Thank you for your column. I have a question regarding wealth. I grew up in a home of modest means. I was always taught that wealth can be distractive. And yet, in a recent class I learned about the fabulous wealth that went into the building of the Holy Temple. Wouldn’t G-d be more impressed with simplicity?
Mindy (via e-mail)
Thank you for your letter. You ask a very good question. Allow us to answer with a story about pebbles from Heaven.
Some years ago, a rich Israeli businessman — we will call him Uri — was on the top of the world. He was a multi-millionaire, touring the globe, enjoying the best hotels, restaurants, cars and anything that money could buy. He was a self-made-man who loved his creator (i.e. himself). He was arrogant, cold, tough and boastful. But a number of years ago, like many others, he made major investment mistakes, and began to lose his fortune. In mere months, every penny he had saved and slaved for, was gone. He was now a pauper. And after he liquidated all his assets and sold his house to pay his debts, he still owed 17,000 shekels to the Israeli Revenue Service.
He decided to ask an old friend for a loan. He went up to his friend’s office at the 49th floor of the Azrieli center in Tel Aviv. His friend gave him 17,000 shekels, and Uri left the office.
After he left the office, he decided to walk around and have a look. After a few minutes of strolling, he noticed a set of stairs leading up to a large metal door, which he ascended. As he opened the door, a cold autumn wind blew into his face. It was the door leading to the roof. “Why not?” he thought to himself as he went out.
Ah, it was beautiful! From here, he could see far into the distance; the Judean hills in one direction, the wide, vast Mediterranean sea on the other. He just stood there, thinking and trying to enjoy the weather when suddenly a loud thud behind him broke the silence. A quick glance revealed that the wind had slammed the door shut. He decided it was time to head home.
He went to the door and tried to open it, but alas, it seemed to be locked. He tried peering from all sorts of angles to locate a latch, all to no avail. So he began to pound on the door and when that didn’t work, he tried kicking it. Surely, someone would hear.
But no one did. The wind was getting stronger and colder and he wasn’t dressed for this. He looked around for some object to pound the door with, to attract attention and get out, but nothing worked. He still had a good hour before dark; people were probably still in their offices so he pounded, kicked and yelled, but there was no response.
When he took out his iPhone, he discovered that the battery was dead. Totally dead! Of all times for this to happen!
But he didn’t lose his composure. He had to work fast. He went to the edge of the building, peeked over the small protective fence and began waving his arms and yelling to the people far below.
It became clear there was no way that anyone would notice him from 49 floors below. But he had to remain calm. It was his only chance. Soon it would be dark and really cold. And there was nowhere to get protection from the wind, which was getting colder by the minute.
Suddenly, he had an idea. The money! He had 17,000 shekels in his pocket. For sure, if he threw a 200 shekel note down people would look up to see where it was coming from and see him.
He pulled out a stack of bills, removed one, looked over the fence and threw it. He watched as it floated crazily in the wind and finally, after several minutes, landed on the other side of the street. Someone stopped, bent down, picked it up and continued walking.
This time he took out five bills, 1,000 altogether and let them drop, but no one noticed them until they hit the ground; then they picked them up, looked around for more, and kept going along their merry way.
He finally figured what he had to do! It was his only chance! He took all the money from his pocket, tore the band that held it neatly in a pack and with a yell, threw it below as hard as he could. With his last optimism, he gazed as it scattered far below him. He removed his shirt and began waving it frantically for someone to notice. But he couldn’t believe his eyes; no one looked up nor heard his cries for help. It seemed that they were all arguing below, about who saw which bill first!
He looked around on the roof as the sun was setting. It was light enough to see, but he saw nothing — only the sky.
His eyes filled with tears — suddenly he felt small — as he realized he needed help; he was sure that G-d would help him. The sky said so. A second ago, he didn’t believe in G-d, but now it was obvious. He was not left alone. He yelled out, “Hashem! Hashem! (G-d) . . . help! Help me!”
Suddenly his eye caught a medium-sized sack of small pebbles. Why didn’t he see it before? But there it was! He dragged it to the fence, took a handful, said a prayer, threw it over the side and began waving his arms and looking down again.
Sure enough, this time it worked! People began cursing, looking up pointing and screaming at him. Many called the police because moments later, the door burst open with police with guns drawn storming through. The officers put handcuffs on him and took him to the station. He was saved!
It took some serious explaining. He was lucky that no one was hurt from his pebbles and, of course, he lost the 17,000 shekel and still owed the taxes. But they ultimately accepted his story and released him.
At that moment he discovered a deep lesson: the people on the street were exactly like him. All the time money was raining down, the people never looked up . . . they only looked down, for more money.
But as soon as they started feeling the pebbles hurting them, they looked up to see where they were coming from.
How true of life! When we have everything we need, we often take it for granted and we forget to look up. We can become insensitive to the plight of others; we feel we don’t need anybody. We are on top of the world. Only when we feel the “pebbles” falling on us does it make us look up, look beyond ourselves and see that there is something that transcends our egos. There is a higher source.
Mindy, the wealth and talents that we are given are G-d’s gift to us. How we utilize them, is our gift to G-d.
Haman was wealthy and used it for the wrong reasons. Mordechai would not bow down to Haman, he would not bow down to wealth.
When we use our wealth to honor G-d and help others, we build a Temple, the perfect home for G-d.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News