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May 20, 1994 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-05-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

leassesieotio tiits40 hem OttIt

LEATHER GALLERY

When We Give,
We Also Receive

RABBI IRWIN GRONER

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

nd every man's hallowed mine." "You will find out who is
things shall be his: what- right," replied the passer-by, and
soever any man giveth to went on his way.
Some time later, this house-
the priest, it shall be his."
holder suffered a reversal of for-
(Numbers 5:10)
The above verse refers to some tune. He went bankrupt; his
of the perquisites of the priest of house was sold by the court; and,
ancient Israel, in an almost ca- penniless and homeless, the only
sual and indirect manner. The place he could rest his weary
priest is to receive the heave-of- head was the public street. Then
fering and "every man's hallowed it was that the truth stated by the
saintly man struck home. The
things" as well as direct gifts.
This is the literal meaning of street being the property of the
the verse, but it is equally possi- whole community, he could lay
ble to find a different meaning. claim to its use. Of his own prop-
That interpretation makes the erty, he was deprived by a turn
word "his" refer not to the priest, of fortune. Consider the profound
recipient of the gift, but to its lesson that what belongs to the
donor, and produces this trans- community as a whole becomes
lation: "And every man's hal- the inalienable property of each
lowed things shall be his member of the community:
property; whatsoever any man "Whatsoever the man giveth to
giveth the priest shall yet belong the priest, it shall yet belong to
him."
to him."
An interesting story is told
Is it possible to justify such a
paradoxical statement? How can about Anschel Rothschild, the
one suggest that which a man founder of the fabulously wealthy
sets aside as holy is his own prop-
erty; that which he gives away
shall be his, with the implicit
corollary that that which he re-
tains for his own use is not his?
Nevertheless, the Jewish tradi-
tion argues that this apparent
paradox embodies a profound
moral truth. The fact is often
overlooked that only by giving
something away do we ensure Rothschild family. He was asked
that it is at our disposal, for our once how much money he had.
benefit and use. It can also be Being a religious man, he re-
true that those things which we sponded to the question by quot-
hoard for ourselves as inalienable ing the verse cited above found
possessions really do not belong in this week's sedrah — "and •
every man"s hallowed things
to us, ultimately.
This truth is conveyed by a shall yet belong to him•" He ex-
beautiful story told in the Tal- plained further to his inquirer
mud. A saintly man was once that he really does not know how
walking along the public thor- much he has because he is never
oughfare when over a garden sure of his investments, whether
wall there came hurtling some they will bring a profit or result
stones which nearly struck him. in a total loss. He concluded that
Approaching the wall, he looked the only investment that is re-
over, and spied a proud house- ally his, is the one he gave to
holder clearing stones from his charity — that remains to his
garden and disposing of them by credit and is never lost.
Our sages engaged in exten-
throwing them into the street.
Beckoning to him, the saintly sive commentary on the endur-
man addressed him as follows: ing value of charity as compared
"How long will you continue to to the fleeting nature of human
cast stones from that which is not possessions. They emphasize that
yours into that which is yours?' man cannot take with him, after
The householder, probably think- his earthly existence has ended,
ing he was dealing with a lunatic, any of his material possessions
answered "It is the other way while his charitable deeds stand
round! The house is mine; the him in good stead during his life
street is not. I am throwing that time, as well as in the world to
which is mine to that which is not come and in the gratitude of fu-
ture generations.
A sage of the 14th century
wrote that the world is like a re-
Irwin Groner is senior rabbi of

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