Mishpatim 5776 – One Little Spark

If a fire goes forth and finds thorns, and a stack of grain or standing grain or the field be consumed, the one who ignited the fire shall surely pay. (Shemos 22:5)

Let’s say a person decides he wants to light a fire in his backyard. He is very careful to make sure it is under control, but suddenly a gust of wind comes and the fire shoots up into a branch a few feet away. The owner tries to spray the fire with a hose, but the fire does not go out quickly. It spreads to a different tree and then to a tree in his neighbor’s yard. Luckily, the owner is able to put out the fire quickly after this, but some damage was done to his neighbor’s property. The one who started the fire is required to pay for the damages – even though he did not want to do any damage, he is still responsible for them. When playing with fire, one has to be extremely careful as one is liable for unintentional results.

Not only is this true with damages, but also with rewarding a person for something good they do. A few years ago I heard a story. I do not remember exactly where I heard the story, so I might not remember all of the facts correctly, but this is the basic story line. A Rabbi was once sitting in an airport and noticed the person next to him kept looking at him. He started a conversation with the boy and found out that he was Jewish. They had a very nice conversation and at the end of the conversation, the Rabbi asked the boy for his phone number because he liked to stay in touch with people he met. He took down the boy’s phone number and then placed the sheet of paper in the book he was learning. A few months went by and the Rabbi opened the book and saw the piece of paper. He remembered the boy and decided to call him. The boy answered and they had a very nice conversation. At the end of the conversation, the boy mentioned that he was happy the Rabbi called. He was about to commit suicide because he did not think anyone cared about him. This Rabbi saved his life.

Now think about what the Rabbi did – he made a phone call to say “hi” to a boy he once met. He did not think it was a life-changing phone call. But the reward is tremendous. This one phone call saved the boy’s life. I don’t know what happened after this story, but let’s imagine. The boy grows up and gets married and has children. Let’s say he has 3 children. His children each have 3 children and they each have 3 children and so forth. Do you realize how many hundreds of people owe their entire life to this Rabbi because of one phone call he made! One small, little spark can change the world.

Good Shabbos!
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