The Talmud gives us a fascinating insight into the distribution and sharing of money. Given a case in which a father’s will gives all of his possessions to only one of sons, the Talmud writes (Bava Basra 131b) that this son is understood to be the executor of the estate, rather than the sole inheritor. He is obligated to apportion the funds to his brothers as well. The assumption (without specific evidence to the contrary) is that a father would not forsake any of his children, and that he considered this son worthy of the responsibility and obligation.
The Torah requires us to take a similar approach to the wealth that G-d gives us. Just as G-d is generous, we are to emulate Him and be generous. The impoverished are not intended to be forsaken. We are all children of G-d, and He has trusted His wealth with some of his children, with the intent that they will share with the poor.
A recipient of financial assistance is referred to in this week’s reading (Exodus 22:24) as “the poor one with you.” This, explains the Alshich, alludes to the portion of the poor man’s money that is entrusted to you. Your amassed wealth is a combination of your money and funds intended to be distributed to the poor.
This can be an overwhelming responsibility. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter zt”l (the founder of the ethical revolution known as the Mussar Movement) once heard that his wife had bought a lottery ticket. Rather than sharing her dream of winning the jackpot, the Rabbi quickly called two witnesses and declared before them that in the event that she bought the winning ticket, he was forfeiting in advance his portion of the winnings. He explained that he felt ill-suited to handle the obligation of distributing the correct amounts from such massive wealth to the most appropriate recipients!
As foreign as such an outlook is to most of us, R’ Yisrael points to the proper attitude towards giving to others. We feel a sense of security with our savings, with the possessions we consider our own. There’s a natural, miserly resistance to parting with earnings and helping those less fortunate. But if we consider our success to be the result of G-d’s blessings showered upon us, we can be more enthusiastic about sharing, or distributing, those blessings to His other children.
Have a Great Shabbos!
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org