[Gentle Readers! Take off your thinking caps, please! This is a rare story in our Hok LeYisrael litany. Listen carefully, and see what images and revelations occur to you.]

Rabbi Hiya and Rabbi Yosi were walking along the way and chanced upon a mountain. They found two men walking, and at the same time a man coming who said to them [the two men]: Please, I pray you, give me a piece of bread to sustain me. For I have been lost in the desert for two days and have had nothing to eat. One of the men went aside, took out the provisions he had brought with him for the way and gave it to him; he fed him and gave him drink. His companion said to him: "What shall you do when you need food? For as for me, I will eat my own." He said to him: “And what do you think, that I rely on you to provide me with food to travel with?" The poor man sat next to him until he had eaten all he had been given, and the man gave the remaining bread to the poor man for the road. And he went on his way.

Rabbi Hiya said: G‑d did not wish it to be done by us. Rabbi Yosi said: Perhaps there is an impending sentence upon that [generous] man, and G‑d wanted to put this [mitzvah/good deed] in his way in order to save him. While they were walking the man became exhausted. His companion said to him: "Did I not tell you not to give your bread to another?" Rabbi Hiya said to Rabbi Yosi: "We have food with us, let us give him some to eat." Rabbi Yosi said: "Do you wish to take away his merit?" [The general principle is that the merit for a good deed depends on the suffering caused to the one doing it. The essence of the protection afforded by a good deed is that even though a person suffers by doing it he doesn’t regret doing the mitzvah. Rabbi Yosi wanted him to have maximum protection!] "Let us go and see, for I can see by the shape of his face that death has a hold on him and G‑d wishes to prepare a merit for him in order to save him."

Meanwhile, the man sat to sleep under a tree. His friend went further on and sat down on a different pathway. Rabbi Yosi said to Rabbi Hiya: "Let us sit down and watch, for surely G‑d intends to perform a miracle for him." They stood up and waited. As they were waiting, they saw an angry mongoose standing over him. Rabbi Hiya said: Woe unto that man, for he is about to die. Rabbi Yosi said: This man is worthy of a miracle of G‑d. A snake then slithered down the tree intending to kill him. The mongoose attacked the snake and killed it. Then the mongoose turned its head and went on his way.

Rabbi Yosi said: "Have I not told you that G‑d wished to perform a miracle for him, and you must not take away his merit [by giving him food to eat]." In the meanwhile, the man awoke from his sleep and rose to go. Rabbi Hiya and Rabbi Yosi joined him and gave him food. After he ate, they told him of the miracle G‑d performed for him.

Rabbi Yosi opened [his discourse with the verse] "Trust in G‑d, and do good; dwell in the land, and be nourished by faith." (Psalms 37:3) Happy is the portion of he who does good using what is his [and not what he took through theft or cheating], since he arouses [the flow of yesod called] good toward the Congregation of Israel [which is malchut] With what [is yesod stirred]? With charity, since when charity [of tiferet] is aroused, that good [yesod] arouses toward the Congregation of Israel. It is therefore written, "and charity delivers from death." (Proverbs 10:2) What is the reason for this? Because charity is the Tree of Life [Zeir Anpin, called charity]. It is aroused against the Tree of Death [malchut] to take those who are connected to it, and it saves them from death. Who causes the Tree of Life to be stirred to do that [to sweeten the judgment of the malchut]? Let us clearly state: It is the charity that is done. It is as if he does it Above [in the spiritual realms], as is written: "and do charity at all times." (Proverbs 106:3) We have already explained this. [Giving charity rectifies yesod and this saves from death, then one will dwell in the land, this world, "and be nourished by faith".]

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does the above mean to you, and why is it revealed now?

The mystical parsing of the verse explains the parable mentioned above it. When we have faith and simple trust in G‑d's guidance here, when we connect to the very fabric of the Divine Presence, we are sheltered under the protective boughs of the Tree of Life. When we cut ourselves off, we are on are own. Doing the right and noble thing may help to prepare a spiritual shield to deflect negativity from all sides.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.