Over the past few weeks Jews have been in the news and made headlines around the world, creating immeasurable reverberations. The impact of three particular Jews has been tremendous – but the difference in that impact has been at least as important as the impact itself.
First, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were brutally murdered by terrorists inn Mumbai, India, and became widespread and exemplary role models of what it is possible for human beings to achieve. This pair lived simply, as extreme givers, sharing their few material possessions.
The Holtzbergs were tortured and killed, but because they had lived their lives fully, recognizing they were spiritual beings, they will live on forever, inspiring all of us. Despite their gruesome deaths, they continue to light up our lives.
Then Bernard Madoff made international headlines. Although he achieved unimaginable material “success,” he is an example for the world of how low a person can sink. He lived extravagantly, as an extremely selfish taker, ripping off as many people and charitable organizations as he could.
Madoff failed to recognize he was a spiritual being, and though he is still alive, his “accomplishments” have darkened all of our lives.
As Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski explains in his book Happiness and the Human Spirit: The Spirituality of Becoming the Best You Can Be, if you try to cure what he calls Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome “by amassing wealth … you’ll feel better for a little while, but you won’t be happy. You have needs that have nothing to do with self-gratification.”
And, he points out, “Being spiritual simply is being the best you can be.”
Bernard Madoff’s “wealth” was right out there for all to see. Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg’s “wealth” was invisible. It is the invisible wealth that lasts forever; the exponential compounding of mitzvah upon mitzvah that just keeps growing. Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg spent their lives giving, and they will always continue to give.
Bernard Madoff, still physically alive, seems spiritually dead; the Holtzbergs, though physically dead, are alive in an infinite number of ways they’ve inspired.
Why did these Jews end up in the news in such close proximity – the pair who knew they were souls and the man who apparently doesn’t know he has one? Perhaps it is God’s way of sending us the same message through such strikingly different messengers.
The souls of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg are radiating a wondrous light that will shine forever. They are continuing to enlighten all of us who need to see we are really eternal souls just clothed in these ephemeral bodies in order to actualize our goals on earth.
The more clearly we see this, the better we can give and live as spiritual beings, in true fulfillment and with real and lasting wealth.