A rabbi once rebuked a rich miser for not being more helpful to his poor relations. “I remembered them generously in my will,” the man defended himself.
“And during your lifetime, must they starve?” asked the rabbi.
“But that, precisely, is the problem,” said the miser. “I have retired from my business. What if I live a very long time? I fear that my money will run out.”
Later that day, the rabbi had some words of rebuke for another member of his community. “Your children complain that you give away every penny you earn to charity, without a thought to your own financial future.”
“But rabbi,” said the generous soul, “what if I die today? I can’t afford to put money away. I must do all the good I can while I still have the chance!”
Recalling these two conversations, the rabbi told his students: “Everyone is afraid of something. Today I met two people, one of whom was afraid that he’d live a long life, while the other was afraid that he’d die young. And both were doing everything in their power to prevent their fears from coming to pass….”
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber