You must surely tithe (Devarim 14:22)
Our Sages say if a person gives Ma’aser (ten percent of his income to charity), then he will become wealthy. I once asked my Rav if this was really true. I told him that I tried to be careful regarding giving Ma’aser, but I was not wealthy. Why wasn’t I a millionaire? Why did I have trouble every month paying my bills?
The answer my Rav gave opened my eyes. Who said lots of money means that I am wealthy? It states in Pirke Avos (4:1), “Who is wealthy? He who is happy with what he has.” Satisfaction with one’s possessions is happiness. A person does not need lots of money to be happy. And a person does not need lots of money to be wealthy.
I was recently studying the fourth chapter of Pirke Avos and read the first mishna in that chapter again (quoted above) which states a wealthy person is one who is happy with what he has. I then read the ninth mishna in that chapter, which states “Rabi Yonasan says ‘whoever learns Torah when he is poor will eventually learn Torah when he is wealthy,” and wondered if these two statements had anything in common since both discuss wealth. In my humble opinion, I’d like to share my thought on this.
Rabi Yonasan teaches us the power of Torah. Who is a poor person? Following the logic from the first mishna, it is a person who is not satisfied with what he has. So, the person who Rabi Yonasan first talks about is one who learns Torah despite not being satisfied with what he has. Then what happens? The mishna states he will then fulfill the Torah in wealth, which means he will be satisfied with what he has. The statement by Rabi Yonasan is that if a person is not satisfied with what he has, he should learn Torah. The reason is because Torah has the power of transforming a person into a person who is satisfied with what he has. The person is not going to get more money – he is going to live a happier, more satisfying life. This is Torah!
Years ago, I had thoughts of jumping off a bridge. Luckily, I met some great Rabbis who focused me in the right direction. I began learning Torah and Mussar and my whole outlook on life changed. When a person surrounds himself with the Torah, he becomes a new person. He lives a much more joyous life. He realizes that millions of dollars will not make him happy (just look at how many millionaires there are who are depressed!). True happiness is found from learning Torah.
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