“These are the accounts”
-- In this week’s Torah portion we read about Moses’ accounting for the contributions
made to the Temple. Because of its great power and all its potential for use
or misuse, scrupulous accountability is necessary when dealing with finances.
Even the great Moses, the most trustworthy servant of G-d, demonstrates detailed
accountability for all the Temple contributions, especially considering that
they were public funds. How much more so the rest of us.
Here is part three of a paper on the power of wealth.
WHAT IS THE SOUL OF MONEY?
In order to probe the root of wealth, it is essential
to ask some fundamental questions: Why does wealth wield such power? What
lies at the heart and soul of money? And finally, how do we address Korach’s
concerns that can guarantee a system where individual power is not abused,
and wealth is used in its healthy context?
Fundamental to Torah thought, is the essential perspective that every physical
entity in the universe has a spiritual counterpart, or better
yet, a ‘soul,’ an internal energy that shapes
and vivifies each respective fiber of existence.  The
physical is merely a shell, that contains within it spiritual
energy, which when manifested on the physical plane takes
on the shape of this respective object.
What the Talmud (the ‘body’ of Torah  ) teaches us about
the ‘body’ and nature of wealth, Kabbalah and Chassidus
(the ‘soul’ of Torah) teaches us about the ‘soul’ of wealth.
The Tanya teaches us
 that wealth is “chayei
 In explaining the
power of the mitzvah of charity (which will be discussed
later), the Tanya explains:
[Charity] “which a person gives out of the toil of
his hands, all the strength of his vital soul and energy is invested and embodied
in the execution of his work or occupation by which he earned the money; when
he gives it for charity, his whole energy ascends to G-d. Even where one does
not depend on his toil for a livelihood, nevertheless since with this money
he could have purchased necessities of life, hence he is giving his soul’s
life to G-d.”
Because we invest so much
of our energy into making money, it represents the very energy of life (as
we see it).
Furthermore, our wealth reflects the unique allotment of
“divine energy” given to each of us. Commenting
on the Talmudic statement, “Torah is concerned over
one’s wealth”: 
the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chassidic movement)
 explains: Within each person’s possessions,
wealth and property lie divine spiritual ‘sparks’
that relate to the very root of his soul. These ‘sparks’
are the vitality that sustains each physical entity. It
would not exist without the Divine energy within, which
gives it its reason for being. Everything that comes a person’s
way – their wealth, possessions, food, clothing and
property – is a Providential indication that these
sparks relate to the person’s soul. In this way, each
individual is allocated an allotment of spiritual divine
sparks, in order for him to elevate these sparks. Proper
use of this wealth, channels its energy toward a higher
purpose, redeeming and elevating these sparks, thus actualizing
the intended purpose of this wealth, and realizing the mission
of you’re the person’s soul, and all the ‘sparks’
allocated to it. 
The Baal Shem Tov goes a step farther: When one craves
a material delight, even food and drink, it is actually
ones soul craving and desiring the divine energy (spiritual
sparks) within these items.  People’s particular tastes and
preferences are determined by the difference of their souls
and the ‘sparks’ they are drawn to. 
Being that wealth is “soul energy” because it encompasses all mans’
energy (as Tanya explains), therefore it contains all the
‘sparks’ allocated to us, and thus has special value, more
than the individual sparks in specific areas of our lives.
This perspective on wealth throws light on the odd Talmudic statement, that
Rebbe honored the wealthy.
 At first perusal this seems strange. Was
this great sage swayed by wealth? Are the poor less deserving
of honor than the rich?
Everything a person owns is a G-d-given opportunity for him
to become a finer person and to serve in a better way. Wealth is a sign of
greater opportunity. It indicates that G-d entrusted this wealthy person with
additional resources to perfect himself and the world around him. And gave
him the ability to make that choice.
But every opportunity is also a challenge. Especially when it comes to personal
wealth and success, a person has the tendency to feel that
“my success is due to me and me alone - it is my intelligence
and strengths that brought me this wealth.” This is
the challenge of wealth, and a serious challenge it is:
To not be deceived by your own ego that you are self made
and self contained and your successes are due solely to
your own initiatives and abilities. The challenge is to
recognize that “it was not my own strength and personal
power that brought me all this prosperity. Remember that
it is G-d who gives you the power to become prosperous.” 
The true approach to earning a living is recognizing that
one’s sustenance comes from G-d, and no amount of effort and ingenuity on
ones part will increase it in the slightest. Why, then, work for a living
at all? Why need the laborer toil, the artisan create and the businessman
deal if, in any case, G-d will supply them with what they have been assigned?
Because G-d has commanded us to fashion a “vessel” through which He then promises
to channel His blessings – “G-d shall bless you in all that you shall do.”
Our workday efforts, then, are nothing more than a formality, a natural ``front''
for a supernatural process. G-d provides our needs, without regard to such
natural criteria as a person's expertise, capital and enterprise. On the other
hand, G-d insists on this formality, promising the bestowal of his blessing
only when man creates the vessel enabled by his natural talents and resources.
These are the economics of faith.
At first glance, it may seem that there is little practical
difference between this approach and the conventional approach that “my power
and my physical might have generated this fortune.” Both agree that to earn
a living one must utilize, to the utmost, the natural tools at one's disposal,
whether it is because these natural tools actually generate one's income or
because they are needed as a “vessel” to receive a unilateral gift from Above.
In truth, however, these two approaches result in radically different behaviors
in work, business and money management.
What happens, for example, when a business opportunity comes
your way that may be cutting ethical corners or going against your religious
beliefs, but it will increase revenue? This creates the dilemma of having
to choose between your “religious beliefs” and your financial betterment.
On the other hand, one who knows that his shop, and all the time and toil
invested in it, is only a channel for G-d's blessing, understands the ludicrousy
in expanding the channel in a manner that violates the will of the supernal
provider. This would be comparable to reducing the fuel supply of a power
plant in order to allocate funds for the construction of additional power
lines, in the hope that this would increase the net output of the plant. Certainly,
it is important to put up power lines; without them, the energy produced by
the plant wouldn't reach its intended destination. But simply pulling more
lines from the plant will not generate more power, especially if such activity
is to the detriment of the power's source. Thus, to violate any divine command
(such as the prohibitions against stealing, lying, dealing in merchandise
that causes physical or moral harm to its consumers, etc.) to increase one's
income is not only detrimental to one's spiritual health -- it's also bad
A marked difference between these two approaches is how a person views his
contributions to charity. From the conventional perspective,
money given to charity represents a reduction in one's financial
resources. A person may still be moved to give out of compassion,
duty or guilt; but he will weigh each dollar against the
sacrifice it involves, against what he is “giving
up” in order to give. On the other hand, to a person
who believes that G-d's blessing is the ultimate and only
source of wealth, charity is an investment. Indeed, to give
to charity is far more effective an investment than any
business initiative: the latter only serves to construct
the channel (the nature of which in no way determines how
much will be funneled through it), while the former stimulates
the source, as per the divine promise/command, “tithe,
so that you may prosper.”
 To such a person,
it is also obvious that he will not ”save” anything
by disregarding the divine imperative to aid a fellow in
Finally, these two approaches differ in the extent of their
devotion to the building of a career or business. True, both concur that the
natural effort must be made, that one must utilize, to the utmost, the tools
at one's disposal to earn a living. But what exactly does “utilizing to the
utmost” mean? To the person who sees his career or business as the source
of his income, “the utmost” is an open-ended parameter: the greater one's
efforts, the greater one's success, or, at least, the greater one's chances
for success. Eight daily hours become 10 become 12 become 14. Second and third
jobs are assumed to cover all possibilities. Plans and anxieties invade every
waking (and non-waking) thought.
On the other hand, when
a person sees his career or business as nothing more than a vessel constructed
at G-d's behest, “the utmost” is the utmost that G-d requires. Anything beyond
that is a waste of time and effort. And what G-d requires is that we create
a natural framework that would suffice as the receptacle for our most basic
needs. Should He desire to grant us more than our most basic needs, He will
do so --within that framework. Going to greater lengths will not increase
the chances of this happening --on the contrary, it can only decrease them,
by impinging on those pursuits and activities (prayer, Torah study, observance
of mitzvoth) that relate directly to the source of all blessing.
This is the challenge of wealth and the meaning of charity. To recognize
that though your work and effort was necessary to achieve
this wealth, it is ultimately G-d’s blessing that
“makes you wealthy”.
 And this recognition is actualized by understanding
the purpose of G-d blessing you - in order that you use
your wealth for a greater cause and to help others.
