Tzam’a Nafshi – Parshas Yisro – Rav Eliezer Berland

“Men of truth who despise gain” (18:21)

   The Rebbe yearned that we should achieve this level: that we should get rid of all our money, giving our money to tzedaka, and that we shouldn’t have any desire for money or amassing wealth at all.
   The Rebbe said in Torah 30, “Perceptions of G-dliness can only be grasped through many contractions: from the Primary Cause to the caused, from the upper intellect to the lower intellect…Now the only way to achieve this lower intellect is by ‘despising monetary gain.’ One has to utterly loathe money.” The entire world runs according to the lower intellect, through lower wisdom. Whoever despises monetary gain merits to achieve this lower wisdom, this lower intellect, and he can run the world. Whoever utterly loathes money can become the ruler of the world. Shlomo HaMelech had lower wisdom, “He was wiser than all men” (Melachim 1, 5:11). He ruled over the whole world, and about Shlomo it is said, “King Shlomo made silver in Jerusalem [as common] as stones” (Melachim 1, 10:27). Since he hated money, he ruled over both the upper and the lower worlds. Whatever Shlomo HaMelech achieved—he flew with the eagle, he ruled over the demons, over the eagles and wild animals, and even that he built the Beis HaMikdash—this was all through lower wisdom, though despising gain. Because he despised money, he had unlimited wealth. All the kings came to him bringing silver, gold, monkeys, elephants—they brought him everything because he utterly loathed money, as it is written, “In the days of Shlomo, money was virtually worthless” (Sanhedrin 21b).
   If a person wants to attain lower intellect, the lower wisdom, to achieve even just an iota of intelligence and wisdom—even if it is just in the revealed wisdoms—he absolutely must despise money. If a person doesn’t hate money, he cannot have any spiritual achievements. The desire for money is the most despicable of all the desires, and the most difficult to escape from. It is possible to overcome the other desires because they are, on some level, base and degrading. A person is embarrassed by his other desires, and people even make fun of him because of them. But the desire for money is the only desire that a person is not embarrassed about—just the opposite! He prides himself that he is wealthy and boasts about it. Reb Nosson says about the desire for money, “lakinu b’ciflayim (we received double the lashes).” Not only does a person fall into the desire for money which is the biggest tumah in the world, but he is admired for it. Everyone praises him and everyone is jealous of him—people chase after him because of it. That is why it is so difficult to break the desire for money. No one knows how to escape from it. All the other desires are an embarrassment for a person, but this desire is the worst of the worst. The desire for money is hidden and concealed within him, which is why it is almost impossible to escape from. A person doesn’t even know that this is an evil desire. He doesn’t realize that to spend time thinking about money is an absolute disgrace. He’ll make an excuse like, “I need this item.” Or, “this is to marry off my children”. Or, “this is my income.” What are you so worried about? Everything has already been announced in heaven. 40 days before a person is created, it is established in heaven that on such and such a day he will get a house, and on such and such a day he will receive a field—income—everything was announced already before a person was born. The whole time a person is sunk in the desire for money, thinking about it all the day the geula cannot come, because the geula can only come when a person trusts in Hashem and he looks only to Hashem.
   We say three times a day in Ashrei, “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food at its proper time.” At its proper time! Everything happens at the proper time, at exactly the right moment. Whatever a person is supposed to get—an apartment, furniture, etc.—everything comes at the right time. Thinking about money and being preoccupied with money distances a person from his salvation, distances him from getting an apartment, from his income. A person thinks about money his whole life long. He doesn’t realize that the minute he stops thinking about his income, that only then it will come to him on its own—it will race towards him. In the story of the Exchanged Children, the prince “would run after the animals and they would flee from him. And he would chase after them…” According to the Breslov tradition, this is what happens to a person with his income, because income (parnasa) can be divided into two words “par nosea (the cow fled).” If you run after your income, it will run away from you.
   This is similar to the story about a simple Jew who heard a rav speak about a bear that was blind, crippled, and wounded that sat in a cave. Hashem sustained him by having a sheep come every day and enter his mouth. This Jew went home and said “From now on I am not going to do anything at all. From today I am not going to go to work. I am going to sit all day in the shul learning and praying.” His wife started crying, the children started crying, and everyone was crying, it was just like Tisha B’Av. In the morning they woke up and found that everything they owned had been stolen. It wasn’t enough that he had decided that he wouldn’t go to work. But now, their horse was stolen, their wagon was stolen. His wife screamed at him, “All you bring is just bad luck! You stupid idiot! Look at what you’ve done to us. You decide that you’re not going to work any more and immediately our horse and wagon get stolen. It’s all your fault! Why did you go listen to that rav speak? He told you about some bear that had sheep walking straight into his mouth. What do you think, that you’re a bear? You’re not a bear! You have to behave like a human being. You have to go to work. Look what accusations you’ve brought against us. Now we’ve got no horse, no wagon: nothing!”
   Now what had actually happened was that there was a thief who needed the horse and wagon to steal some chests of gold from a church. He put everything on the wagon and traveled deep into the forest where he dug a hole three meters deep in order to bury the treasure. Suddenly, the mound of earth collapsed on him, and he was buried alive in the hole. All the gold was still in the wagon. Ten chests of gold with jewelry, diamonds and pearls, golden candlesticks—everything was still covered up on the wagon. And the poor horse didn’t understand what was happening to him, where was he being taken, what did they want from his life? “Where is my master” he was crying? After a while he just decided to go home. At the same time, in the house of the Jew everyone was still crying over the horse and wagon, crying over their father the meshugeneh who had decided not to go to work but rather to dedicate his life to serving Hashem. All of a sudden they heard a noise at the gate. Something was knocking on the gate, banging on the gate. Everyone ran out and saw the horse with the wagon and cried out, “Here’s the horse!” What happiness and rejoicing. Happiness and rejoicing. But what will be with our father the meshugeneh who doesn’t want to go to work?  They saw that the wagon was covered with a cloth, but they thought that there were just potatoes or carrots or something under it. Perhaps the burglar had put some vegetables in the wagon to sell at the market. What could possibly be left here other than a few rotten potatoes? Suddenly, they discovered that the whole wagon was filled with chests of gold and silver. And this is how it is for each and every person who wants to dedicate his life to Hashem and depend on Him for his income. This is not a story that took place a million years ago. This is the story of every day of our lives! If a person would believe in Hashem and trust in Hashem then the gold and silver would be delivered right to his house!
   The Rebbe yearned that we should come to this level: that we should throw away the money, that we should give our money to charity, that we shouldn’t amass wealth and certainly that we shouldn’t desire it. He desired and yearned very much that we should merit to reach the holy level of the Baal Shem Tov and the No’am Elimelech who gave away all their money every day to charity and wouldn’t leave a single coin overnight in the house for the next day. In Sicha 55 of Chaye Moharan, the Rebbe says, “I don’t want you to be confused over this observance, that all at once you should try to jump to this level. Don’t give away all the money you receive on the same day. If you have debts, pay them. When you get money, take off the ma’aser, and give it to charity. If you are on the level that you can give 20%, that’s even better. But don’t leave your wife and children hungry. Just know that you are really supposed to hate the money, to despise gain. Don’t make earning money into some kind of holy mission.” Also Reb Nosson in Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Shabbos, discusses this issue at length, that a person needs a lot of wisdom and great intelligence to know how to balance the obligation of making an effort to earn a living, with trusting in Hashem. A level which only a small number merited to reach. “Many people tried to be like Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai [who didn’t make any effort to earn a living] but few succeeded!” But at least one shouldn’t make earning a living into a holy mission, and he should know that this is the greatest tumah. A person should be embarrassed that he thinks constantly about money. One should try to hang on to this guiding principle, to act with truthfulness and to have an honest desire to reach the level of the tzaddikim in trusting in Hashem, to give as much tzedaka as possible, and to despise gain and utterly hate and loathe money.


   Master of the Universe, please help me to merit being strong and courageous in my trust in You. I should not be afraid to distribute as much tzedaka as possible, and I shouldn’t spend any time at all worrying whether or not I will have money for tomorrow. Let me not put my trust in other people, that I shouldn’t be in the category of ‘accursed,’ as it is written, “Accursed is the man who trusts in people and makes flesh [and blood] his strength” (Yirmiahu 17:5). I should only trust in You all my life, and rely only on You, and not on any salvation from other people, as it is written, “futile is the aid of man” (Tehillim 60:13). Please help me to believe that all of my sustenance comes directly from You and not through any person or any other channel. Help me to fulfill the verses, “Give us help against the oppressor; futile is the aid of man. Through G-d we shall act valiantly, and He will trample our oppressors” (Tehillim 60:13-14). “May You add days onto the days of the king, may his years be like generation after generation. May he sit forever before G-d; appoint kindness and truth, that they may preserve him. Thus shall I praise Your name forever, to fulfill my vows day after day” (Tehillim 61:7-9).
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