Become the Change! (Eruvin 62)

Job was a righteous man. He was pious and God-fearing. He loved the Almighty and was generous to his fellow man. One day, God turned to Satan and declared, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one like him on Earth!”

Satan, however, was unimpressed. “He’s only righteous because you’ve showered him with blessing in his life. He has a beautiful family. He has abundant livelihood.  And he has a great bill of health. Remove all those blessings from his life, and let’s see what happens to piety!”

But Job was no ordinary individual. And he would eventually pass even the greatest challenges sent his way to test his faith. Our Sages list his unbelievable qualities and practices. Rabbi Abba bar Shmuel’s particular praise of Job is that he was generous with his money. He would always round up when paying his employees or a shopkeeper.

וְאָמַר רַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר אַבָּא אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: בֶּן נֹחַ נֶהֱרָג עַל פָּחוֹת מִשָּׁוֶה פְּרוּטָה, וְלֹא נִיתָּן לְהִשָּׁבוֹן.

Rabbi Chiya bar Abba quoted Rabbi Yochanan: A Noahide is executed for less than the value of a perutah. And it is not returnable.

While the Gemara sounds harsh and excessive, no Noahide was ever executed for stealing a piece of bread, God forbid. (They weren’t even sent to Australia). Rabbi Chiya simply wants to impart a lesson about the ideals one must strive for.

Rabbi Avraham Grodzinski (1883-1944) explains that human nature is not to forego so much as a ha’penny.  He comments that there’s no way our Sages could have known this.  They didn’t conduct survey research on the differing attitudes of gentiles and Jews towards money, nor did they decide halacha based on prophecy.  Rather, they are making a point about the way we view money.  Jewish values dictate that we must always endeavour to be generous and open-handed with our money.

Rabbi Chiya dictum teaches that there’s a way that ordinary people act.  They’re bothered by being ever so slightly short-changed.  By implication, extraordinary individuals act differently.  Citing Job as the paradigm of appropriate financial conduct, Rabbi Grodzinski emphasises that such an attitude extends beyond matters of petty theft and tzedakah.  It dictates our entire outlook on our financial affairs.

Knowing that all our wealth comes from Heaven means that giving generously is merely acting as a vehicle for God to distribute.  And the more generously you open your hand, the more generously He will provide you with the means to be munificent. Job was the kind of person who said, ‘Keep the change.’  He would leave a generous tip.  He knew that a couple of extra pounds or pence, dollars or cents, wouldn’t break his bank, but would go a long way to brightening someone else’s day.

Nowadays, more and more transactions are happening online.  And amidst the pandemic, it’s door-to-door service for most.  It’s harder to say ‘keep the change’.  And leaving a tip seems silly when there was no real service provided.  How do we rate their service? Did the delivery fellow on the motorbike ring the bell long or short?!  Apps like Deliveroo offer the opportunity to round up.  But why would we round up when we’re not handling physical money?

But that’s the difference between being ordinary and a cut above the rest. Between being a regular Joe – a Noahide, in Talmud-speak – or a pious individual.  You’ll never see this delivery guy again.  The fellow who fried the burger probably won’t even know that you rounded up.  But when you give generously, Heaven provides generously.

We’re not talking about tzedakah to the poor.  We’re talking about the little gestures that brighten a person’s day.  They don’t cost much, but they can make a huge difference.  What’s the meaning of Rabbi Chiya’s teaching: A Noahide is executed for less than the value of a perutah. And it is not returnable?  He’s saying: Don’t ‘kill yourself’ over a ha’penny.  Don’t ask for the return of those few dimes.  To you, they’re probably chump change.  But to the other fellow – even if they won’t boost his pension fund – they may be the difference between a gloomy day and a fabulous day.

When you say ‘Keep the change,’ you often ‘become the change.’  Your little gesture can transform another person’s day tremendously.  In every aspect of life, may you always strive to be as generous as you can be!

About the Author
Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the senior rabbi of the 1200-family Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, the United Synagogue's flagship congregation.
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