I know you’ve always wanted to know where this phrase came from. Well, thank you Reb Shmoogle. ” The phrase comes from the fable of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. According to the myth, a piper was hired to clear out the rats from the village of Hamelin. After he did so (by playing a song on his pipes), he was not paid for his work. His revenge for the lack of payment was to steal all the children of the town.”
Now you know…
Well the fact is that we always need to pay the piper. Sooner or later. Nothing is free in life, and no one has it that easy.
According to our Sages this is actually a gift (although not one we necessarily appreciate). The term that is used is “shameful bread”. When we get things for free it is shameful. A real person works for their bread and enjoys their earnings. When it comes as a handout a healthy person finds shame in that.
The Egyptian Exile which we begin to read about in this week’s Parsha is a microcosm of all exiles and in fact all of the journey from challenge to success, struggle to victory and from narrow straits to expansiveness.
The Alter Rebbe, first of the Chabad Rebbes, says (based on teachings in the Talmud) that we always need to engage in difficult labor as mentioned above. However, he adds that we can choose which labor we are going to engage in.
We can engage in the difficult labor of Torah Study, Mitzvah observance, doing the inner work and so on or we can deal with the challenges that come from the outside.
This is very practical from a human development perspective. If one does the inner work, discovering their triggers, navigating unhealthy traits, working on subduing and transforming character flaws then relationships are much healthier and operate much more smoothly.
If one chooses to ignore those issues then relationships break down and it becomes much more difficult.
Spiritually it works the same way. If we are invested in a relationship with G-d and Torah and Mitzvos then the result is we are a bit more refined and a bit more in tune with the inner workings of creation around us. This in turn liberates us from experiencing the world around us with difficulty.
In fact, this is the direct benefit of faith – emunah and trust – bitachon.
Is any of this easy? No. But you’ve gotta pay the piper. The question is when and how?
Rabbi Mendel Schusterman
Thanks to my brother, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, Chabad Intown, Atlanta, GA., for sharing the above thought.