In the second of the parshios read this week, Mas’ei, the borders of Israel are delineated, which will ultimately shape the landscape of the land allotted to each of the Shvatim. On the surface, this passage doesn’t necessarily seem like the most exciting or meaningful event. Yet, Rav Elchanan Wasserman has a fascinating insight about parts of the border that are listed, and his comments are something that one might not expect to realize at first glance.
Two of the bodies of water listed in the parsha are Yam Kinneret and Yam HaMelach, also known as the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Rav Wasserman explains that, as is known, the Kinneret is where all of the waters flow from, while the Dead Sea is where the waters empty into. One would think that a sea where water flows to would be a thriving body of water rich with marine life. Yet, the Dead Sea is salty and barren (it’s not called the Dead Sea for nothing). Furthermore, if one were to place a plant or animal in the Yam HaMelach, even though there are none native to it, they would not be able to survive. The sea that “gives”, the Kinneret, is brimming with aquatic life and drinkable water, while the sea that “takes” is the one that we’ve labeled as “dead.”
This is a tremendous mashal for all of us. The Jewish people are a giving people. When the Torah writes about a poor person in our midst, they’re listed as “achicha ha’evyon”, your poor brother. We are commanded against charging interest to Jews because who are we to say to a crestfallen member of our tribe that we’ll help them, but at a cost? The entire notion of Rav Wasserman’s statement runs counter to everything that makes sense. If I had 10 apples, and gave you 5 of them, I’d have given you half of my bounty. Yet, we see through the Kinneret that when we give of what is ours, whether it was something that was gifted to us or we worked hard to obtain it, we will continue to be blessed. There are individuals in my life that I know to give until it hurts, and I find myself gaining exponentially from them. When you forego utilizing what you have for yourself, you gain so much more. When you constantly seek to take and amass from every possible source, what are you?
May we be zoche to give what we have, and, in doing so, be blessed with even more to give in return.