Think you’ve got it bad in this economy? Think again!
By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal
SAN DIEGO — When I opened this morning’s paper, I groaned when I saw that the stock market had dropped below 10,000.
I began to feel sorry for myself until I read the next headline: “Flooding displaces one million more in Pakistan.” At least 1,600 people have been killed and 17 million displaced since monsoon floods began in Pakistan a month ago. Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “An already colossal disaster is getting worse and requiring an even more colossal response.”
In ancient Israel the first of all harvests, the bikurim, were offered to God. The Torah instructs the Israelites to include the poor of society in their celebration: “You shall enjoy, together with the Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that the Lord your God has bestowed upon you and your household.” (Deut. 26:11)
I have always explained this as requiring us to include gifts to the poor and hungry whenever we celebrate happy occasions. Our joy is never complete until the needy are provided for.
The commentator known as Lekutei Yehoshua, however, suggests another interpretation of this mitzvah. He writes that when you share your celebrations with the downtrodden of society, the joy you experience is of a special nature: it is the joy of one who is happy with what they have. (cf. Pirkei Avot 4:1: Ben Zoma says, “Who is wealthy? The one who is content with what they have.”)
Jealousy of one’s neighbor’s possessions, he writes, is the source of much sadness and anger in life. We always think that we will be happy if we have more.
However, if we think about our poor neighbors, rather than the wealthy ones, we quickly realize how fortunate we are and conclude that we must be grateful and content with the blessings that are already ours.
Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego