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Parashat Ki-Tisa: Everybody Gets What He is Supposed to Get

The Torah in Parashat Ki-Tisa presents the Misva of the Ketoret, the special fragrant incense which was offered in the Bet Ha’mikdash twice each day. As the Talmud describes, the incense consisted of a combination of eleven spices which had to be combined and mixed together in a very specific proportion. During the period of the second Bet Ha’mikdash, there was only one family, the Abtinas family, who knew the secret for preparing the Ketoret. The Gemara in Masechet Yoma (38) tells that the Hachamim asked the family to divulge the secret, but they refused. The Hachamim promptly "fired" the Abtinas family, and brought in experts from Alexandria, Egypt, to prepare the daily Ketoret. However, the new experts were unable to produce the type of Ketoret made by the Abtinas family. When the Kohen would place the Abtinas family’s Ketoret on the altar, it produced a pillar of smoke that ascended upward in a straight line, like a stick. But when the new incense was placed on the altar, the pillar did not ascend directly upward; it scattered about.

The Sages decided that for the honor of the Bet Ha’mikdash, it was worth employing the services of the Abtinas family, even though the family insisted on maintaining a monopoly on the enterprise. And so they returned to the Abtinas family, but the family refused to take the job back, demanding twice the pay they had received prior to being fired. The Hachamim had no choice but to agree to the demands.

Upon reflecting on this episode, Ben Azzai, one of the great Sages of the Talmud, exclaimed, "They will call you by your name, they will have you sit in your place, and they shall give you what is rightfully yours; no person can touch that which is destined for his fellow…even a hairsbreadth." All people get precisely what Hashem decreed that they should have, no more and no less. G-d, for whatever reason, determined that the Abtinas family should earn money, and thus He saw to it that they would receive it. When they were fired from their position, it seemed like the Hachamim were causing them to lose money. But in truth, it was Hashem ensuring that they would make even more money, because this is what He, in His infinite wisdom, decided.

This is a vital lesson of Emuna which we need to learn and constantly be mindful of. No matter what happens, we will always receive precisely what G-d wants us to have. If a person loses a job, is demoted, or loses business to competitor, he must understand that nobody – not his boss, not his competitor – is taking anything away from him. He is earning precisely what Hashem determined he should have, and Hashem knows far better for him what is best.

So many unnecessary conflicts arise between competitors and partners over money. And certainly, if one was a victim of theft he is entitled to try to regain the lost money through the proper channels (Bet Din). But more often than not, when we lose money that we feel is rightfully ours, our reaction should be, "No person can touch that which is destined for his fellow…even a hairsbreadth." If somebody lost a promotion opportunity to a fellow employee, he should not blame his boss or that employee. They did not take away a penny from what he is supposed to earn. If a competitor opens up down the street, one should not be angry. The competitor has absolutely no effect on his earnings; competitor or no competitor, he will receive precisely what he is supposed to receive.

This knowledge will spare us much anxiety and many conflicts. We need to understand that regardless of the decisions made by the people around us, "They will call you by your name, they will have you sit in your place, and they shall give you what is rightfully yours." We are always in the precise position that Hashem wants us to be in.

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