"Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
In a kingdom in Europe, there was a Jewish officer who reported to the king. The officer was a savvy businessman and in the course of time, amassed a large fortune.
His neighbors and co-workers were not happy with the man’s success and sought to cut him down to size or perhaps even eliminate him. They began to circle rumors that the King’s trusted Jewish advisor had been cheating the crown and was making fortunes of money off the backs of others.
The king did not want to believe the rumors about his prized advisor and chose to ignore the rumors. However, when the noise got to be too much, he was forced to call his advisor, the officer, in for questioning. “What is the value of your worth?” he asked.
The Jewish advisor provided a dollar amount that was well below the value of the financial assessments of his wealth. After receiving a complete evaluation from the royal accounting office, the king was incensed. He ordered the officer’s properties seized for the crown and frozen until the officer could be tried by the king himself.
On the day of the great trial, the king openly charged the officer to explain to him why he had lied to the crown and purposely devalued the state of his wealth.
“I did not devalue anything,” the officer began. “”Everything I told you was true. I keep an accounting of every dollar that goes into my property. Every week, I siphon off a 10% tithe for charity. When you asked me for an accounting of my wealth, I gave you the dollar value of these contributions. After all, the rest of the estate is not mine, it is here today and taken from me tomorrow. Only the monies that I use for a positive purpose --- like charity – are mine forever more. Only these pay dividends that will stay with me long after my time on earth.”
The king checked the books and indeed the total value of the Jewish officer’s charitable contributions were equal to the amount he had initially reported as his wealth. Recognizing the officer’s honesty and focus on true goals, he returned him to his old post and return his assets.
The Lutzker Rav, Rav Zalman Sorotozkin explains that wealth is not ours to amass. It is a tool that we are given in order to be used in the positive spreading of Hashem’s glory in the world. Whether it is to the Kohein, about which we read, “that which is given to the Kohein shall be his” (because only that which you give away can ever be truly yours) or in the context of Tzedaka when we read Tithe to become wealthy, our priorities in wealth building are highlighted clearly in the Torah.
How do we establish a healthy outlook on earning a living and amassing wealth?
What is a good synthesis of the dual goals of earning enough but keeping a focus for a higher goal?
When do we need to know we are earning “too much” at the expense of other pursuits in life?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.