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HomeSpirituality and FaithPersonal GrowthThe Toil is the Blessing
 
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The Toil is the Blessing    

The Toil is the Blessing



Growth comes from struggle, and it is hard to exert yourself in anything when you have lots of everything.

 



An old friend of mine found his ideal woman. She was tall, blonde, and the envy of all his college buddies. He fell in love and wanted to marry her. 

 

His father, a veteran of the Six Day War, did not want his only son marrying someone who wasn’t Jewish. He was not gentle in his tactics.  

 

“You want to be with her? You can pay the rest of your college without me. Every day you are with her, I give you nothing.” 

 

The pressure his father and family put on him was intense. He eventually broke up with her. Five years later he married a Jewish woman and had several children.  

 

Did his father do the right thing?  

 

If you believe so, then you must conclude that the father-in-law of Rabbi Akiva did as well. 

 

The Story of Rabbi Akiva 

Kalba Savu'a was one of the wealthiest men in Israel. His daughter Rachel met one of his herdsmen and saw in him immense potential. She agreed to marry him if he would learn Torah.  

 

Kalba Savu'a wanted his daughter to marry a Torah scholar. When she chose a man who knew nothing (at the time), he took away all her wealth and left her to suffer poverty until she relented.  

 

He employed the same tactic as my friends father – for the same purpose.  

 

The Consequences 

Rachel married Akiva, and he began to learn. They lived in poverty for 24 years. Her act of self-sacrifice resulted in Hashem blessing Israel with one of its greatest Sages 

 

When Kalba Savu'a learned that his son-in-law was now a Torah scholar, he went to the leading Torah scholar to nullify his vow to disown his daughter. He asked the venerable Rabbi how he could nullify his vow. The Sage asked him, "If you knew that your son would become a Torah scholar, would you have made the vow?” 

 

 

Absolutely not. I wanted my daughter to marry a man of Torah. If I knew that he would become such a man, I would never have made this vow.” 

 

Rabbi Akiva replied, “Then your vow is nullified. I am your son-in-law. Kalba Savu'a was shocked. Realizing that his prayers had really been answered, and his daughter Rachel had married the leader of the generation, he gave Rabbi Akiva half his wealth on the spot.  

 

Kalba Savu'a acted for the sake of Hashem in punishing his daughter. He did it so his family would be righteous. Hashem answered his prayers.  

 

The Question 

If everybody acted wisely, why did they all have to suffer? 

 

One of the foundations of emuna is to see no difference between what we believe to be good, and what we believe to be bad. They are both forms of Hashem giving us what we need to fulfill our mission in life.  

 

That makes both good and bad intrinsically good.  

 

Had Rachel convinced her father to “give him a chance,” Rabbi Akiva certainly would have made his father-in-law proud. But they would have done it in the lap of luxury. Spiritual growth comes from struggle, and it is hard to exert yourself in anything when you have lots of everything.  

 

It was only after the 24 years of toil, once Rabbi Akiva became the leader of Israel did “enjoying his wealth” become unthinkable. Rabbi Akiva is the great example of how not having money is a greater blessing than being rich. At the very least, having enough is greater than having too much.  

 

Being hungry makes you hungry – for everything you are pursuing in life.   

 

For All of Us 

Rabbi Yossi Mendelson said it best: Our most comfortable days are our least productive 

 

Every type of toil we endure in life is for a purpose. To make us stronger. To make us passionate. To find gratitude in the gifts Hashem gives us every day.  

 

The toil makes us greater people. It’s that constant push to achieve the things we want most in this world.  

 

Being prepared to toil and suffer, knowing that the result is worth it in the end, is what made Rachel the wife of Rabbi Akiva the righteous woman that she was, and the model that every Jewish woman aspires to become. It also made Rabbi Akiva one of the greatest Torah Sages. It brought blessing to their father who wanted more than anything else a family filled with learning and mitzvot. As Rabbi Akiva himself said: “Everything that you and I have, is because of her.” 

 

Imagine what it will bring for us.  

***

David Ben Horin lives in Israel with his wife and children. 





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