Make the First Dent
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
The Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi - founder of the Chabad movement) was urgently raising money to ransom Jewish prisoners. He was advised that speaking to a certain wealthy miser who was extremely stingy would be a total waste of precious time. But he insisted on paying him a visit.
After explaining to the rich Jew the urgency of the situation the miser took out a rusty old coin and gave it to him. To everyone's shock the Rebbe thanked the Jew profusely for his kindness and rose to leave. "Wait" said the man "I think I will increase my donation" and proceeded to give him one more coin. The Rebbe thanked him again and rose to leave. This bizarre scene kept on repeating itself, with the value of the donations increasing every time. After a few minutes, the Alter Rebbe had rasied the entire sum of money he needed from this one man.
"What was your trick?" asked the Rebbe's colleagues when they left the house. The Rebbe explained:
"This Jew is no miser. He possesses a pure and kind heart. But for some reason at the entrance of his soul there was a thick layer of spiritual filth blocking the door, making it too difficult to express his compassion and generosity. Every time he was approached, all he could bring himself to do was to donate an old rusty coin. Each time that coin got thrown back in his face in disgust, and the blockage intensified. However, when I thanked him graciously and accepted the coin, the lid on his soul began to open a little and melt away, allowing him to give a bit more. Every time this happened, another layer fell away until eventually his heart was completely open and the kindness flowed freely.
Often we all suffer from a similar disease. Our hearts become blocked and we cannot bring ourselves to do something we know we should. We find it too overwhelming to do a favor for someone we dislike or make up with a friend that we had a fallout with. It seems too difficult to commit to a routine of study or to observe a Mitzvah that we know is important. In truth, we have the desire to do good, but its expression is being blocked by a layer of pollution at the door of our heart.
We can puncture that barrier and make it disappear. We just need to begin with something very small. We should never underestimate the power of a tiny step in the right direction. Just like the rusty coin, every small deed that we do chips away at that thick cover, opening the door and allowing the true purity of our souls to express itself.
Our sages teach that "all beginnings are difficult". But once we get past the beginning, with that first small step, the rest becomes a lot easier. We can begin by just saying hello to those whom we don't like. We can put coin in a Tzedaka box each day, make time to study for 15 minutes each week or do one more small mitzvah that we have not done till now.
Even if it is a small rusty coin, it's enough to kick start the process. The rest will flow.