It is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another. — Psalm 75:7
A Jewish folktale is told about a young couple who lived around the 12th century. The couple was newly married and still getting to know each other. The wife knew that her husband had previously been extremely poor to the point where he was a beggar. The husband knew that his wife had been previously married but was abandoned by her spouse. Now, the new husband was an extremely successful businessman, and the two were very happy.
The wife had a tradition. Every day she would prepare a feast for lunch and her husband would close his business to come home and enjoy the meal with his wife. One day, as they had just begun to eat, there was a knock at the door. The husband opened the door to find a beggar pleading for food. The husband, who remembered what it was like to be in such dire circumstances, told the poor man that he could enjoy the entire meal prepared by his wife; then once the poor man finished eating every last morsel, he was sent away with a bag full of coins.
After the beggar left, the husband noticed that his wife looked pale and he asked her what was wrong. She replied: “In my first marriage, I also prepared an exquisite lunch just as I do for us. One day, a beggar came to our door as I sat down to eat with my husband. My husband, however, yelled at the poor man and sent him away with nothing. After that, we lost all of our money and my husband left me.”
The wife continued, “That beggar who came today was my previous husband.” Her husband replied, “I know.” “But how?” asked the wife. Her husband replied: “I was the beggar who came to your door.”
In Psalm 75 we read: “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” The Jewish sages comment that riches and poverty are from God. Often, when a rich man misuses his resources, God impoverishes him and enriches someone more deserving.
For those of us who have been blessed with much, the message is that our material possessions and wealth can all be gone in a moment. Therefore, it is our duty to use what God has given us appropriately. For the less fortunate, the underlying message is that God can change our situation around in just one moment. Life is not stagnant; think of it like a wheel that turns. What is up today can be down tomorrow.
It is best to always keep in mind that our current situation is not necessarily our permanent destination — no matter what our situation may be today. Our job is to serve God as best as we can within the circumstances that we find ourselves in today – knowing that everything can be completely different tomorrow.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President