The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. — Proverbs 10:8
When the Israelites left Egypt we learn that “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:35-36). While the Israelites didn’t do anything wrong by acquiring gold and silver on the eve of their departure from slavery, the Jewish sages suggest that perhaps they went a bit overboard in the amount they took and the time they invested in doing so. In contrast, tradition teaches that while the rest of the nation was busy acquiring possessions, Moses was using the time to perform a good deed.
Centuries earlier, Joseph had asked the Israelites to promise to take his remains out of Egypt with them when they were redeemed. So just before the time came, Moses was busy looking for and finding the bones of Joseph. He performed this great act of kindness for Joseph and collected his remains as he requested so that he might be reinterred in the land of Israel.
The sages quote the following verse from Proverbs in reference to this occurrence: “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Translated literally from the original Hebrew, we read: “The wise in heart take good deeds . . . ” While the Israelites were focused on taking possessions, Moses, who was especially wise, took good deeds instead. Gold and silver may serve a person in this world, but our good deeds serve us for eternity, and so Moses chose to acquire those things instead.
There is a story told about a renowned rabbi in the seventeenth century who was ordered by the German-Roman Kaiser to present an accounting of all his property and possessions. When the rabbi submitted his financial statement, the Kaiser accused him of lying and treason. The Kaiser had personally gifted the rabbi with a castle that alone was more valuable than the statement handed in by the rabbi.
The rabbi explained that he had been asked to list everything that he owned, but the castle had been a gift that could be taken away as easily as it was given. “Then what is recorded on this list?” demanded the Kaiser. The rabbi answered, “It’s a list of the charity I have given. Only what I have given away is truly mine. Even the Kaiser cannot take that away.”
Let’s keep this message in mind as we decide how to use our resources – especially our time and money. Let’s be sure to invest at least as much in eternal acquisitions as we do in temporary, material ones.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President