Thursday, November 12, 2009

Generous or Miserly?

Rav Shalom Shwardron once gave a very inspiring lesson regarding true generosity. “Many businessmen are truly kindly and run after opportunities to give tzedakah, but when it comes to business they will not give up even one penny. Why? Because of a ‘bad eye’—a grasping tendency.”
“Why can’t these baalei tzedakah surrender an extra few cents to someone in business dealings? The difference is clear. In tzedakah, I am the giver. But in business, someone is taking. How can I give in and allow him to profit? I don’t really care, but why should I allow him to get ahead?”
Rav Shalom continued, “I once heard from Rav Meir Chodosh, zt”l, a very relevant lesson from Bava Basra 15. The gemara brings a verse in which we find that among other things, Iyov is referred to as ‘one who turns from evil.’ Rav Abba bar Shmuel explains that he is called this because he was able to let go when it came to money.
“For example, it was normal for one who owed a worker half a perutah to purchase an inexpensive loaf of bread and give half to the worker and take half. But Iyov would give the entire perutah to the worker since it was despicable in his eyes to be so grasping regarding such an insignificant amount of money.
Rav Shalom continued, “How does such a seemingly insignificant monetary gift reveal that Iyov ‘turned from evil?’ The answer is clear. One who avoids evil does not have a bad eye. He is not pained when his friend profits even at his own expense. How can one know where he is holding in this area? From the little things that will be unnoticed. We all know that people often say, ‘I can surrender on any matter but business is business.’
“Rav Meir brought a story to illustrate. A certain woman was very careful to give generously to tzedakah, even going to much trouble so that yeshiva students should eat at her house at no charge. One time a certain student used a bit more water than necessary to wash his hands. The woman began to scream, ‘Kloiznikim! Good-for-nothings! These people are not careful to conserve water!’
“This is a classic case of petty miserliness. If I give, that it fine, but if someone takes even a little unexpectedly, I am willing to heap insult and shame on his head!”

No comments: