Attaining Spiritual Wealth
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein | August 16, 2015
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. Psalm 85:11
The Talmud tells a story about King Munbaz of Adiabene, an ancient kingdom in Assyria, who had converted to Judaism. Once, during a year of famine, the king decided to spend his entire fortune on the poor and hungry. His relatives criticized him harshly, questioning how he could “squander” the wealth that his predecessors had spent their lifetimes acquiring.
The king explained that his way of treating the royal wealth was far more advantageous than hoarding it like his forbearers. He said, “My predecessors gathered riches for ‘This World,’ but I gather riches for ‘The World to Come.’ My forbearers left their fortunes for others; they never enjoyed what they greedily amassed. My fortune is preserved for me eternally. My forbearers stored their wealth here on earth, where it is vulnerable to theft, but I stored my wealth in Heaven, where it is safe from all harm. As Scripture states: “‘Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.'”
What was the righteous king saying?
Munbaz was explaining to his critics that when good deeds, such as giving charity to those in need, are performed here on earth, these deeds are transformed into spiritual wealth and stored in heaven. Wealth stored in heaven is the best place to invest our riches – and we do so by transforming all things material into spiritually good deeds.
This reminds me of a powerful story about a member of the famous Rothschild family that warrants retelling. Someone asked him, “Exactly how much wealth do you have, Sir?” In response, Lord Rothschild answered, “Let me show you.” He led the man to a room and showed him many documents. They were receipts from charities that he had supported. “These,” said Lord Rothschild, “are my only true possessions. Only the money that I have given away will accompany me to the grave.”
Recently, there was a news story about a homeless man who had found $2,400 dollars and turned it into the police instead of keeping the much-needed money for himself. The story caught the hearts of the townspeople, one of whom raised $5,000 as reward money for the needy man. But the man would have none of it and asked that the money be donated to a local shelter instead. He didn’t want to profit from his good deed.
What a stark contrast to the many people who have plenty and yet give little! They fail to recognize the importance of spiritual wealth. This week, let’s refocus our aspirations on attaining spiritual riches. Let’s aspire less for material gains and more for spiritual acts of kindness. In the end, all we will really have is that which we have given away.