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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

They Would Grab for Themselves

The midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 22:7) notes that there are three valuable presents – wisdom, strength, and wealth – that can be a part of a person’s downfall. The examples, one Jewish and one non-Jewish, were: for wisdom, Achitofel and Bilam; for strength, Shimshon and Goliath; and for wealth, Korach and Haman. The midrash continues that the tribes of Gad and Reuven were blessed with great flocks but because they loved their money so much that they settled outside Eretz Yisrael, away from their brethren, they were the first to be exiled.
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The midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 22:7) notes that there are three valuable presents – wisdom, strength, and wealth – that can be a part of a person’s downfall. The examples, one Jewish and one non-Jewish, were: for wisdom, Achitofel and Bilam; for strength, Shimshon and Goliath; and for wealth, Korach and Haman. The midrash continues that the tribes of Gad and Reuven were blessed with great flocks but because they loved their money so much that they settled outside Eretz Yisrael, away from their brethren, they were the first to be exiled.
It is not enough to receive a present, whether it be wisdom, strength, or riches; one needs to use it properly, starting with understanding its divine origin and purpose. One who grabs it for himself and not to be used for good, causes tragedy.
We are now in a time when Eretz Yisrael is flowing with blood ("The Arab Revolt") and the Diaspora is in flames, and no one knows to where to escape. Have we no guilt? What can those, who had the money to purchase land in Eretz Yisrael and now their money is frozen or lost, say for themselves?
The Sultan needed money, and Herzl tried to harness Jewish wealth and arrange the establishment of a Jewish state. He didn’t realize that the Jewish wealthy would grab their money for themselves and not see the "return on their investment" in building Eretz Yisrael. After the Balfour Declaration, if all those who could have helped would have, we would not possess the present 5% of Mandatory land but 50%. Instead of having 300,000 Jewish residents, we could have 1.3 million. Then we would not have to read daily about young lives being taken and women’s dreams for their children being shattered. The Land could be blossoming like Eden, and we could be helping world Jewry spiritually and financially. World Jewry would know they have a nation and Land, and the haughty nations would have to reckon with us. But people thought their money was safer in their native lands and unfortunately they have lost all – starting with money, and with people lacking a place of refuge. We are like the tribes of Gad and Reuven who preferred their money to Eretz Yisrael.
Maybe someone thinks that this is a fault of the Jews of the Diaspora and not of Jews of Eretz Yisrael. But they are wrong! Living here does not exempt us from other obligations! We think that only Jews of the Diaspora have to donate. There are so many Jewish institutions of charity and chesed abroad … and so few here. It is not just money. We need to be sensitive to our neighbors, lend a helping hand, and provide advice and empathy. If a person’s farmland is for him alone, that is also grabbing for himself. We too have baseless hatred, which causes destruction. That hatred comes from wanting everything for oneself.
Another thing that causes destruction is not blessing over the Torah (Bava Metzia 85b). We think we are "too busy to learn Torah." Even if we were correct in regard to weekdays, why can’t we find an hour or two on Shabbat to acquire knowledge to lead our lives? Even for people like us, the Torah is not at the forefront of our lives as it should be.
These are the lessons. Even though it is a little late, it is better now than not at all. During the Three Weeks, let us start to fix things and merit a speedy liberation!
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