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The Path to Wealth

Friday, 30 August, 2019 - 8:27 am

 A Jew of German background heard the rabbi in Schul, on the Shabbat when parashat Re’eh is read, mention the pasuk, Aser te’aser - You shall surely tithe the entire crop of your planting, the produce of the field, year by year.” He listened carefully. The Rabbi brought the wonderful conversation between Rabbi Yochanan and his young nephew, the son of his sister and his friend and famous challenger, Reish Lakish.

Rabbi Yochanan said to his nephew: “Say a pasuk.”

The nephew then quoted the pasuk of “You shall tithe…” and asked his uncle, “What does the expression there, aser te’aser?”

“It means: tithe so that you will get rich (aser bishvil shetitasher),” replied Rabbi Yochanan. In other words, a person who is careful to give his tithes is promised that he will be wealthy.

The young boy didn’t let it go at that (see the beauty of the Gemara, which considers it legitimate for the young nephew to argue with his great uncle, Rabbi Yochanan): “How do you know that?” How do you know that a person who tithes indeed becomes wealthy?

Rabbi Yochanan replied: “Go try it.” Give the tithe and test Hashem.

The nephew still wasn’t satisfied: “Is one allowed to test Hashem?”

Said Rabbi Yochanan: “You are right. Ordinarily one should not test Hashem. But in anything connected to ma’aser, it is permitted.” And he brought, as proof, the pasuk from the Prophet Malachi, where Hashem says, “Test me.” “Bring all the tithes to the storage house… Test me if you will, with this, says Hashem Tzva’ot; see if I do not open up for you the windows of the heavens and pour out upon you blessing without end.”

So, said the Rabbi in his Shabbat sermon, whoever brings tzedaka to the Schul has Hashem’s promise that he will be rich and get back at least ten times what he gave.

On Motzai Shabbat, when the Rabbi was still putting drops of wine into his pocket for mazel and bracha, the Jew knocked on his door, holding an envelope that contained one thousand dollars. When the Rabbi finished counting the money in Yiddish, this Jew said to the Rabbi: “You said this morning that I will get ten times that amount, right? I’m expecting to receive ten thousand dollars in return.” The Rabbi became alarmed and said, “Listen, see, I meant that…” But the man was already out the door, happy with the promise.

For three weeks the man pursued the Rabbi: “You promised me ten times the amount. You said Hashem promises wealth. Where’s the money?” This – for three weeks. Every time the poor Rabbi would see this man in the street he would immediately cross the street or turn around and hide until he was gone.

One day, the Jew chased after the Rabbi. The Rabbi tried to run away, but the Jew caught up with him and said, “Kvod HaRav, listen: Hashem paid me back. Today I made a deal and earned ten times the amount. I wanted to tell you that you were right.” And then he continued in Yiddish: “Hashem’s word is reliable, but he doesn’t quite stick to schedules.”…

I heard this so-Jewish story from my friend, R. Benny Ben Ami z”l, who passed away suddenly around this time of year, two years ago. Whenever Benny had a chance, he would give tzedaka, more than the conventional amounts. He would give happily and with a full heart; and his heart was as wide as his shoulders. His broad grin and his laughter appear in front of my eyes whenever I think of him. I have a feeling that he tells this story in Gan Eden as well.

We are not supposed to observe the mitzvot in order to receive the reward for them, but even if we do so, Hashem’s promise still stands. The Rebbe once wrote on this topic: “In spite of the fact the mitzvahs in general, tzedaka included, should not be done for the reward, but rather because Hashem, the Creator and Master of the World commanded us to do so, still, Hashem promised aser te’aser – that you will become wealthy both materially and spiritually.”

And anyone who is not sure of this is told by Rabbi Yochanan: “Go try it.”


Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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