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Iyar 18

Do not make for yourselves gods of gold and silver (Exodus 20:20).

While the plain meaning of this verse is an injunction against making idols, it has also been interpreted to mean, "Do not worship gold and silver."

Rabbi Schneur Zalman once approached a wealthy man, a known miser, for a donation to redeem someone from captivity. He was given one penny. Instead of throwing the penny in the miser's face, as others had done, Rabbi Schneur Zalman thanked the man politely and turned to leave. The man called him back, apologized, and gave him a slightly larger sum. Again, the rabbi blessed him, thanked him, and turned to leave, only to be called back. This scene repeated itself numerous times with progressively intense apologies and larger donations, until the man donated the entire sum needed.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman explained that when people had previously refused the one-cent donation, the miser, who had come to worship money as his god, took it as a personal insult and reacted as though his god had been disgraced. By thanking him for the penny, the rabbi set in motion an approach which allowed the miser to shed his defenses and respond with compassion.

This concept is important both in our relating to others as well as in developing attitudes of our own. Because money is so vital in our lives, we must remember that we, as well as other people, are at risk of deifying it. We must be both cautious to prevent ourselves from falling into this trap and also understand that others may have fallen into it.

Today I shall...

be on the alert to avoid money from becoming unduly important in my life and think about how to relate to others who may have developed this mistaken attitude.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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