The Glass and The Mirror

Once there was a wealthy, but miserly, man who did not believe in contributing to the needs of others less fortunate than himself.  One day, his rabbi called on him and asked:  “Will you contribute to the assistance of a poor family greatly in need of food and medicine?”

“No,” replied the rich man.  “I have no desire to give away my riches.”

The rabbi walked to another part of the room and picked up a hand mirror, which was lying there.  He said to the rich man, “Look into this mirror and tell me what you see.”

The rich man laughed at this foolish idea.  After looking into the mirror he said, “I see the same thing I would see in any other mirror – a picture of myself.”

Then the rabbi said to the rich man, “Now go to the window and look out into the street and tell me what you see.”  The man did so; and he said, “Why, I see nothing extraordinary – just an ordinary street scene.  There is someone asking directions.  There is a child pretending that he is sailing a boat.  A group is sitting around and talking.  An old man is walking across the street leaning on his heavy cane.  What is so unusual about what I see that you should especially call my attention to it?  I see just the ordinary life around us.”

“Exactly,” the rabbi exclaimed.  “That’s just the point I wanted to bring out.  When one looks through a window he sees life.  But when he looks into a mirror he sees only himself.”

“A mirror is only a plain piece of glass, just like a window.  However, the mirror is coated on the back with a layer of silver.  This silver coating on the back has hidden from your view anything but your own reflection – you see only a picture of yourself.  And in the same way, the silver that you own – your great wealth – has been an obstacle that has concealed everything else from you.  You cannot see the life going on outside of you – in the street, in the homes of the poor, even in the synagogue.  In that silvered-over mirror of yours, you see only yourself.  Look through the windowpane; then you will see real life!” 

The man’s head bowed in shame as the rabbi turned and shut the door behind him, leaving the rich miser alone with his thoughts.

With warmth and affection,

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