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Getting Rich

Can you Get Rich Quick if you are tithing your income!

Did you ever wish you were a prophet? You could really make a fortune in the market if you were.

But there's a Catch 22: the Talmud says you have to be wealthy to become a prophet.

Surprising isn't it?

You'd expect wisdom, piety, and humility to be necessary qualifications, but why do you have to be rich?

If we hold all other attributes constant. There is no doubt that wealth helps command respect, and a prophet certainly needs to be respected. Yet the Talmud placed wealth, second to strength (another attribute you wouldn't think would be mentioned), at the top of the list, while wisdom, piety, and humility only follow wealth, as if to say wealth is more important.

Well, if we knew someone who was wealthy enough to be a prophet, then maybe we'd understand.

Because he'd be exceedingly rich.

He'd have to be that rich, since the Torah's definition of rich means you must have enough money to be able to say "I have everything," thus implying you must have so much money that you're perfectly content, with what you have already. At least tens of millions, don't you think? Maybe hundreds. And that's pretty rich.

Or is it?

The pauper, who only needs a dollar for a bagel and a cup of coffee, has a much smaller problem than the multi-millionaire who's struggling to earn tens or worse, hundreds of millions. That's a much bigger need, so arguably, he's much poorer.

So let's pretend you wanted nothing more than you already have -- than you're earning today. Then, by definition, you'd be "happy with your lot." You would have everything you wanted.

Well, that's exactly the Torah's criteria for wealth (and the criteria for strength is someone who controls his passions.)

So you'd be rich. Exceedingly so.

Sounds great, but how do you learn to be that way in a society that defines who you are by how you earn a living and what you're worth by how much money you have?

The answers is counter intuitive -- at least to a modern mind.

But it's so Jewish.

The Midrash stated the solution thousands of years ago: give at least a tenth of your income to tzadaka and you'll become wealthy.

It almost sounds naive: give money away and G-d will make you wealthier. It's surely possible. And there are plenty of stories that would support the thesis. But unfortunately, there are plenty of stories that contradict it as well.

So let's explore this idea a little deeper because it's really quite brilliant.

Give tzadaka and you'll become rich. And "Who is rich? The one who's happy with his lot."

By giving money away, you'll be physically distancing yourself from your money. And not just the money you gave. You'll be training yourself to become less "attached" to the money you keep as well, that is, you'll be psychologically distancing yourself from your monetary needs.

That means you'll be training yourself to be rich, to be happy with what you have.

By giving tzadaka, you'll become happy with your lot. You might even find you're addicted to giving tzadaka. Or that giving is better than having.

So we can do it. It's in our power to make ourselves wealthy.

Perhaps this is why the halacha permits us to test G-d and see if his promise, that when we give tzadaka we'll become wealthy, is really true.

For when we test G-d in this way, we're really testing, in fact enriching, ourselves.

(Based on Rabbi Shimon Schwaub)

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