I am a locksmith by profession. My specialty is breaking open locks. Much of my day is spent on house calls, prying open jammed doors and installing new locks.
My work takes me interesting to places and I’m always ready for new experiences.
One day, a couple of years ago, I received an interesting phone call. It came from an attorney’s office. The caller asked if I would come down to a particular address in the Bucharim neighborhood of Jerusalem for a job.
I arrived at the site and found a rundown building. Near it was an open area with kids playing in it. The entire place screamed of neglect. Four distinguished looking men, looking rather out of place against the dilapidated backdrop, were waiting for me.
They were the attorneys of a Bucharian Jew who had passed away a number of years earlier. For some reason, things had stalled and his children had only recently taken to the task of dividing the inheritance. This was his property. The reason they called me to the scene was an old safe. It was rusty and timeworn, and it was stationed in a corner of the courtyard, under the open skies.
I quoted eight hundred shekels for the job and they paid me on the spot. Then, I turned to the safe and placed my hand on the lock. With one robust yank, the old safe opened wide. It hadn’t even been locked!
We looked inside and were stunned by the sparkling contents that glimmered back at us. There were rows of necklaces and rings, seemingly of pure gold, all arranged neatly. This was some treasure.
The lawyers immediately contacted an appraiser who estimated the total value at $1,750,000.
It was unbelievable. Here, in an old, unlocked chest, in an open area, lay close to $2 million dollars’ worth of jewels and no one even knew. It seemed no one had ever touched it either. And this was years after the owner had passed on. Totally against all odds.
Two weeks later, I was summoned by the attorneys’ office again. They had identified a second safe, on a different one of this deceased Bucharian’s properties. This time, they had checked and it was indeed locked.
This was a worthwhile job and I made my way down to the site enthusiastically, taking along my brother who also had experience in this field. He’d help me pry open the valuable chest.
Indeed, this chest was screwed tightly shut. I tugged and pulled, twisted and wrested, but the rusty lock wouldn’t budge. It probably hadn’t been opened in years. My brother and I exerted all our strength, using every trick in our toolbox. Finally, after two hours of hard work, the chest creaked open.
We peeked inside in anticipation. There were no gold necklaces. No gold rings or jewels. Just some simple sets of stainless steel flatware. The forks and spoons were tarnished and corroded – obviously not usable. Before long, they were in the neighboring dumpster.
Thinking back, I can’t help but marvel at the message this taught me.
One owner. Two safes. Two diverse realities.
The first was completely unprotected and so easy to access, yet loaded to the gills. The second was stiff and oh, so challenging to open, and the contents weren’t worthy of even a moment of our attention.
With practically no effort, we unveiled millions. And with toil and exertion, we exposed garbage.
The story underscored the concept of hishtadlus to me. When it comes to hishtadlus, or the efforts we invest, there is simply no correlation between what we put in and what we take out. It is like two separate pipelines. We pour our sweat into one pipe and hold our buckets beneath the second pipe.
We must merely do our part and ultimately Hashem decides just how much to bless our efforts with success.