Ritual Wisdom 8-7-2020
n this week’s Torah reading, Aikev, as in the rest of the Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim), Moshe reminds the Jewish people over and over again about the importance of studying Torah and adhering to all of G-d’s commandments. The entire Book of Deuteronomy was said by Moshe before his passing, and as the people were about to enter into the land of Israel.
Moshe says, “Be careful not to forget G-d, your G-d, not to fail to keep His commandments, which I command you this day. You might eat and be satisfied, build good houses and live in them, as your herds and flock will increase, your silver and gold accumulate, and everything that you have will prosper, as your heart becomes overconfident, you might forget G-d your G-d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Who led you through that great and awesome desert, where there were snakes, serpents and scorpions and thirst but no water; Who brought you water out of solid rock; Who fed you with manna in the desert, which your forefathers never experienced, in order to afflict you and test you for the sake of your benefit in the end. And you may say in your heart, ‘My own ability and the strength of my hand accumulated this wealth for me!’ You must remember, G-d your G-d, for it is HE who gives you the ability to make wealth.”
Life is full of tests. Moshe tells us that everything in life is a test. Poverty is a test and wealth is a test.
The forty years in the desert were one kind of a test, but now going into Israel will be another test – the test of prosperity. Will they give G-d credit for their success or will they say, “My own ability and the strength of my hand accumulated this wealth for me!”
In Proverbs (22:2) King Solomon says, “The rich and the poor meet together; G-d is the maker of them all.” What is the meaning of this verse?
The rich person may think that he attained his wealth because of his brilliance and hard work. As a result, the rich man looks down on the poor man, because he blames the poor man for his own misfortune. King Solomon tells us that when the rich and poor meet one will notice that the poor man may be as intelligent as the rich man. It is not the rich man’s doing that he is rich and not the poor man’s fault that he is poor. It is “G-d Who is the maker of them all!” who decides that this one should be rich and the other one poor. The rich man should be indebted to G-d for his good fortune and help the poor.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev, on his way to synagogue one morning, saw a man running in the opposite direction of the synagogue. “Why are you running?” asked Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. “I am running to earn a living,” replied the man. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said to him: “How do you know that your living is in front of you and you’re running toward it, maybe it’s behind you and you are running away from it? The Torah reading reminds us, “It is HE [G-d] who gives you the ability to make wealth.”