Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. — Proverbs 20:13 ESV
Recently, a Jewish Russian named Mikhail Fridman, who was also a wealthy businessman, raised eyebrows when he announced that he doesn’t plan on leaving any of his money to his children when he passes away. This was surprising to many since Mr. Fridman is known to be extremely generous, a philanthropist who has championed many important causes.
However, Mr. Fridman must know what researchers have found — more often than not, children do not benefit from large fortunes being handed over to them. Instead, the unearned money has been found to increase unhappiness and decrease productiveness in the lives of many heirs.
Whether we agree with Mr. Fridman’s decision or not, we can learn much from the love of a father who withholds luxuries from his children for their own good. Just as Mr. Fridman is doing with his children, so, too, God often does the same with His most beloved children — us!
In Proverbs we read, “open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” In commenting on this verse, the rabbis provided the following parable: There was once a father with a son who was very ill. He found the finest doctor who was able to cure his son, but the doctor also warned that the child must keep away from even the smallest amount of fatty meat.
One day, the father had to leave on a business trip. While the father was away, the son found himself near freshly cooked meat that smelled incredible. The boy couldn’t help himself and gave into the temptation of eating the meat. When his father arrived home, he found his son hovering between life and death. He went back to the doctor who healed the child once more, and the father promised never to leave him unsupervised again.
One day, when the father made a feast for friends and relatives, he chased the boy out of the dining hall. To the guests, the father seemed cruel and unkind. But the truth was that he was acting out of love for his son and protecting him from what would be bad for him.
In the same way, God often gives us less than we want because it is for our own good. Too often we are unsatisfied with our lot in life. But the verse says, “Open your eyes!” The picture is broader than what we see. There are reasons why God gives what He gives and withholds what He withholds. When we appreciate that God is giving us exactly what is best for us, thn we will never feel we are lacking for anything.
The truth is that we have plenty – all that is good for us, and none of what might harm us at this time in our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President