9 Cheshvan 5781 / Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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The Wasted Wine    

The Wasted Wine

Getting ourselves used to the idea of speaking to G-d about everything, before we speak or act, is one of the ways that “conditioning” could start to pay off for us, big time...


There's a well-known story told about the Baal Shem Tov and one of his followers, who one year decided he wanted to make his Rebbe the most kosher barrel of wine that he could, for the BESHT to use at his Passover seder.


Passover was many, many months off still, but the follower took it upon himself to travel far off, to a locale where the climate would enable him to plant and grow grapes. He arrived, found a suitable field, located the appropriate grape vines and planted them. For the next few months, the follower watched those grapes like a hawk, and checked on their progress every single day. As summer approached, he was able to harvest them, and then pressed them into wine, again, with the same meticulous attention to detail and according to the dictates of Jewish law. Boy, was this going to be the most kosher, the most amazing, barrel of wine the BESHT had ever received for Passover!


Once the wine was all pressed into the barrel, he loaded the barrel onto his wagon, and started the long trip back to the BESHT's hometown of Medzibuzh, in the Ukraine. The journey was a long and arduous one, fraught with challenges and difficulties, but the follower hardly noticed; he was so excited to be bringing this delicious, pure kosher wine to his Rebbe. As he was crossing the Ukrainian border, a few miles away from his destination of Medzibuzh, he was stopped by a guard at the border who wanted to know what's in the wagon. The follower explained that's it's just a barrel of wine, that's all. The guard eyed the excited Jew up and down, and something seemed to him as a little odd, so he opened the barrel up, and stuck his finger in it…


Even today, wine is one of the key things that religions of all stripes use in their sacrificial services. To guard against the possibility that a Jew might drink wine that had been somehow “offered” or sanctified to another deity or idol, Jewish law stipulates that if a non-Jew touches kosher wine, he makes the whole thing forbidden for a Jew to drink.


The follower clearly knew this law, and he watched on with horror as his precious, holy barrel of wine got completely ruined. All that effort! All that hard work! And now, he can't use even a drop of the stuff, or even give it to any other Jew, let alone present it to the Baal Shem Tov, as the wine for his Pesach Seder. He gets back to Medzibuzh very depressed and downhearted, and he goes to tell his Rebbe the whole story. Now, the BESHT had the holy spirit of prophecy, and he already knew exactly what happened. He explained to his follower that G-d was teaching him a very important lesson.


"You were praying for almost everything," the Baal Shem Tov tells him. "You prayed to get there OK, that it should be a good crop, and that it should be good wine. But upon your return trip, and so close to home, you forgot to ask G-d to help you bring the wine back in a pure kosher state, and that's why you stumbled on the last hurdle."


Getting ourselves used to the idea of speaking to G-d for everything, before we speak, or act, or do, is one of the ways that “conditioning” could start to pay off for us, big time. Rabbi Arush does this all the time. Before he comes in to the synagogue he asks G-d to help him find a good spot; before he prays, he asks G-d to give him the correct thoughts and holy intentions; after he prays He asks G-d that his prayers should be accepted; before he goes home, he prays to have peace in the home, and that his wife should be in a good mood, and that they should be happy to see each other.


We can do the same thing. Every step of the way during the day, we should be taking it back to G-d.  When the phone rings - G-d, let it be good news! Let me say the right words. Help me to avoid speaking negatively of anyone. Before the “big” meeting, particularly if we're dealing with a difficult person or situation - G-d, let the meeting go well! Let me be understanding, let me see your wonderful Divine Providence in all the circumstances of my life, including this one. Let me never fight against You and Your reality for me, but let me see it all as a gift, even the hard parts.



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