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Displaying items by tag: wealth Riverton Mussar - a wellspring for ethical change. Our vision is to build a physical and virtual community devoted to good character in relationships through the integration of Torah, Besorah(Gospels), and Jewish Tradition. http://rivertonmussar.org Sun, 18 Mar 2018 23:00:44 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb generous speech http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/581-generous-speech http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/581-generous-speech

art-luminariaAs 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

The Sages interpret the unusual Hebrew word me’odecha in the Shema (Deut. 6:5), translated "might" above, to mean “substance,” “resources,” or even “wealth”—which gives us a perfect text for the middah of generosity. We express our whole-hearted love for Hashem by practicing generosity toward others. This generosity can take various forms, as Alan Morinis describes:

You have money in your pocket, so you give money. You have no money but there’s food in your home, so you give food. There’s no food in your home but there are ideas in your mind, so you give helping words. There are no words in your mouth but there is love in your heart, so you offer your heart itself.

I’m not quite out of money or food, but generous speech is the option that grabs my attention this week. Perhaps it’s because we’ve just completed the middah of silence. I’m not too bad when it comes to refraining from damaging or frivolous speech, and I’m learning to practice contemplative silence as part of my morning prayers. Like every middah, however, silence of the right kind requires balance. We need to avoid the extreme of keeping silence when it’s time to speak, time to break the silence with “helping words” that affirm and build up others. The right balance to silence is generosity of speech.

The other night (it was Christmas Eve, actually, I must admit) we were walking some out-of-town guests through a local neighborhood that was all lit up with luminarias along its walkways and roof tops. Luminarias are little paper bags with candles inside to give a soft glowing light—a beautiful old New Mexico tradition. It was freezing and I was leading the group back toward home base when we started to suspect that we were headed in the wrong direction. Our friends’ daughter pulled out her smart phone, checked the GPS, and said we needed to do a 180. Embarrassed I said, “Well, I guess I got us lost for the past three blocks,” and she replied, “We weren’t lost; we were just exploring”—a rather generous way to put it, I thought, and felt encouraged instead of embarrassed. 

So, this week, coming out of a week emphasizing silence, I’m looking for chances to practice its opposite by speaking words of encouragement. I have a feeling that opportunities to give helping words will be abundant.

daily living Sun, 25 Dec 2011 19:51:25 +0000
cascading effect of indulgence http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/386-cascading-effect-indulgence http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/386-cascading-effect-indulgence

art-washingOnce Rabbi Israel [Salanter] and his friend Rabbi Mordecai Meltzer were walking through the narrow sidestreets of Vilna. They stopped and entered a synagogue to join in the minchah service. Rabbi Mordecai poured a copious stream of water over his hands while Rabbi Israel [Salanter] by contrast, merely moistened his, hardly using any water at all.

Astonished Rabbi Mordecai blurted out:"Do you not, sir, observe the custom of washing before praying?"

"Indeed, I do," replied Rabbi Israel [Salanter]. "But I see here that the synagogue is frequented by a limited number of worshippers. Visitors do not usually come here. The shamash certainly intended to provide just enough water for the regular worshippers. If we waste a large quantity, the deficiency will be felt by one of the congregants. He will upbraid the shamash and withhold the few pennies he normally gives. And so we will be guilty of denying the shamash his livelihood."

-- The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 219 - 220


We are accustomed to hearing words like "rich", "indulgent" and viewing this as a moment to be had.  Truly there are times when it is ok to enjoy the pleasures of this world and treat ourselves.  But when treating ourselves at someone else's expense becomes a way of life, then we have gone too far.

