“A blessing is like rain,” Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught. When rain is preceded by plowing and sowing, and followed with reaping and harvesting, it yields abundant fruit; otherwise, it achieves nothing. Likewise, a person can be granted the greatest gifts from Above, but unless he makes himself a fit vessel to receive them, unless he learns to appreciate and utilized them properly, they are but futile rain on a barren field.
Chassidim would illustrate this point with the following story:
A king once decided to reward a peasant who had done him a great service. “Shall I give him a sack of gold? a bag of pearls?” thought the king. “But these mean virtually nothing to me. I want, for once, to truly give something—something that I will miss, a gift that constitutes a sacrifice for me.”
Now this king had a nightingale who sang the sweetest songs a human ear had ever heard. He treasured the nightingale over all else, and literally found life unbearable without it. So he summoned the peasant to his palace and gave him the bird . “This,” said the king, “is in appreciation for your loyalty and devotion.” “Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, and took the royal gift to his humble home.
A while later, the king was passing through the peasant’s village and commanded his coachman to halt at the peasant’s door. “How are you enjoying my gift?” he inquired of his beloved subject.
“The truth to tell, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, “the bird’s meat was quite tough—all but inedible, in fact. But I cooked it with lots of potatoes, and it gave the stew an interesting flavor.”
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber