Money is soul-energy, it represents the very energy of life itself; depending how you use it can either free you or enslave you — The Rebbe
A man once set out to visit a great sage in the town of Mezritch. When he arrived, he asked where to find the man, and was shown to a tiny, decrepit shack at the edge of town. Inside, there was nothing but a broken-down bed and a table full of books, where an old man was studying. The traveler was shaken. “Where does the sage live?” he asked the old man.
“It is I,’’ said the old man. “What is disturbing you so?”
“I don’t understand. You are a great sage, with so many disciples that your name is known all across the country. It doesn’t seem fitting that you should be living in a room like this. You should be living in a palace.”
“Where do you live?” the old man asked.
“I live in a palace, a grand home with magnificent furnishings.”
“And how do you make a living?”
The man explained that he was a businessman, traveling twice a year to a large city to buy materials that he brought back and sold to local merchants. The sage asked him where he stayed when he was in the city.
“I stay in a small room in a small hotel,” he answered.
“If someone were to walk into that small room, might they not say, ‘Why are you, a wealthy businessman, living in such a small room?’ And you would say, ‘I am only on the road for a short time, so this is all I need. Come to my real home, and you will see that it is entirely different.”
“My friend, the same is here,” the old man continued. “I am also only on the road. This material world is just a road. In my home, too, it is very different. Come to my spiritual home, and you will see that I live in a palace.”
Is money a blessing or a curse?
Most people measure their self-worth by their bank account. The bigger it is, the better they feel about themselves. Because we put so much energy into earning money, it represents the very energy of life as we see it.
Some people feel that they and they alone are responsible for their success, that their intelligence and abilities made it so. This is the serious challenge of wealth: to not be deceived by your own ego but to remember that it is G-d who gives us the power to become prosperous.
This is not to say that your success is not a result of your efforts; of course it is. And you must do everything possible to ensure success, not just sit back and wait for money to come your way. But you must acknowledge that it is G-d’s blessing, and not your effort alone, that creates wealth.
On its own, money can be a curse. Money can cause endless anxiety, for no matter how much you have, you can never be sure that you will not somehow lose it all.
How does giving charity turn money into a blessing?
The power of charity does not allow you to become bogged down in your own self-interest. Acts of goodness and kindness are virtuous, but giving money to charity is the most powerful way to elevate your soul, for it means giving a piece of everything that you are — your abilities, your efforts, your ambitions, your compassion.
The key to charity lies in understanding that it is not just a gift to the receiver, but to the giver as well. The need to be charitable is one of the most fundamental human needs; just as we need food and protection and love, we need to share what has been given to us. 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. “More than the rich man does for the pauper,” say the sages, “the pauper does for the rich man.”
If I give charity, won’t there be less for me?
From a pure business perspective, one may argue that charity simply reduces one’s financial resources. But when we recognize that G-d’s blessing is the ultimate source of wealth, charity becomes the wisest investment there is. If someone is having financial difficulty in his business, he should increase the amount of his charitable contributions in order to increase G-d’s blessing for wealth. As the sages say, “Give charity, so that you may prosper.” Charity opens up new channels of wealth from above.
It is the call of our generation to increase charity in any way possible. We should all be inspired — and inspire others — to make charity a regular part of our lives.
There are many practical ways to encourage regular charity-giving, no matter how small it may be.
- Place a charity box in the various rooms of your home, in your office, in your car.
- Teach your children to give money and time to others.
- Schools should cultivate generosity by regularly distributing money and goods that their students can pass on to those in need, and companies should do the same for their employees.
Look around and ask yourself, What do I have to give that can help someone else? Do not worry that you cannot be as generous as you would like, or that you don’t have the time to spare. When it comes to giving of yourself, there is nothing too small, and nothing too great.