Rabbi Salanter was indeed aware of this.  He knew that if he were a guest who exhausted the supplies of a congregation, this would inconvenience not only the worshippers but possibly cause the shamash to suffer as well.

indulgence leads to poverty

There was once a rich man. He was dressed in argaman and fine linen and enjoyed delights and rejoiced every day. A poor man named Lazar was laid at the opening of the gate of his house, and he was full of blisters. He craved to be satisfied from the bits that fell from the rich man’s table. The dogs would even come and lick his blisters. When the poor man died, the angels carried him to Avraham’s lap. The rich man also died and was buried. He was in she’ol, and his pain was very great. -- Luke 16:19-23, DHE

The idea of being rich is not addressed here, but the concept of caring for the other, as was addressed in our story regarding Rabbi Salanter and the water.  As this rich man in the story enjoyed the wealth that he had, he did so without regard for the poor man.  The idea behind this story that Mashiach Yeshua gives us is not our wealth, but how we use it.  If the rich man made a habit of caring for the poor man, not only might he not have died, but his wealth might have been more proportionally distributed amongst society and his awareness of other would have been increased.  Instead, he loses his life and his soul — a double whammy in the department of poverty.

Every action in our lives must be considered in this way:  when we take, what are we going to give back?  If we use water, who will replenish it?  If we are exhorbitant in our eating and drinking, will it cause disease and decrease the length of our lives?  For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.  This is true in both the physical and spiritual plain.  If we gauge our use of time, resources, and that which we have been given with this kind of thoughfulness, then we won't be shortchanging anyone and causing their demise.

The next time you take, plan what you are going to give.  And then, only then, will you temper how much you will really take and how much you will have to give in return.


Gospel references taken from (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.

stories Sun, 26 Dec 2010 05:32:59 +0000
having everything http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/342-having-everything http://rivertonmussar.org/middot-character-traits/calmness/item/342-having-everything

art-flockAnd Jacob uttered a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; And if I return in peace to my father's house, and the Lord will be my God; Then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You.” – Genesis 28:20-22

This seems like a strange request after being given a vision of the passageway to Heaven.  You would think that with Hashem’s promise of prosperity to Jacob earlier in the chapter he would have no worries.  One may think that this request means that Jacob is focusing on the material world while God is promising a spiritual legacy to him and his children.  I would like to argue for the opposite viewpoint.  The key is in the details of his request.  His request for “bread to eat” and “a garment to wear” implies that Jacob needs only the basics of life to serve God in fullness.  He needs no extravagant feasts or royal robes.  The basics will do – bread sufficient to to eat and clothes sufficient to wear. Jacob finalizes his request by pledging to give back to God a tenth of all that is given to him.

In this vow Jacob is acknowledging the true origin of all things.  Everything we have is on loan to us.  It is an illusion to think that whatever prosperity we attain is solely because of our own efforts.  By giving back to God, Jacob shows that whatever he calls “his” is truly through Hashem’s sustaining hand.

Everyone's eyes look to You with hope, and You give them their food in its time. You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing [with] its desire. (Psalms 145:15-16)

Later in his life we even see Jacob struggling with his wealth when he finally reunites with Esau.  After receiving a portion of blessings originally allocated to Esau, Jacob is filled with guilt.  When we first met an adult Esau, he was called “a man of the field,” which is an allusion to his attachment to the material world.  Jacob was called an “ish tam, a wholesome man dwelling in tents,”  which is an allusion to his care for the social family needs and his spiritual growth through study.  Now Jacob is not comfortable with so much material wealth and is bent on giving some of it away to Esau who values it.

But Esau said, "I have plenty, my brother; let what you have remain yours."  Thereupon Jacob said, "Please no! If indeed I have found favor in your eyes, then you shall take my gift from my hand, because I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of an angel, and you have accepted me. Now take my gift, which has been brought to you, for God has favored me [with it], and [because] I have everything."  He prevailed upon him, and he took [it]." – Genesis 33:9-11

Here Jacob teaches us the key to living in this material world.  He says “יֶשׁ לִי כֹל / yesh li kol / I have everything.”  Jacob has more than enough to live; in fact, Hashem has given him everything he needs as He promised.  He fears that if he gets caught up in only the physical and material wealth of the world he will misplace his acute awareness of the spiritual/emotional wealth that he possesses.  And so it is with us. True happiness awaits us when we appreciate all that we have.  Our sages said it well:

Ben Zoma said : "Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his lot.” – Avot 4:1

torah Thu, 18 Nov 2010 22:39:55 +0000