Parshas Lech Lecha: Behind the Wealth

This article was written by Moshe Khoshbakhsh (’22) contributor at the Valley Torah Scroll.

And Hashem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.

(Breishis 12:1-2)

Avraham is being offered an incentive – compensation package for braving to leave everything-his land, birthplace, and family. He is promised not just family, but a great nation to carry out his dreams and fame.  It’s the conclusion of that verse that does not seem to match with the first three parts: “…and you shall be a blessing”.

Usually, when someone has success, family, fortune, and fame, then they are not such a blessing. Power corrupts a person (I got my eyes on Biden and Harris). The ego is easily intoxicated with even its tiniest triumphs. However, Avraham is being promised that, with all his attainments, he will be a blessing. It’s a challenge. How can it be done?

The Chovos HaLevavos outlines three reasons why Hashem might grant someone wealth, and he brings three answers:

1) A person might be granted wealth as a punishment. The indication that his wealth is the direct cause of his problems and his ultimate downfall. He falls off his yacht and drowns, and the police are unable to determine whether it was foul play or suicide. All the while, it is sad nobody was interested in his demise. He possessed something most of us wish we had but didn’t actually have, something we all need, friends. 

2) Someone might be a recipient of wealth as a test. In this situation, the person is paralyzed with indecision. He is so busy just trying to preserve his treasures that he cannot spend it on himself or on others. He only frets and fears losing it, but neither he nor anyone else gets benefit from his fortune.

3) In a minority of cases, a person is made wealthy as a reward. This is evident by the fact that its recipient uses the money to accomplish more and more in the arena of Torah and Mitzvos. He is able to find more time to learn, and he gives more charity. The son of a wealthy businessman asked a Rabbi once, “How does the Torah look at people with lots of money?” The Rabbi responded blankly, “Money is like maneuver. If you spread it on a field of Mitzvos like fertilizer, then you will eventually reap its benefits, but if you hold on to it, then it will tend to stink!”

From these words of the Chovos HaLevavos, we can learn a powerful lesson. Things may look greener on the other side, but in reality, we don’t actually know what is going on inside another person’s life. We don’t know the reasons why a person may have a nicer car, house, or object, but there is one thing we do hope. With that nicer thing Hashem gave them, we hope they use it for the benefit of others, especially in our communities.

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