I would like to share a story with you. It is one from which we can all learn.

Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian writer of short stories and novels, has a story titled, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”

It is a story about a greedy man named Pakhom, who becomes obsessed with owning land. Finally, he is introduced to a family owning enormous quantities of land who gives him an unusual offer: for a sum of one thousand rubles Pakhom can walk around as large an area as he wants, starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. He has all day to cover by foot as much territory as he would like. If he reaches his starting point by sunset that day, the entire area of land his route encloses will be his!

The man is delighted, as he believes that he can cover a great distance and has chanced upon the bargain of a lifetime. At the end of this day, he will finally achieve richness.

The man is excited beyond words. “These idiots,” he thinks, “don’t even know how much land they will be forfeiting today.” His journey begins. He tries to cover as much land as possible, not content with what he already has. He goes on, more and more and more and more. He begins to run, and run faster and faster, another mile, another mile. In his glittering imagination, he sees all this land belonging to him.

As the sun nearly sets, he realises his error… He covered so much ground from the starting point, but he has to get back to the starting point. Oy vey, only a few minutes left. He runs back as fast as he can to the waiting family. He never ran so swiftly in his life. He finally arrives at the starting point just as the sun sets. He made it. The family cheers his good fortune, but exhausted from the run, he falls and drops dead.

They bury him in an ordinary grave only five feet long, and that is the land he ends up with: a 5×2 plot of land.

This is a powerful story and it contains a message that is important for so many of us to consider. And when is a more appropriate time than Shabbat! Shabbat is an opportunity to evaluate our lives and give thought as to where we are headed. During the stillness and serenity of Shabbat, we should be asking ourselves some very honest and pointed questions. What have we achieved so far? Where are we going with our lives? Are we spending enough time with those who really need it? Are we chasing the right opportunities or have we lost our way? 

Wishing you a meaningful Shabbat,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman