Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ways of the Wealthy

Many have commented on wealthy people who cannot seem to part with a dime for any worthy cause. In the words of Rav Yankel Galinsky, shlit”a, “It often seems easier for a miser to cut off a limb then to give a penny to even the worthiest charity!” The Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, zt”l, also spoke about this tendency. “I really have no gripe with a wealthy man who is frugal. After all, he is merely acting in keeping with the words of our sages that wealthy people are frugal. I do, however, have a word against more moderately wealthy people whose miserliness is all out of proportion to their assets. This is the way of misers and it is simply wrong. The more wealth such a person amasses, the more he wants, and the stingier he gets. “For example, if a person earns one hundred thousand coins or the like, he begins to want ten times what he owns. The trouble with this is that he becomes an even greater miser. If he used to give a certain percent of his earnings to tzedakah, he starts to give half, since in his mind he is already a millionaire and that percentage of his ‘wealth to come’ is a very great sum. The sum of tzedakah looms so large in his imagination, that he pares back what he gives of his actual earnings! I have a strong opposition to this behavior since the stinginess is not in keeping with his assets.” Rav Yisrael of Vizhnitz, zt"l, would also comment on this phenomenon. “When a shiduch is completed or during other simchos it is customary to say, 'סימן טוב ומזל טוב'. When it comes to raising money for a cause, we come across an interesting paradox. Wealthy people who are actually able to support the cause do not wish to give—as we find in Menachos, they tend to be stingy. Poor people who have no assets want to help but can’t. “Our sages say that there are three סימנים—signs—that are common to Jews: they are bashful, merciful and kind. Since the poor want to help, they have a סימן טוב. Our sages also teach that wealth depends on mazel. The wealthy clearly have מזל טוב. For this reason, we bless at every simchah סימן טוב ומזל טוב, to impart both mercifulness and wealth to us and all of the Jewish people!”

1 comment:

in the vanguard said...

You write about the "wealthy people who cannot seem to part with a dime for any worthy cause."

They may seem wealthy to you but these are hardly wealthy because wealth is in the mind. And feeling unable to part with a dime makes one utterly poor - whether an observer sees it that way or not.