The act of giving is a relatively simple thing. When you give you are simply transferring something that was once yours to someone else. It is entirely possible to give angrily, happily, begrudgingly, indifferently, or thoughtfully. Generosity, on the other hand is a different matter. Generosity has a component of mindfulness and “heartfulness” that goes beyond the physical act of giving.
One of my favorite jokes is a story of a group of scientists who, convinced that they don’t need God anymore, proceed to attempt to prove it by making a human being out of the dirt (like he made the first). They do quite well and God decides to let them know how nice of a job they did but, to be fair, if they really wanted to prove they didn’t need him anymore they should get their own dirt!
Travel always provides lots of opportunities for practicing the middot—standing in a TSA security line is ideal for developing patience; staying strapped into a narrow seat on a crowded plane is perfect for equanimity; and there are boundless opportunities for humility. On my latest trip I had a chance to learn about the middah of generosity.
I am increasingly aware that time is one of the most valuable things in my life. There is so much to do and so little time, as the saying goes. My chevruta and I have often discussed the role of time in the middah of generosity.
When people think of generosity, they usually think of gift giving, especially during the winter holidays. The focus is on what you give and what you get.
As it is said, And you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. . . .
And with all your might means with all your wealth. Another interpretation: With all your might means with every measure that he measures out for you, thank him much. —m.Berakhot 9:5
Our society has a somewhat dysfunctional approach towards generosity at this time of year. By and large the expectation is that if you receive a “holiday” gift from another, you’re obligated to reciprocate.
Use these questions to evaluate your day: