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Monday, Elul 9, 5778 / August 20, 2018


Rosh Hashana is three weeks from today. In the High Holiday prayers we recite, "Repentance, prayer and charity nullify a bad decree." The following was told by Rabbi Meir of Premishlan.


"I had a dream," said Rabbi Meir of Premishlan, "in which my soul ascended to heaven and came to Gan Eden (paradise) where I sat down near its gates. I saw a respectable Jew demanding to go in."


"Who are you? What merits do you have to deserve entry into Gan Eden?" the angel required. "I was a Rabbi. All my life I studied and taught Torah. I deserve to enter through these gates," he replied.


The angel wasn't impressed.  "You will have to wait. We have to check if your studying Torah was truly for G-d's sake or was it for ulterior motives."


Then another distinguished looking Jew arrived at the gates of Gan Eden and wanted to enter. "Who are you?  And why do you deserve entry to Gan Eden?" questioned the angel.


"My entire life I devoted to G-d. I spent my days in prayer and study of Torah. Sure I deserve entry into Gan Eden, for whom else was the Gan Eden created?" he replied.


"Not so fast," replied the angel. "Although you may have done everything you claim, we must be sure that it was done with purity and sincerity.  You will have to wait until we check it out thoroughly."


As the angel is still arguing with this man, a simple looking Jew appears at the gates. "I would like to go into Gan Eden," he declared. "Who are you and what did you accomplish during your lifetime that makes you worthy to enter Gan Eden?" asks the angel.


"I was a very simple person and earned my living from an inn at the roadside. Whenever travelers came hungry and tired, I made sure to give them food and lodging. If a person was poor I charged him less or didn't charge him at all. I tried my best to accommodate my guests. But on second thought, perhaps I'm not worthy of entering Gan Eden, especially seeing these rabbis and scholars waiting."


"Come right in!" exclaimed the angel. Then the angel explained, "We have to check all the others to see whether their deeds were pure and sincere. However, helping people in need and giving them food and lodging does not need any checking. It doesn't matter why you did it, as long as the other person was helped!"


"Every other mitzvah," concluded Rabbi Meir of Premishlan, "requires purest and holiest of intentions to be done properly. With charity, however, the reason or motive doesn't matter, as long as the other person was helped!"