Rebbe therefore honored
the wealthy. He saw their wealth as an indication of their additional G-d-given
opportunities. He honored them because G-d honored them by bestowing upon
then this wealth and entrusting them with its distribution to the needy. He
respected their unique challenge to not be distracted by their wealth and
to utilize it for good. Wealth is G-d’s vote of confidence in the wealthy
person that he will overcome the challenge and utilize his special gifts as
an opportunity to utilize the wealth for a greater purpose than selfish gain,
and to give and help others.
According to this ‘inner/soul’
understanding of wealth, we can appreciate the root of wealth’s power and
its ability to consume us – both ourselves and others. It is the Divine energy
that lies embedded in wealth that gives it its power.
THE POWER OF CHARITY
Indeed, according to the
Tanya, the power of wealth embodies the sheer power of this material universe
and all it contains, and thus offers us the greatest opportunity to transform
the world through our monetary charity.
The Tanya explains that
the entire purpose of existence (including the higher sublime realms) is to
spiritualize the material world, to transform it into a “home for G-d.” Each
of us does so by utilizing our “corner” of this Earth and all we were blessed
with – our wealth and possessions – toward elevating the ‘sparks’ within and
thus revealing the true nature of existence. We take our part of the material
world and instead of being distracted and using it solely for personal gain,
we recognize that it is a shell, a vehicle and means for spiritual expression,
a channel for a higher good.
Nowhere is this more powerfully
expressed than in the act of charity. In all other mitzvot “only one faculty
of the soul is embodied, and than only at the time of the performance of the
precept, whilst in the case of charity…all the strength of his soul is embodied…”
Virtuous acts are indeed
good, and they elevate the soul, but giving money to charity is the most powerful
way to spiritualize the material, for it means giving a piece of everything
that we are – our abilities, our efforts, our ambitions, our compassion. Charity
relieves the inherent tension between matter and spirit by freeing the material
world from its self absorbing tentacles, and allowing us to see within and
above. Charity does not destroy or annihilate the selfishness of wealth and
the material universe but rather transforms it into a channel for higher
divine energy. Charity in its broadest sense is taking our physical corner
of world and transforming it into a home for G-d.
Charity is thus the greatest
gift G-d bestowed upon us: the gift of giving.
The Midrash relates a dialogue between the psalmist and G-d: Said King David
to the Almighty: “Master of the Universe! Why don't
you balance Your world and make equal the rich and the poor?
Replied G-d: “If such were the case, ‘Who shall
keep kindness and truth?’ If all were rich or all
were poor, how would there be an opportunity for human kindness?”
This offers us a radically
different view on the uneven distribution of wealth and the diversity of economic
classes: It is not merely a result of circumstances, opportunities or the
efforts of our work; it is a result of G-d giving the gift of wealth and the
opportunity to be wise in knowing how to use it to refine this material world
and fulfill our mission in life. Just as G-d continues to give -- every fraction
of time, every day on earth -- charity allows us to give, thus becoming
Indeed, the wealth we share is not truly ours; it is something that G-d has
loaned us for our time on Earth,
 in order to allow us the opportunity to
be generous and introduce chesed into the world.
Those who have been blessed with more wealth, then, are
those who have been blessed by G-d with the opportunity
and privilege to be more giving, to be more G-d-like. Philanthropy
is not only about helping others, but recognizing that they
are helping you. You realize that this additional wealth
is really not yours but was given to you in order that you
have the gift of being able to give and be generous, which
enriches your entire life.
Thus, charity must be
given with humility. If a wealthy person gives arrogantly, thinking that he
is doing a great favor, he is sadly mistaken: the favor is being done to
him. Recognizing this fact transforms the act of charity and makes it
infinitely more compelling.
The universe as an intricate system of give and take; our entire existence
revolves around this relationship. Just as plants, for instance,
need the carbon dioxide that humans exhale, humans need
the oxygen that plants produce. Charity is yet one more
expression of this pattern: the giver and the receiver
need one another. “More than the rich man does for
the pauper,” say the sages, “the pauper does
for the rich man”.  Through charity,
we introduce unity into a diverse world.
On its own, wealth can be a curse. By putting wealth in perspective, and
recognizing why it was given to us, it becomes a blessing
instead of a curse. And by using our wealth for charitable
and philanthropic purposes, which are ongoing, instead of
spending it all on the desire of the moment, our wealth