…and you will say to yourself, “My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me.” But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day. (Devarim 8:18)
There is a very grave danger, and perhaps the greatest danger that is highlighted and emphasized, and hammered time and time again. What is that gravest of all dangers? Forgetting about HASHEM! We are all at risk and at all times regardless of the external condition in which we find ourselves.
The Ramchal gives this description of the human condition; “Thus, we see that man is truly placed in the midst of a raging battlefield. For all matters of this world, whether for the good or for the bad, are trials for a man; Poverty from one side or wealth from the other. This is as Shlomo said: “Lest I be satiated, and deny You, and say, Who is G-d? or lest I be poor, and steal…” (Prov.30:9). Tranquility on the one hand and suffering on the other… until the battle is being waged against him from the front and from behind!”
What looks like the worst situation may actually be the best and the best the worst. It matter more what we do with each of the ever changing circumstances of life. There was a book written about tennis called, “The Inner Game”. This is what matters most. Does my inner response to whatever the surroundings bring me closer or farther away from HASHEM?! That is the question!
There’s an odd expression that goes like this, “Nothing fails like success!” I think that maybe now we cannot understand it from this angle. Wealth may even be a bigger test than poverty, although we have been crying out for generations now, “TEST ME!” Looking at the landscape of many materially successful Jewish people in the last few decades, we would have to wonder if wealth brought enough of them and their families closer to HASHEM. No one can know! Everyone can ponder!
The Sefer Orchas Tzadikim outlines three reasons why a person might be treated to wealth in this world and then he provides a sign, a way of telling which of these reasons most likely applies. Someone might become rich as 1) a punishment 2) a test or 3) a blessing.
What might indicate that it is a punishment? The person’s suffering and perhaps even his ultimate demise is because of all that money. He falls out of harmony with his children or his wife or his friends.
He takes on new habits of indulgence that eventually are the cause of death. How often do we hear about people who were stricken with “sudden wealth syndrome” for having won the lottery or getting a giant signing bonus and not only does the money not solve their problems, it amplifies them by millions.
A husband and wife janitorial team, married and working together for 40 years win the lottery and what happens!? Two years and two wives later he falls of his yacht with a high alcohol and drug content in veins in what the police are calling, based upon insufficient evidence, an accident.
What would show that it is a test? He cannot spend on himself or anybody else either. He is paralyzed with fear of losing the sum. He obsesses on his investments and lives a miserly existence.
He cannot give charity and neither can he gives himself permission to splurge on himself. The money holds him more than he holds the money.
How does one know if wealth is given as a blessing? He is busy using his wealth to accomplish more and more good for himself and others. He hires an assistant to watch his affairs so he can spend more time learning.
He actively seeks out Tzedaka and Mitzvah opportunities in which he can happily invest without expecting returns in this world. With this attitude he rejoices as someone who is truly laughing all the way to the bank!