There was an interesting story that had circulated around the internet about a year ago —
A founder and CEO of a large company was stepping down from his everyday responsibilities. He had successfully built the business from the ground up and now forty-five years later it had morphed into one of the leading companies in his industry. His mission had always been to offer his customers top service with the highest quality of products.
His children were not interested in taking over the reins, so he found himself in the unenviable position of having to find the perfect person to succeed him.
He decided to choose from a shortlist of the brightest, most highly qualified, experienced in-house department managers. One day he invited these gifted individuals into the company‘s conference room for a closed-door meeting. Ever since his heart attack a few months ago, rumors about the CEO’s possible retirement had been swirling around the building.
The handsomely dressed corporate leader entered the room and warmly greeted those specifically handpicked from his staff. In a clear and confident voice, he explained to them that he recalled many nostalgic moments over the years about how a few dollars and a dream, plus working out of his garage, had turned into something so big and vast.
He believed that this was only the beginning and that his company had the potential to grow from a national company into a multinational conglomerate.
As he looked around the room, he saw heads nodding up and down in agreement. He told his audience that the time had come for him to choose his successor and that he had narrowed down his candidates to this small group.
He then motioned to his assistant to come back into the room. Once she entered, she proceeded to distribute each sandwich bag filled with seeds to each executive.
He then told them each bag contained seeds of an exotic plant. “I want each of you to plant these seeds and make them grow. Over this next year. Make sure to learn about your plant well and do whatever is required that it should grow and develop into its potential. Exactly one year from today we will meet here again and please bring your plant with you. I will decide who I can trust with the growth and development of my company with the one who impresses me the most with his/her plant.”
Throughout the year, the small group would mention here and there, of how their plants were developing. Each one bragging in one way or the other on how well things were coming along. Everyone except for Jim. Jim was a very dedicated employee and no matter what he tried he could not get the seeds to take root. He voiced his concern with his wife and they both went down to the local nursery to see what could be done. There they found out the most frightening news. The seeds were dead and could not produce anything.
As the year went by, Jim and his wife often discussed different viable options about how to handle the situation. They decided that Jim would continue to give one hundred percent of his efforts at work and he would go empty-handed to the group meeting with the CEO. Jim would do his best to keep a stiff upper lip and congratulate the winner whomever that would be and wish his boss the very best in his retirement.
The day of the meeting finally arrived. Vicki brought a great big yellow and green plant. Jerry brought a tall and fruitful plant and William needed two people to help carry his plant into the room.
All the competitors were complimenting one another on a job well done. Suddenly Jim walked in with no plant at all. All eyes were on him and he made it abundantly clear that although he was not successful with the plant, he was successful with his team’s sales accomplishments. He sincerely wished the group well as they looked at him with a mixture of sympathy and relief at losing a major competitor.
Just then, the boss walked in with his assistant and marveled at all the plants. The CEO walked around the room and inspected each plant and commented on how well they had grown and blossomed. And then came over to Jim’s seat. “Jim,” he asked, “where is your plant?”
Jim stood up cleared his throat and said, “Sir, I tried everything that I could to make the plant grow. From the start, my wife and I realized that something was wrong. We searched high and low for solutions and we finally discovered that the seeds were dead and therefore there would be no plant.”
“Oh, replied the boss. “I am sorry to hear that.”
After the group settled in and all the topics of discussion were completed, the moment finally came that they had all been waiting for. The boss was about to adjourn the meeting and apologized for almost forgetting about discussing who the successor of his company would be.
The boss stood up and thanked the group for helping him to confirm that the decision that he had made years earlier, was correct.
“Therefore, I hereby announce that Jim Griffin will be taking over as CEO effective immediately.
You see, I gave each and every one of you dead seeds.
Just as I had suspected the only one that I could fully trust was Jim. You all cared more about your own success over the success of the company. Jim was the only one who admitted defeat about growing his plant. He has always been the most dedicated, trustworthy employee and now he has earned our respect as a worthy leader of the company.”
This week’s Parsha discusses the mitzvah of Shmita. The mitzvah requires all landowners in Israel once every seven years to leave the field untouched. The mitzvah allows free entrance for anyone to come in and eat from the produce from your trees.
Chasidus asks why this commandment is only in the land of Israel. Most of our other commandments such as keeping kosher and Shabbos apply in Chicago, New York, Johannesburg and any other location in the Diaspora. The Torah calls for Jews who own land, that Jews are to work the land six years and let it rest in the seventh year. Chasidus explains that the purpose of the commandment of Shmita is to build a very deep and trusting relationship between the landowners and G-d.
The land of Israel is unique in the way her lands are irrigated. There is no natural water source like the Nile River overflowing onto the Egyptian fields. We rely solely on praying for rain, specifically during a very short rainy season. Hashem challenges the level of trust of his elite group demanding them to a higher place than knowledge. With the laws of nature on the opposite side, G-d says,” Trust in me above and beyond the laws of nature and I will reward you in the same way above and beyond the laws of nature.”
Chasidus goes on to explain that this is also the concept of what Tzedaka is all about. Tzedaka is not charity where you hear a sad story that touches your heart, and you donate. It’s typically understood as an ethical obligation, or a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity.
Tzedaka is putting your money where your mouth is and leaping above your normal comfortable level of giving and going to a higher giving plateau. By extending yourself outside of your financial comfort zone, you are proving through action your new level of trust in Hashem.
When you break through the ceiling of giving through trust, you bring about and spread a brand new channel of positive energy into the world. Thus, according to the Zohar, this first affects you and your bank account in a positive way, before spreading to other beneficiaries.
In the month of Elul, while the King is in the field, there is no better way to welcome the King other than with a brand-new record-breaking level of Tzedakah commitment, built on genuine trust, thereby allocating a portion of the harvest to the poor.
Hashem rewards us with raising our horizons with the ability to take on bigger and more financially rewarding projects. As princes, we are used to royalty. When we think big, commit big, give big, we can trust Hashem to pay us back big!
Have a wonderful Shabbos.