, one more thing, since I'm asking: please make a small miracle. Let my house and my purse be large enough to provide for others who need."

Then he began to sob. He fell to the ground, weeping and praying. He lay there for a long time. Finally, Ivan the town drunkard came wandering by. "Oh! Oh! Please don't cry. Whatever it is, don't worry. Maybe I can help. You have always been kind to me. Everyone else in the village makes fun of me and treats me miserably, especially my own children. And I don't feel so well. If I die, I want you to have my fortune. Come, I'll show you where I hid it." Ivan led him to a big stone nearby and showed him a box hidden under it. That same day, Ivan the drunkard died. The farmer went into the forest and pulled out the hidden box. It was full of gold coins; enough to buy a big house in town.

The Baal Shem Tov came back a year later and told him: "A year ago it was decreed in heaven that you were to become a rich man. Yet, you were so humble and would never ask for anything. I had to come and bring you to rock bottom so that you would ask for the blessings that were waiting for you. Mazel Tov my friend! The very best of years!”

I spent two days this week as part of an advisory group for a large nonprofit, discussing social enterprise, marketing and fundraising. It became apparent that the main issue a lot of non-profits face, and most people in general, is not asking for or communicating their needs.

The reason I share with you this story is to bring out a message that is connected with this week's Torah portion. The Jews were in the desert in the wilderness for 40 years and they only observed the Passover holiday for the first year. The holiday of Passover only became a mitzvah "after you entered the land". The Jews who were not able to observe that first Passover, as they were ritually impure, complained to Moshe: “Why should we lose out? We also want to observe Passover". Moshe turned to G-d who responded: “They asked? We will institute the second Passover for them to observe Passover 30 days later. It will also be for future generations, for anyone who is ritually impure during Passover, to celebrate “the second Passover.” 

In life, from our family and from G-d, we need to learn to ask. Ask for what we need, pray for the healing of a friend, ask G-d that we feel more of a connection with Him as well as demand the redemption of the world from struggle and fighting with the coming of Moshiach now. 

Have a great shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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