Yesterday, our son Sruli came home from camp with two goldfish. Tzipah called our friends and neighbors the Rosens — who are always there to lend a hand — and we borrowed a fish tank, fish food and other accoutrements.
Then Sruli asked me, “Do you think I can put something else in the tank?”
“What are you thinking of?” I asked.
“A clam shell from Vancouver.” As mentioned in last week’s email, our family recently enjoyed a vacation in Canada, where the kids spent time collecting rocks and shells from the ocean. Even though we already had the necessities for the fish, Sruli wanted to contribute something of his own to our aquatic friends.
This reminded me of the story of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa.
Rabbi Chanina wished to donate something to the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem), but he was impoverished and had nothing to give. He found a large stone, but unfortunately it was too heavy for him to carry. Furthermore, he did not have the funds to hire laborers to assist him. Suddenly, five men appeared and offered to help carry it; their fee was exactly the amount of money he had.
“We will carry the stone to Jerusalem,” they told Rabbi Chanina, “provided that you help carry it with a hand and a finger.”
He placed his hand and finger under the stone while they carried it, and in a moment they were in Jerusalem. When he turned to pay them, they had disappeared.
Even though it was far beyond Rabbi Chanina’s capability to carry the stone, the men/angels nevertheless stipulated that he assist the effort. Hashem desires our individual effort, even if it’s as small as a finger — or a clam shell.