About 120 years ago, there was a poor hard working farmer who had to sell all he owned because for two years in a row, insects ate up his crops. Then, in the third year he went into debt in order to feed his family.
He once asked his moneylender why it was so hard for poor people to make a living. The moneylender said, ” I do not know. Only God knows.You should ask him.”
The farmer, who was a good hearted but rather simple person, took the moneylender’s statement literally, and decided to go and ask God directly. But the poor farmer did not know where God lived, so he asked his wife.
She told him to go and ask the people in a synagogue. Which one, he asked.
There were several different synagogues in their village and she thought he should go to the most religious one; the one where the men pray for at least four hours every Sabbath, and they read the prayers faster than anywhere else.
So he went to that synagogue to ask where God lived, but the men there were praying so hard and so fast, that no one had the time to answer the poor farmer’s question. They just ignored him.
The poor farmer than asked a man who was walking by on the road; and he told the farmer to ask the men who spent the whole day studying Talmud in the Yeshivah.
The farmer went to the Yeshivah, but the students there did not want to interrupt their studies to give an answer to the poor man, and some of them just laughed in his face.
The poor farmer felt sad and rejected; so he left the Yeshivah.
Not far from the Yeshivah the farmer met an older woman who was carrying a heavy basket. He offered to help her, took her basket, and carried it all the way to her home. She thanked him and then asked him why he looked so sad.
He told her that he was looking for God because he had an important question to ask him; but he did not know where God lived. The woman smiled at the poor farmer and told him that God lives right here.
“In your house” he asked in surprise. “No, not in my house. God lives in the Mitsvah you just did when you carried my heavy basket for me. Most people think that God lives in your heart when you do Mitsvot for someone else, and they are right; but I think God lives not just within each person; but even more important God lives between people when they help each other.”
Then the woman asked him, “What is your question for God?” The poor farmer replied,”The moneylender told me to go and ask God why is it so hard for poor people like me to make a living.
I did not know where God lived, so my wife told me to go to a synagogue, but the people there were so busy praying that they had no time to answer my question.”
The woman asked him if he and his wife loved each other. He told her that they loved each other very much. She asked him if he and his wife loved their children and he answered her that everyone in the family loved each other very very much.
Then she told him, “You are a poor farmer because the insects ate your crops, and because other people did not offer to help you when you were in need, the way you offered to help me, even though I did not ask you.
Many people are so busy doing things for themselves and their families, or for God, that they do not notice when strangers are in need.
But, while you are a poor farmer, you are not a poor person, because you love your family and your family loves you. No one who has people who love him is poor. So thank the God who lives between loving people who help one another, that you are a rich man.”
When the farmer went home to his wife and children, he told them how much he loved them and how wealthy he felt because of them. Then the rich man who was a poor farmer went to work planting seeds for his next crop.
More fables by Rabbi Maller are at:rabbimaller.com