Wednesday, 30 March 2011

One Cannot be Equally Devoted to Both! A Lesson of Value

Imagine for a moment - you actually have some free money available to do some good with. The Mitzvah of charity stares you in the face, and within moments (every day!) you're confronted with a variety of opportunities of where to give the extra Tzedakah. A man looking disheveled knocks on your door. He needs help! An orphan - never having had a father - needs to build her home. She too needs help. Let's not forget the whales who are battling in the ocean on a daily basis - because there are many there out at sea, in need of our urgent assistance! To which cause do we give our hard earned money?! 

It sounds like an easy question. There are so many causes that using our money where we believe it will do the most good must be the right answer - every time! But are we always as honest in evaluating our value system as we ought to be?! After all, what do we do when we can choose between purchasing an attractive new car (beyond the norm of necessity) and an orphan approaches us *then* with his/her needs in life?! Or what about when it comes to purchasing the latest technological gadget available today (with a new one coming out tomorrow!) and a family sunken in debt just trying to make ends meet. What do we do then?!

Or how do we choose to spend our fortunes when it comes to a choice between paying another honestly without the need for bargaining, trickery or simply not paying - and instead using the money for a new pair of Tzizit, new Tefillin, or the largest most beautiful Mezuzas available?! Would it really be so terrible to focus (just this once!) on *my* needs and let others take care of themselves (after all they too should work for their own money!)

The story below is an amazing one and brings out the truth that so many of us face every single day of our lives. Are we prepared to read it with honesty and weigh out our own value system of where we choose to spend the money which G-d has blessed us with?! Or are we still caught in the trap of "My strength and the power of my own hands" - has brought me all my wealth?!

The story below is taken from "Chiku Mamtakim" - stories about Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and I found it on today's "Stories to Share" - a beautiful one page summary of the Amud HaYomi of Mishna Berurah. It seems that only with a regular study schedule of Jewish law can one begin to learn the truth of what it really means to be a good person. It takes much work and effort, but the learning is necessary in order to know what we need to do in order to refine ourselves, to work off any selfishness that might exist within ourselves and transfer this into true Jewish giving.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was once consulted by a man  who claimed that he could purchase the very same Shas from  which the Vilna Gaon himself had learned.  “It even has the  tallow marks from the Gaon’s very own candle,” the man said blissfully. “I can pick it up for a mere thirty thousand shekels. Does the Rav think I should do so?” 

Thirty thousand shekels was a huge sum of money in those years. Nevertheless, this man felt it was worthwhile to pay this sum of money for a Shas that the Vilna Gaon had used. 

Rav Shlomo Zalman did not agree. “Instead of wasting so much money, why not take my Shas? It is also old and we can drip candle wax on it too, if that will make you happy!” 

Some time later Rav Shlomo Zalman called this man and told him about a widow who needed to marry off her children. “In order to pay all of her obligations she needs thirty thousand shekels...” 

When it was clear that the wealthy man would not be forthcoming with the money, Rav Shlomo Zalman commented, “Know that one is either excited about a collector’s item for  which he is willing to pay thirty thousand shekels, or he is moved by the pain of a widow who requires thirty thousand to  marry off her children. Apparently, one cannot be equally devoted to both!” 

Don't forget - a widow is not just a spider - she's a real person who has lost her husband. She might even need an extra dollar to maintain her usual lifestyle of life.

If you value the importance of a Jewish life more than the value of a book that was learned by a great man, do check in at where you can find a number of beautiful projects such as helping couples to start their married life together and taking part in supporting Torah scholars (the one's who actually study those "old" books.)

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