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    Giving it away – Vayikra

    Vayikra introduces us to the system of sacrifices with its underlying concept that religion requires us to give – to God, to the house of worship, to good causes, to the poor.

    Some faiths think that poverty is good for a person and therefore one should give everything away. Judaism, however, sets a limit on how much one should give, and the person who gives away everything is not regarded as admirable or wise.

    The sages seem to take this notion to absurd lengths when they report that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, compiler of the Mishnah, m’chabbed ashirim – “gave honour to rich people” (Eruvin 86a). What sort of message does this convey? That just because a person is rich, that is a reason to give him honour?

    There must be an answer; let us suggest two in fact:

    1. Riches are a deposit which God places with a person; if God deems the person worthy of that privilege, you should respect him… provided he uses his means for the benefit of the community, just as one’s talents (in art, music, literature, etc.) benefit others; and provided his business ethics are in order (it is better to have less dollars and a good conscience).

    2. Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich? He that is content with his lot” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). In this sense even a poor person can be wealthy. But here too there is a condition. If God has given you happiness and personal stability, use His blessing to benefit others, to bring a smile to their faces too.

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