An impressive study by Harvard political philosopher, Eric Nelson, has shown that it was the Hebrew Bible, as read by the Christian Hebraists in the 16th and 17th centuries, that was the source of the idea that today we take for granted. Namely, that it is the business of a society to engage in the redistribution of...Read More
How do i remember that
everything is from god?
אִם בְּעֹשֶׁר, ה' מוֹרִישׁ וּמַעֲשִׁיר, וְאִם בְּכָבוֹד, הֲלֹא לֵאלֹהִים הוּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְהָעֹשֶׁר וְהַכָּבוֹד מִלְפָנֶיךָ
Perhaps his wealth? "The Lord impoverishes and enriches" (I Samuel 2:7). Perhaps his honor? It belongs to God, as it is written (I Chronicles 29:12), "Wealth and honor come from You."
The Talmud (Ketubot 66b) says that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai once came upon the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the land, Nakdiman ben Guryon. She was so poor that she was looking for grain in the dung of a donkey. He asked her what happened to her father’s fortune, and she answered that he lost it because he did not use it for acts of kindness or charity.
This seems to contradict instances where the Talmud previously said that he was very charitable.
Two explanations are given:
- Even though he was charitable, he acted that way for his own honor.
- He performed acts of kindness, but what he should have done, he did not do.
As people say, according to the camel is the burden. The stronger the camel, the heavier the load it must bear. Even if he gave altruistically, Nakdiman ben Guryon did not give as much as he was expected to give.
Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when his household goods increase; for when he dies he can take none of it along; his goods cannot follow him down. (Psalms 49: 17-18)
The Ramchal says that if a person is wealthy, he may rejoice in his lot, but it is incumbent upon him to help those who do not have. If he is strong, he must help those who are weak and rescue the oppressed.
To what is this similar? To servants in a household where each one is charged with a matter and it is incumbent on each to stand on his appointed position to uphold the affairs and needs of the house. In truth, there is no place for pride here. (Mesilat Yesharim 22: 11-12)
This teaches us that power buries those who improperly wield it and wealth is a tool that must be used properly. Each person will be judged not only by the acts of charity he performs, but also each according to his abilities and intentions.
(Adapted from A Letter for the Ages, pages 68-69)