This bill smells great

Friday, 19 May, 2017 - 5:38 am

Dear Friends,

Rubi was the teenage son of a successful businessman. One day, his father called him in to his office on the 15th floor and said: “I want to make you a partner in my diverse endeavors, but before that you must pay me $100 within four days.” Rubi did what he knew best how to do – he went to his mother and asked her for $100. She gave it to him without asking too many questions. When he brought the money to his father, his father rubbed the bill, smelled both sides of it, and then said, “This bill doesn’t smell good” – and tossed it out the window. The next day Rubi brought a new bill from his mother. Again, the father rubbed it, smelled it with a stern look on his face, said “This bill doesn’t smell good,” and threw it out the window. This happened twice more.

On the last day the father said to his son: “If you don’t bring me a good $100 bill by this evening, you will not be able to be a partner in my business.” Rubi’s mother wasn’t home, and he had no one else to ask. That being so, he went out into the street and tried to obtain the money. In the supermarket he was told that if he will help people carry their groceries to the car, they will probably give him a tip. And so, he found himself working the entire day, sweating, as he worked harder than he ever thought he could. He got a dollar from one man; from a woman he got five dollars, and so, slowly, he collected the money, changed it for a single $100 bill and ran to his father’s office. Tense and wary, he presented the bill to his father. The father rubbed the bill, smelled it with a stern look on his face, went to the window and began to say, “This bill doesn’t…” But he didn’t complete the sentence, because Rubi called out from the depths of his heart, “NOO!!!! Don’t throw that one out! I worked for it all day!”

“This bill smells great,” said his father, and he didn’t toss it out of the window.

“Anyone who accepts upon himself the yoke of [not taking] interest – accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven, and anyone who shrugs off the yoke of [not taking] interest, shrugs off the yoke of Heaven.” That is what Chazal (Our Sages) said about the prohibition against lending with interest that is mentioned in this week’s Parasha. The Rebbe explained the connection between interest and Hashem’s heavenly kingship. The acceptance of the yoke of Hashem’s kingship is not merely agreeing in one’s heart to accept it; neither is it a verbal utterance or dancing and singing “HaKadosh Baruch Hu, we love you.” The acceptance of the yoke of Heavenly Kingship is putting in the effort to serve Hashem by way of learning His Torah and observing His mitzvos. And that is why it is called “Avodat Hashem” – “working” for Hashem.

Money that one earns from interest is not coming directly from labor. Interest is money that is earned for money that someone labored for in the past, and the interest that one receives for it is no longer the result of labor. The Torah doesn’t believe in gifts that are obtained without some effort, because such gifts are not of sufficient value, and a person who lives off interest is actually going against the way that Hashem intended human beings to operate.

The fact is that people have less respect towards things that have been received without labor. They don’t appreciate anything that they get for free, just like Rubi, who didn’t care at all if the money that he had not worked for was thrown out. But when his father wanted to discard the dollars that he had worked for – and worked hard – a cry of anguish escaped from him, for he had worked for every single dollar of it!

And if I may add from my own personal experience, things that I got quickly and easily, whether spiritual values or material objects, did not remain with me for long. Things that I labor over stay with me forever.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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