So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 1 Kings 19:19
The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means "Phinehas," from Numbers 25:10-30:1, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:46-19:21.
Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino world champion professional boxer. At age 32, he was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives; he also has been involved in acting, singing, and playing basketball. By all accounts, Manny is a huge success. But it's what happened after his recent, widely publicized fight against Floyd Mayweather, in which Manny lost, that tells the real story about who he is.
After the fight, Mayweather went on to celebrate his win, spending $1.2 million on champagne alone. Manny, on the other hand, proceeded with his plans, which had been finalized before the fight even took place. Win or lose, Manny was heading straight to St. Jude's Ranch for Children, a supportive housing program for homeless youth, just as he had done every time he had fought in Las Vegas.
Manny explained that at the start of his career, a good friend advised him, "Manny, don't you ever forget where you came from. If you forget that, it doesn't matter how much you win. If you lose where you come from, you lose it all."
You see, Manny grew up so poor that he had to drop out of school to help support his family. By 16, he was literally fighting for his life. Throughout it all, Manny never forgot where he came from, and that's why he continues to bring boxes of gifts and toys for the poor children at St. Jude's whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Ever wonder where the saying "passing the mantle" comes from? In this week's Haftorah reading, the great prophet Elijah is instructed to choose Elisha as his disciple to carry on his legacy. So he goes to the field of Elisha's family, where Elisha was overseeing the workers. There, Elijah symbolically passed his cloak - also called a mantle - over Elisha, and Elisha understood that he had been chosen as Elijah's successor.
This was an accomplishment like no other. What an honor! What a privilege! Yet, Elisha didn't immediately run off with his esteemed mentor. Instead he asked permission to properly say goodbye to his parents. Then he personally slaughtered his oxen and cooked a great feast for his workers. Why does Scripture provide all these details for us? To teach us that Elisha didn't forget where he came from. He had gratitude toward the people and the place that he came from. And so should we.
Whether we have come through difficulties in life or lived in relative comfort and ease, we can't forget about those less fortunate than us. If we've had it hard, let's remember what it's like and help others in need. If we've had it easy, let's be grateful for being blessed and be a blessing to those less fortunate.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President